Tuesday, 20 October 2015 01:36

ITU approves open standard for immersive sound to transform listening


Now hear this: a new listening experience is the goal of new standards for advanced audio broadcasting technology newly approved by the ITU.

UN ICT agency ITU has seen its membership ‘unanimously approved open standards, Recommendation ITU-R BS.2088-0, aimed at delivering advanced sound for broadcasting services that will create a listening experience that is closer to real life.’

The ITU explains this these new global standards ‘will facilitate the production and exchange of advanced audio files by allowing a single file to carry a complete audio programme containing audio samples as well as metadata for any combination of object, channel and scene-based audio.’

We’re told that the new file format ‘was developed based on the existing and widely used RIFF/WAV file format in order to facilitate its application and implementation.’

The ITU happily informs us that ‘sound is an indispensable part of television and radio,’ and that, ’in real life, we hear sound from all around us – a bird above us, a car behind us, and a voice ahead of us.’

Emulating this same experience in the media will be called ‘immersive audio’.

And, when you couple this with the new high quality Ultra High Definition Television (UHDTV) experience, which offers ‘enhanced image rendition, immersive audio’, we’re promised that we’ll see the television experience lifted ‘to an entirely new level, further blurring the line between physical reality and virtual or digital simulation.’

There’s a future for the standard, too - future technical capabilities for audio will also allow viewers to select their own menu of services, where ‘they will be able to decide on and adjust the level of immersive sound in their living rooms, creating dynamic sound imaging.’

The ITU explains that these features become possible with ‘object based coding’, which will allow viewers to personalise their viewing and listening experience ‘at the point of consumption’.

This could include setting language and dialogue levels and selecting different aspects or sections of programming, which could also bring added benefits for people with disabilities.

Whether this is an audio nirvana is yet to be seen, but it does sound promising - now the industry needs to take it up so the standard has some true life built into it, but that’s what standards setting agencies are for - to help usher in the new standards that improve our existing experiences.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said: “The ITU global standard for immersive audio sets an important step for an exciting new age of ‘sound’ for broadcasting.

“The advanced audio systems will provide additional features and performance well beyond those available today.”

François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau said: “The role that sound plays in the media is underestimated.

“The work of ITU, along with other standards bodies, is creating a very exciting future for audio production, delivery and programming.”

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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