Approaching an Immersive Audio Standard 

By Michael Goldman  


While precise technical and timeline details about a single, internationally accepted standard for an interoperable, immersive audio format for digital cinema remain to be settled, one important aspect of this quest has crystallized in the past year or so, according to Peter Ludé, chair of the SMPTE Working Group on Immersive Sound (operating under the auspices of the SMPTE TC-25CSS Audio Technology Committee on Cinema Sound Systems). Ludé says the big breakthrough in the past year has not been technical in nature. Rather, it has been the fact that virtually everyone with a stake in the conversation has gotten publicly and enthusiastically on board with the industry's need for a single specification for the packaging, distribution, and theatrical playback of D-Cinema-based audio tracks that pushes past what was initially described in the original DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) specification. Further, he suggests that key players across the industry now clearly understand that such a specification must build into its foundation the growing trend toward object-based audio playback methodologies, meaning audio tracks that include signals that carry their own metadata specifying a dynamic location for the sound to be played, along with other characteristics. This is in contrast to relying solely on the traditional, channel-based methodology of describing sound scenes using a set of audio signals that are intended for playback through specific loudspeaker configurations.


Ludé says that content creators in the form of Hollywood studios via the Digital Cinema Initiatives Consortium, and exhibitors, through their trade group, theNational Association of Theater Owners (NATO), have now formally called for such a standard, in addition to the individual support the working group is getting from various manufacturers and different types of anecdotal data the industry has been producing on the benefits of immersive sound in the creative process.

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If said metadata is in the file (header/footer?), I guess all the world will need utilities to write that, and the world will need upgraded software that recognizes same, reads it and does something with it, rather than crashing!

>> Mark

The metadata could be in the stream, repeated periodically.

An analogy would be HDMI, two times per frame a vendor specific info packet is sent out indicating the video is stereographic and what S3D format it is.

What is Dolby's position on this? Clearly they most likely want a proprietary edge.

To belong to the DCI, they DCI, are pushing a format they control. Which is understandable, like CD-ROM, DVD, HDMI.

In the Vienna Symphonic library, they have done extensive empirical testing and simulation of acoustics in conventional rectangular rooms. To my knowledge no one has done similar analysis in domes. To get the done metadata correct, it is advisable to have similar analysis. Dome acoustics clearly are different.


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