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Five into two does go

10 May 2007

Coding Technologies, Philips Applied Technologies and Linear Acoustic announced at NAB the availability of a new professional broadcasting hardware/software solution based on MPEG Surround that enables the contribution and distribution of high quality multichannel audio over existing stereo infrastructures, writes Andy Stout.

Developed by Coding Technologies, Agere, Philips and Fraunhofer, MPEG Surround is a recently ISO standardised, codec agnostic compression technique for delivering multichannel audio signals. In the new solution, MPEG Surround creates a stereo audio signal from a multichannel audio source, and a small set of parameters describing the original surround sound signal.

The new solution employs MPEG Surround in conjunction with a digital PCM stereo audio signal and a technology from Philips Applied Technologies known as ‘Buried Data technique’ to embed the MPEG Surround parameters into a fully backwards-compatible PCM stereo audio signal. An MPEG Surround decoder can then recreate the full multichannel audio based on the embedded MPEG Surround parameters.

The demonstration features an upMAX-MPS professional broadcasting encoder and decoder from Linear Acoustic, operating the MPEG Surround and Buried Data technique to transport the multichannel audio signal in high quality over a single AES/EBU stereo audio connection.

The combined MPEG Surround/PCM stereo audio combination represents the world’s first solution for deploying high quality multichannel audio for contribution and distribution in a professional broadcasting environment.

It is expected that such a solution will serve remote event locations with multichannel audio production facilities such as sports venues or concert halls. The solution enables broadcasters to transport stereo and multichannel audio, both in the highest possible quality, over a single AES/EBU connection to the studio, without any necessary change of the existing stereo infrastructure. The audio signal is then further utilised and delivered in plain stereo or multichannel as required.

“As high definition content is entering digital broadcasting, multichannel audio is at the very heart of user’s expectations”, said Stefan Meltzer, vice president business development at Coding Technologies. “The combination of MPEG Surround and Philips’ buried data technique offers a highly efficient and flexible solution to the broadcaster, needing to deliver stereo and multi-channel audio.” “In the development of new technologies for the media world, creating high synergies has always been our goal”, said Leon van de Kerkhof, program manager at Philips Applied Technologies. “As one of the developing parties of MPEG Surround, we are proud to also contribute our buried data technique to spur the adoption of surround sound in digital broadcasting. The early availability of the first professional encoder/decoder products is the most valid proof of concept a solution like this can achieve.”

“Working with Coding Technologies and Philips Applied Technologies, we are excited to offer the first practical embodiment of this excellent technology in professional broadcast hardware” offered Linear Acoustic president/founder Tim Carroll. “Combined with advanced audio metadata capabilities, this new hardware will further accelerate the rapid growth of surround sound production.”

The new combined MPEG Surround/PCM buried data solution will be demonstrated at the AES show at the Austria Center Vienna, from May 5-8, at Coding Technologies’ stand #2337. Linear Acoustic will be the first company to offer the new solution in their professional audio processing products.

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