ATSC to weigh next-gen TV audio standard

DetailsMichelle Clancy | 11 March 2015

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has begun its technical review of three detailed proposals for a comprehensive audio system for the ATSC 3.0 next-generation television broadcast standard.

The idea is to bring a more immersive audio experience for living room and mobile viewers by significantly improving upon the capabilities of the current multi-channel broadcast digital television audio system. The proposals are from Dolby Laboratories, DTS, and an alliance of Fraunhaufer, Qualcomm and Technicolor.

ATSC 3.0 audio is expected to "provide consumers with a more compelling, personalised and immersive experience," said ATSC president Mark Richer.

The ATSC is in the process of developing a next-generation ATSC 3.0 terrestrial television broadcast standard with advanced performance and functionality made possible by new technologies and strategies. This next-generation standard must provide improvements in performance, functionality and efficiency that are significant enough to warrant the challenges of a transition to a new system.

The three audio system proponents have submitted detailed technical proposals for the audio subsystem for ATSC 3.0.

The Dolby Audio system runs on Dolby AC-4, the next-generation emission codec. Meanwhile, the DTS:X is the next-generation object-based codec technology from DTS, a successor to DTS-HD. And Fraunhofer, Qualcomm and Technicolor's MPEG-H Audio is a holistically designed suite of functionalities built around a highly efficient core audio codec.

This summer, the three proposed systems will be tested discretely and in their entirety, as comprehensive, end-to-end systems for use as the audio layer for the ATSC 3.0 signal. The goal is to establish the ATSC 3.0 Audio System Candidate Standard this fall.

"ATSC 3.0 audio testing is expected to be the first in the world to examine immersive audio for a next-generation broadcast television standard. Immersive audio functionality enables high spatial resolution in sound source localisation in azimuth, elevation and distance, and provides an increased sense of sound envelopment throughout the listening area," Richer explained.

In addition, ATSC 3.0 audio "personalisation" will include enhancements to the control of dialogue, use of alternate audio tracks and mixing of assistive audio services, other-language dialogue, special commentary, and music and effects. The ATSC 3.0 audio system also will support both the normalisation of content loudness and contouring of dynamic range, based on the specific capabilities of a user's fixed or mobile devices and their unique sound environments.