Streaming and the need for continued innovation


Jon Schorah - new TV-Bay Magazine
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In a fast-changing world, audio producers need to adapt quickly in order to keep up.

Media consumption is changing - fast. Almost without anyone noticing, we have passed the tipping point. Only a few years ago we were discussing streaming as an emerging technology; yet now, according to a recent Deloitte survey, streaming has overtaken live TV as the preferred viewing method in the U.S. YouTube viewing figures continue to surge. In 2015, 18-to-49-year-olds spent less time watching TV and more - much more - time watching YouTube; in fact, YouTube viewership rocketed up an astonishing 74% in the same year. These trends are also mirrored in the music industry, with 2015 being the year in which digital revenues finally overcame physical media and download volumes began to dwindle. We already live in a world where media is predominantly streamed.

Streaming services are flexible

The dominance of streaming services has repercussions for the listener. Among younger viewers, media is primarily streamed using mobile devices or PCs - laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Not only do many of these devices suffer from poor playback quality, but the media is often consumed in a less-than-ideal environment in which background noise can be a significant issue. This raises questions and challenges for audio production. Preserving dialogue intelligibility in a noisy environment can be difficult, and highly dynamic material can make quieter sections of audio difficult to hear over the ambient background noise - causing the listener to constantly reach for the volume control. Whilst it is relatively simple to re-purpose audio for different environments using advanced offline processes (such as our own DynApt algorithm) to adapt the loudness range of the production, it can be difficult to know what to aim for in such a complex consumer environment. Preparing a soundtrack for consumption on the subway via a mobile phone is a very different proposition than designing sound for a home-cinema 5.1 system.

Slowly, a streaming standard designed predominantly for mobile platforms is beginning to emerge. Coming alongside the accepted broadcast standards of EBU R128, ATSC A85 et. al, AES TD1004.1.15-10 is the first to define a recommended practice for streamed audio, with a louder recommended average loudness level between -20 and -16 LUFS. This louder target level takes into account the more challenging mobile listening environment, as well as the likelihood of encountering a playback system with insufficient gain to replay lower-level content at a suitable level for clarity.

At the moment, most delivery services make no distinction. The same stream is supplied to all, inevitably leading to compromise somewhere along the line. One approach being investigated by some of the major broadcasters is to produce high-quality, dynamic original content, and then re-purpose this for mobile streaming services using a high-quality process such as DynApt to adapt the content for the web version. One complexity that still needs to be resolved, however, is that many televisions and hi-fi systems are now "web equipped," meaning the listening environment is not easily determined by the chosen method of delivery.

Streaming services use audio data compression

When delivered as a data stream to the consumer, today's audio is often heavily compressed. In the world of television production, we are all familiar with the EBU and ATSC recommendations for maximum true-peak level, designed to ensure that codec distortion is kept to a minimum. However, with the meteoric rise of streaming, the landscape has shifted yet again, and audio data compression is reaching un-imagined ranges of bit-depth. Again, whilst it is possible to optimise original audio content for different codecs and bit-depths, what is the ultimate goal? As with audio dynamic considerations, do we need to be considering different versions for different delivery bandwidths?

 

Consumer choice

Today's digital supply chain is immensely complex, and consumer behaviours are diversifying exponentially. There is certainly an argument to be made for producing original content to the highest possible standard and then re-versioning it for less-than-ideal environments from this point. However, at the moment there is almost no room for the user to return information about the listening environment in order to select an appropriate stream. It's simple to imagine a situation where the same user, in the same environment, might even desire a different stream with differing audio dynamics at different times of the day. In fact, one national radio station is indeed considering exactly this, having identified that its listeners prefer less audio dynamic during the breakfast/drive-time slot (due to increased background noise) and increased dynamics during the day, during which a more controlled listening environment is able to take advantage of a wider loudness range.

 

 

 

Whatever the outcome, it's clear that technological innovation is causing a vast increase in diversity of consumer habits, and production practices need to continue to innovate at an accelerated rate in order to keep up. Clearly, today's consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and ready to rapidly adopt services that offer the most advantages for their own listening experience.

Consumer choice

Today's digital supply chain is immensely complex, and consumer behaviours are diversifying exponentially. There is certainly an argument to be made for producing original content to the highest possible standard and then re-versioning it for less-than-ideal environments from this point. However, at the moment there is almost no room for the user to return information about the listening environment in order to select an appropriate stream. It's simple to imagine a situation where the same user, in the same environment, might even desire a different stream with differing audio dynamics at different times of the day. In fact, one national radio station is indeed considering exactly this, having identified that its listeners prefer less audio dynamic during the breakfast/drive-time slot (due to increased background noise) and increased dynamics during the day, during which a more controlled listening environment is able to take advantage of a wider loudness range.

Whatever the outcome, it's clear that technological innovation is causing a vast increase in diversity of consumer habits, and production practices need to continue to innovate at an accelerated rate in order to keep up. Clearly, today's consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and ready to rapidly adopt services that offer the most advantages for their own listening experience.

 
 
 

Tags: iss123 | nugen | audio | streaming | youtube | Jon Schorah - new
Submitted by Jon Schorah - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
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Submitted by Paul Wilkins Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
The secret to global Gogglebox success
Chris Cooper People all over the world love watching other people watch TV. What many of us thought was a ridiculous notion when Gogglebox first aired in the UK in 2013, has since become a worldwide phenomenon. 'Gogglebox is held up by the global industry and broadcast community as an example of excellence in audience engagement and production innovation, and is being produced in local versions around the world.
Tags: iss121 | forscene | gogglebox | ch4 | kite entertainment | marjan tv | studio lambert | Chris Cooper
Submitted by Chris Cooper Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Smarter Branding
James Gilbert The past decade of multi-channel digital broadcasting has created a paradox. The addition of OTT, VoD and other online services only serves to add to it.
Tags: iss121 | branding | graphics | pixel power | James Gilbert
Submitted by James Gilbert Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
5 top tips to getting the grade you want
Tom Russell Generally speaking, a grade session can be broken down into two distinct parts - managing the people involved and managing the grade itself. As colourists, we know that unless both of these criteria are satisfied, it is likely that the client will walk away from the project unhappy and not return to us with the next job.
Tags: iss121 | grading | top tips | Tom Russell
Submitted by Tom Russell Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Mixing console displays - central to usability
Paul Hooper Since the introduction of assignable controls on mixing consoles, it has been essential to provide sound engineers with a clear picture of what the function and status is of each fader and other associated controls. Consoles can have over 100 faders. To allow the sound operator to keep track of the function of each panel and its current settings, clear, compact displays are needed.
Tags: iss121 | calrec | consoles | Paul Hooper
Submitted by Paul Hooper Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
MAM needs to adapt or die
Tim Child The media landscape has shifted dramatically over recent years. Content providers are under increasing pressure to deliver compelling content to multiple platforms. Also, the production and distribution of video is no longer limited to traditional broadcasters, which face rising competition from a range of media providers. We are also seeing a massive increase in video being produced to broadcast quality by companies using it for other purposes, such as marketing, site surveys, internal communications, and a whole host of other applications.
Tags: iss121 | mam | cantemo | hybrid cloud | virtual reality | Tim Child
Submitted by Tim Child Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
6 Misapprehensions of MAM
Julian Wright Implementing a media management system is considered to be a risky business. The perceived complexity, upheaval and perception of failure can be so daunting that the risk may seem to outweigh the reward. But, like so many business technologies, MAM have been transformed in recent years and it's time to debunk some common MAM myths.
Tags: iss121 | mam | blue lucy | capex | Julian Wright
Submitted by Julian Wright Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Mr MXF thinks the future is made of components
Bruce Devlin The recent SMPTE IMF plugfest that was kindly hosted by Fox in Burbank gave the vendors, users and content owners a chance to discuss the fine details of the IMF standard and to get excited about where it will take the Post Production community.
Tags: iss121 | imf | smpte | plugfest | st 2067 | class | Bruce Devlin
Submitted by Bruce Devlin Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Outside the fixed curriculum
Emma Benson If you're wondering whether or not to do some extracurricular work outside of your timetabled course, the answer should always be yes. The more you further your experience and skills the brighter your future will look
Tags: iss121 | citv | portsmouth university | student | Emma Benson
Submitted by Emma Benson Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Dick finds the truth out there
Dick Hobbs. The Oxford English Dictionary has determined that its word of the year for 2016 was "post-truth". We'll skip over the fact that it is, clearly, two words.
Tags: iss121 | dick hobbs | michael gove | smpte | fake news | Dick Hobbs.
Submitted by Dick Hobbs. Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Sully - Grading a miracle
Maxine Gervais We all know the story. On 15 January 2009 an Airbus A320 took off from LaGuardia airport in New York, heading for Charlotte. Just a couple of minutes later the plane flew through a flock of Canada geese and blew out both engines. Knowing the risk of crashing into heavily populated areas, Captain Chesley Sullenberger - Sully - aimed for the only long flat surface he could see: the Hudson River.
Tags: iss121 | sully | grading | filmlight | Maxine Gervais
Submitted by Maxine Gervais Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
You need more damn pixels
Jan Weigner There has obviously been a lot of chatter in recent years about 4K, but is it enough? 8K and beyond is where the excitement lies, but not in the way you might think. 8K and beyond for broadcast, both of which are easily achievable in a software-only, IP environment, may seem a bridge too far for most at the moment, and they're probably right¦for now.
Tags: iss120 | cinegy | 8k | more pixels | vr | Jan Weigner
Submitted by Jan Weigner Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Trends in IP based broadcast
Glodina Lostanlen The momentum behind moving media operations to IP-based environments is unstoppable and to stay ahead of the competition these days, companies need to be migrating operations away from rigid, single-purpose components and towards software-based common computing resources.
Tags: iss120 | ip broadcast | imagine | cots | SMPTE | AMWA | VSF | EBU | Glodina Lostanlen
Submitted by Glodina Lostanlen Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
The world is not flat
David Schleifer The world is all around us. We have a lot of cues that make us aware of how we fit into a 3D space. Many of these cues, senses and reactions are survival instincts. For example, the ability to hear someone walk up behind us, to see movement in our peripheral vision, a sense of how we are oriented when we move our bodies or swivel our head. All of this creates an overwhelming amount of data that we seamlessly interpret as we go around our day getting our morning coffee, driving, walking through crowds, diving into pools, and everything that we as people do in our lives.
Tags: iss120 | vr | 3d | primestream | David Schleifer
Submitted by David Schleifer Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
80 years of broadcast and how far we have come
Neil Maycock The BBC delivered its first continual public broadcast 80 years ago, that included coverage of the BBC Television Orchestra and famous musical comedy star Adle Dixon. This was a world first heralding the beginning of continuous broadcasting in the UK and kicking off the broadcast industry's constant search for new ways to improve the accessibility and quality of television content.
Tags: iss120 | sam | snell | bbc | Neil Maycock
Submitted by Neil Maycock Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine