Singularity - QA and compliance monitoring in one box


Martin Dyster TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by Martin Dyster
Issue 79 - July 2013
The task of maintaining loudness-compliant, high-quality delivery for broadcast audio is no longer a question of simply using ones ears. Audio channels produced for todays fast-paced productions come in embedded SDI workflow with streaming signals containing a mix of mono, stereo, surround, Dolby encoded and descriptive audio, as well as alternative mixes and multiple language tracks. Maintaining a quality audio track using this disparate mix of audio elements is one part of the QA equation facing broadcasters.

The other layer of complication added into the audio equation comes with the evolving nature of loudness standards. Metering algorithms that work today, may need to be upgraded tomorrow and, with the inclusion of audio elements generated for multi-lingual broadcasts around the world, precision audio monitoring equipment must address all the different international loudness standards, while offering the capability to generate a linear log for loudness compliance. Having a specific, standalone device that brings the various elements of the audio equation together into a singularity of features will streamline precision audio monitoring and compliance management, especially for the less-skilled operators that populate the production workflow landscape.

Using a breaking international news event as an example, the benefits of this singularity become clear. An international event happens in a war zone that demands attention from high-level politicians around the world. The initial feeds come in from the press room at a military base in HD, but with a one microphone sound source. The coverage in the field comes in first from an iPhone, then from a digital HD camera via WiFi. This audio is in stereo, but has serious dynamic range problems as a battle rages in the background. The coverage from different capitals around the world arrives in HD stereo and, in some cases, 5.1 surround using Dolby E compression. Man-on-the-street responses come in from laptop computers to smart devices with varying degrees of acceptable audio quality. The particular broadcaster handling the event, of course, has its own talking head setup, all of which is delivered in 5.1 and stereo to the home. Add all of these together, and the need for a unified audio monitoring solution becomes immense.
As the different audio feeds assail the production facility, it is clearly not practical to have multiple units performing the expanded task of precision audio monitoring/loudness compliance at each station along the production workflow line. With time as the primary driver, followed closely by the varying engineering skill levels of the operators, having a device that covers all the monitoring/loudness bases, presented with an intuitive, easy-to-use ergonomic interface, is a must have for the industry.

A good start for this feature integration is having the capability to monitor multiple pairs of AES and analogue stereo inputs through integrated or external speaker systems by pushing clearly defined buttons. Paging down through a typical digital system is technically difficult and time-consuming. The ideal unit should also offer dual auto-sensing for 1080p HD SDI video inputs coupled with HD SDI screen for bargraph, data and metadata display, with the capability to de-embed the audio stream. Downmixing of discreet multichannel audio to stereo for compatibility assurance is a must have, as is addressing the world of Dolby through Dolby E, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus decoding with surround descriptive audio and stream mixing. On the loudness side, compatibility with EBU and ATSC standards, as a start, with user configurable loudness measurement, software upgrades to match current standards and logging is also desirable. One such unit is the PAM2 MK2 Audio Monitoring Unit from TSL Products. This unit is designed from the ground up to bring all the complex elements of precision audio monitoring, loudness compliance and logging into one easy-to-use device, yielding a true singularity of features for the operator.


Tags: iss079 | tsl products | audio | workflow | loudness | monitoring | PAM2 MK2 Audio Monitoring Unit | Martin Dyster
Contributing Author Martin Dyster

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