Fraunhofer technology means TV viewers can adjust their own audio
Fraunhofer IIS is set to offer television viewers and radio listeners a new level of control over broadcast audio following recent demonstrations of its new dialogue enhancement technology. The technology allows television and radio audiences to adjust the volume of dialogue, music or sound effects within a single broadcast program, effectively mixing the audio to their personal requirements.
Based on a virtual slider and expected to be of particular use to the hard of hearing, the system – compatible with existing transmission and playback equipment – was initially field-testing during Wimbledon 2011. Users of a specifically designed media player were able to listen to an online stream of the UK’s Radio 5 Live, adjusting the levels of the commentator or background ambience to suit. A similar demonstration was presented at IBC 2011. Fraunhofer is describing the technology as the first of its kind to enable such a depth of audio control for consumers at the low bit-rates required for broadcasting.
The system works via the transportation of individual audio objects, such as a commentator’s voice or stadium atmosphere, in a compatible mono or stereo downmix. The audio encoder receives these objects and produces a single mix, as well as a stream of parametric side information. The transmission of the mix, plus side information, is described by Fraunhofer as extremely bit-rate efficient, as each audio object only slightly increases the overall bit-rate. The mix can be produced automatically or by a sound engineer. On the receiving side, the user is then able to adjust the volume of each object individually. Devices that are not capable of decoding the parametric side information simply play back the mixed audio signal.
Meanwhile, the institute has also announced the availability of its MultimediaPlayer for Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM30/DRM+) and DAB (DAB Classic/DAB+). The software is intended to enable device manufacturers of PC-based receiver solutions and smartphones to integrate playback of digital radio programs, as well as the variety of data services offered by digital radio.
The MultimediaPlayer is described by Fraunhofer as the first to include MPEG Surround, while data services included advanced text feeds are also supported alongside Hybrid services such as the internet, telephony, or navigation.
The MultimediaPlayer software is currently available for a platforms including Windows, Mac, and Linux. Plans are in place to add support for mobile platforms.