Stefan Meltzer of Fraunhofer IIS discusses MPEG-H
Posted on: Tuesday 29th of May 2018
As the number of immersive audio trials and deployments taking place around large sports and entertainment events continues to grow, it is to be expected that momentum around one of the key technologies in the field – MPEG-H – is also increasing.
Pioneered and administered by Fraunhofer IIS, MPEG-H is now finding fruition through the MPEG-H TV Audio System. Designed to work with existing broadcasting and streaming equipment, the object-based system includes interactive and immersive audio that allows viewers to adjust the sound mix to their preferences and thereby improve the “realism of sound”.
A busy few months for MPEG-H included a cluster of related product announcements at the NAB Show, with Fraunhofer IIS product manager TV broadcast Stefan Meltzer highlighting “the availability of a STB [set top box] from Innopia supporting the full feature set of MPEG-H for the Korean market. This STB allows users to take advantage of the new features without buying a new TV and by this has the potential to enlarge the target audience for the new services significantly. [Another announcement from NAB that I would highlight] concerns the Ericsson contribution encoder and decoder.
With these devices it is now possible to support MPEG-H natively with metadata in the contribution link, for example from an offside event to the studio.”
April 2018 also brought the news that China’s AVS 3D Audio Task Group had selected MPEG-H TV Audio System for the forthcoming 3D Audio standard that will be used in the country’s 4K UHD broadcast, following on from a similar announcement affecting South Korea in 2017. Implementation in key Asian markets is obviously going to be critical to the long-term success of MPEG-H and other immersive audio technologies, but Meltzer implies hat the outlook is slightly more mixed in Europe.
“Europe is in a very early stage in adopting next generation audio codecs,” he says. “Currently, most services are HD and the few UHD services available are using traditional codecs for stereo and 5.1 audio. One of the interesting countries in Europe which wants to switch from DVB-T to T2 and upgrade to UHDTV in the next years is France. The French authorities are currently working on the specification for the receivers and expect to issue the document by the end of 2018 with first transmissions [intended to start] in 2019.”
French broadcasters are in the process of trialing different options at various events, including the French Open currently taking place in Paris. More generally, sport continues to be regarded as the primary driver of immersive services, although Meltzer believes that “MPEG-H offers benefits for nearly all content types, perhaps with the exception of news broadcasting! For sport you can easily experience the different options available by using object audio, but movies, TV shows, documentaries and music all profit from immersion by 3D audio. Additionally, dialogue enhancement offers benefits for all content genres as a personalisation feature.”
But although broadcasters are increasingly cognisant of the possible advantages of ‘going immersive’, specific training of engineers will be required to realise the full range of applications. “Now that the tools are available, and the first broadcasters are starting to make use of the new features, it is the right time to intensify training efforts and also to include them in the education of sound engineers. It is precisely for these reasons we have set up our training centre in Seoul and will work with any broadcaster and region which wants to adopt MPEG-H,” concludes Meltzer.
Exclusive interview with Stefan Meltzer for Resolution magazine by David Davies