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Gizmag given a glimpse of the future of TV audio

Gizmag given a glimpse of the ...
Fraunhofer's Sascha Dick demos the prototype MPEG-H system at IFA 2014 (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)
Fraunhofer's Sascha Dick demos the prototype MPEG-H system at IFA 2014 (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)
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Fraunhofer's Sascha Dick demos the prototype MPEG-H system at IFA 2014 (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)
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Fraunhofer's Sascha Dick demos the prototype MPEG-H system at IFA 2014 (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)
The system allowed us to zone in on dialog in the pits during the example motorsports clip, and even change the language of commentary on the fly (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)
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The system allowed us to zone in on dialog in the pits during the example motorsports clip, and even change the language of commentary on the fly (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)

TV picture quality has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, with most manufacturers currently bringing Ultra High Definition beauties to market when only a short while ago HD seemed more than sufficient. Meanwhile, say researchers from Fraunhofer IIS, advances in audio playback have not been so awe-inspiring. Gizmag got the opportunity to sample a promising system under development that's based on the MPEG-H standards, which will offer listeners greater control over what they hear during TV broadcasts.

The prototype on display at Fraunhofer's IFA 2014 booth was not a big screen TV, but a small touchscreen display (at the moment, it's thought that future viewers will use a TV remote to use the system). The audio system is based on an a new efficient audio codec which includes processing for optimized listener experience.

As well as being able to control overall volume, the test unit allowed us to enhance background commentary or listen in to what was going on away from the main action.

The system allowed us to zone in on dialog in the pits during the example motorsports clip, and even change the language of commentary on the fly (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)
The system allowed us to zone in on dialog in the pits during the example motorsports clip, and even change the language of commentary on the fly (Photo: Chris Wood/Gizmag)

The example on offer was a clip from the world of motorsports, giving us the option to zone in on dialog from the pits. We could also change the language of the race commentary, which kicked in immediately when the relevant onscreen icon was selected. The system will also be capable of optimizing playback for different speaker configurations or headphones, and support accessibility features such as audio descriptions of onscreen action.

There were also a number of options included that would only be available to broadcasters, and would allow custom adjustment of audio elements to best suit their particular needs.

Fraunhofer says that MPEG-H will bring true 3D audio to television viewers for a more realistic and engaging experience. Though the audio was output through quality Bose headphones, a good deal of background noise from a busy IFA means we're unable to verify such a claim. But being able to configure advanced audio settings to suit personal preferences on the fly was quite liberating. For the time being though, research continues.

Source: Fraunhofer

5 comments
Chevypower
The problem is people spend money on buying a big high quality TV, but don't seem to care about the tiny, crappy little speakers in the tiny bezels. At best, they might buy a sound bar and think that sounds really good (and it does in comparison to the built-in speaker - but that's not saying much), but it's nowhere up to the standard of a real system. It was the opposite 20 years ago when people just had an ordinary 20'' CRT TV, Laser Disc, and huge home theater speakers, in which sound took priority.
Red Len
It would be wonderful if we could use this to suppress the background Boom Boom of background music (Dull Beat) so we could clearly hear the words of the documentary or Actors in a drama.
Gregg Eshelman
A glimpse of audio? You can hear with your eyes?
Ken Dawson
Besides sporting events, what else can you do with this technology? Sitcoms or dramas only have one soundtrack with artificial background sounds added in. Why would you want to focus on those? I agree with Red Len -- the (unreported) best feature would be the ability to focus on speakers during a movie or show. It drives me crazy to watch a movie and the audio of the actors is barely audible. But, the music during the action scenes is like 800% louder. You end up having to constantly modulate the volume to be able to understand the movie.
Ed Llorca
Everybody aagrees but the content producers. Audio editing is so poor these days, can't understand the actors because the whisper and mumble, plus background sounds and effects and music drown out anything of importance. I hope MPEG.H letsus control that, everythingelse is just gravy. Somehow I get thefeeling theyont give uswhat we want.