Category Archives: SMPTE

SMPTE ST 2110 enables IP workflows

By Tom Coughlin

At IBC2017 and this year’s SMPTE Conference there were significant demonstrations of IP-based workflows with interoperability demonstrations and conference sessions. Clearly proprietary media networking will be supplanted by IP-based workflows. This will enable new equipment economies and open up new opportunities for using and repurposing media. IP workflows will also impact the way we store and use digital content and thus the storage systems where they live.

SMPTE has just ratified ST 2110 standards for IP transport in media workflows. The standard puts video, audio and ancillary data into separate routable streams as shown in the figure below. PCM Audio streams are covered by SMPTE ST 2110-30, uncompressed video streams are covered by ST 2110-20 and ancillary data is covered by ST 2110-40. Some other parts of the standards cover traffic shaping of uncompressed video (ST 2110-21), AES3 transparent transport (ST 2110-31) and ST 2110-50 allows integration with older specification ST 2022-6 that covers legacy SDI over IP.

The separate streams have timestamps that allow proper alignment of the different streams when they are combined together — this timestamp is provided by ST 2059. Each stream contains metadata that tells the receiver how to interpret what is inside of the stream. The uncompressed video stream supports up to 32k X 32k images, HDR and all common color systems and formats.

The important thing about these IP standards is that they allow using conventional Ethernet cabling rather than special proprietary cables. This saves a lot of money on hardware. In addition, having an IP-based workflow allows easy ingest into a core IP network and distribution of content using IP-based broadcast, telco, cable and broadband technologies as well as satellite channels. As most consumers have IP content access, these IP networks connect directly to consumer equipment. The image below from an Avid presentation by Shailendra Mathur at SMPTE 2017 illustrates the workflow below.

At IBC and the SMPTE 2017 Conference there were interoperability demonstrations. Although the IBC interop demo had many more participants the SMPTE demo was pretty extensive. The photo below shows the SMPTE interoperability demonstration setup.

As many modern network storage systems, whether file or object based, use Ethernet connectivity, having the rest of the workflow using an IP network makes movement of data through the workflow to and from digital storage easier. Since access to cloud-based assets is also though IP-based networks and these can feed CDNs and other distribution networks, on-premise and cloud storage interact through IP networks and can be used to support working storage, archives as well as content distribution libraries.

IP workflows combined with IP-based digital storage provide end-to-end processing and storage of data. This provides hardware economics and access to a lot of software built to manage and monitor IP flows to help optimize a media production and distribution system. By avoiding the overhead of converting from one type of network to another the overall system complexity and efficiency will be improved, resulting in faster projects and easier repair of problems when they arise.


Tom Coughlin is president of Coughlin Associates. He is the founder and organizer of the annual Storage Visions Conference as well as the Creative Storage Conference. He has also been the general chairman of the annual Flash Memory Summit.

Geena Davis Institute CEO to speak at SMPTE’s Women in Tech lunch

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, will be speaking at the annual women in technology luncheon, presented by SMPTE and HPA Women in Post on October 23 and held in conjunction with the SMPTE 2017 Annual Technical  & Exhibition (SMPTE 2017).

Di Nonno will be in conversation with Kari Grubin, co-chair of HPA Women in Post. The luncheon will be held at The Vantage Room on the fifth level of the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood.

The research performed by the Geena Davis Institute analyzes and tracks how women and girls are portrayed in media, and how negative gender stereotypes can influence cultural and social behaviors and beliefs. Di Nonno will share the latest findings from the Institute’s new machine learning research tool, GD-IQ: the Geena Davis Inclusion Quotient.

“What we see onscreen greatly influences our views on society,” says Di Nonno. “The gender disparity in media reinforces unconscious gender bias off screen, behind-the-scenes, and in the real world. According to our research, positive portrayals in media can inspire women and girls to pursue certain careers in STEM as well as furthering their education and leaving abusive relationships. Our mission is to change the media landscape to reflect our growing intersectionality in society. Our motto is ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ Clearly, there is work to do, but I look forward to speaking with a group of women who are doing it.”

Di Nonno brings 30 years of international experience to her responsibilities at the Geena Davis Institute, where she leads strategic direction, research, education, advocacy, and financial and operational activities. Her past roles have included president/CEO of On the Scene Productions; executive positions for Anchor Bay Entertainment/Starz Media and EVP/GM for Nielsen EDI; SVP, Marketing Alliances and Digital Media at the Hallmark Channel; and VP, Universal Studios Home Video.

Di Nonno began her career at ABC Television Network in corporate publicity. In many of the organizations she has been part of, Di Nonno has led groundbreaking global initiatives in digital technology.

The Women in Technology luncheon is an annual event held in conjunction with the SMPTE Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition. Last year, Victoria Alonso, executive VP of physical production for Marvel Studios was the featured Women in Technology luncheon speaker. Previous speakers also include Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Michelle Munson and Wendy Aylsworth.

Dell 6.15
Netflix's Stranger Things

AES LA Section & SMPTE Hollywood: Stranger Things sound

By Mel Lambert

The most recent joint AES/SMPTE meeting at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City showcased the talents of the post production crew that worked on the recent Netflix series Stranger Things at Technicolor’s facilities in Hollywood.

Over 160 attendees came to hear how supervising sound editor Brad North, sound designer Craig Henighan, sound effects editor Jordan Wilby, music editor David Klotz and dialog/music re-recording mixer Joe Barnett worked their magic on last year’s eight-episode Season One (Sadly, effects re-recording mixer Adam Jenkins was unable to attend the gathering.) Stranger Things, from co-creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer, is scheduled to return in mid-year for Season 2.

L-R: Jordan Wilby, Brad North, Craig Henighan, Joe Barnett, David Klotz and Mel Lambert. Photo Credit: Steve Harvey.

Attendees heard how the crew developed each show’s unique 5.1-channel soundtrack, from editorial through re-recording — including an ‘80s-style, synth-based music score, from Austin-based composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, that is key to the show’s look and feel — courtesy of a full-range surround sound playback system supplied by Dolby Labs.

“We drew our inspiration — subconsciously, at least — from sci-fi films like Alien, The Thing and Predator,” Henighan explained. The designer also revealed how he developed a characteristic sound for the monster that appears in key scenes. “The basic sound is that of a seal,” he said. “But it wasn’t as simple as just using a seal vocal, although it did provide a hook — an identifiable sound around which I could center the rest of the monster sounds. It’s fantastic to take what is normally known as a nice, light, fun-loving sound and use it in a terrifying way!” Tim Prebble, a New Zealand-based sound designer, and owner of sound effects company Hiss and A Roar, offers a range of libraries, including SD003 Seal Vocals|Hiss and A Roar.

Gear used includes Avid Pro Tools DAWs — everybody works in the box — and Avid 64-fader, dual-operator S6 console at the Technicolor Seward Stage. The composers use Apple Logic Pro to record and edit their AAF-format music files.


Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based copywriting and editorial service, and can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

 


SMPTE: The convergence of toolsets for television and cinema

By Mel Lambert

While the annual SMPTE Technical Conferences normally put a strong focus on things visual, there is no denying that these gatherings offer a number of interesting sessions for sound pros from the production and post communities. According to Aimée Ricca, who oversees marketing and communications for SMPTE, pre-registration included “nearly 2,500 registered attendees hailing from all over the world.” This year’s conference, held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel and Ray Dolby Ballroom from October 24-27, also attracted more than 108 exhibitors in two exhibit halls.

Setting the stage for the 2016 celebration of SMPTE’s Centenary, opening keynotes addressed the dramatic changes that have occurred within the motion picture and TV industries during the past 100 years, particularly with the advent of multichannel immersive sound. The two co-speakers — SMPTE president Robert Seidel and filmmaker/innovator Doug Trumbull — chronicled the advance in audio playback sound since, respectively, the advent of TV broadcasting after WWII and the introduction of film soundtracks in 1927 with The Jazz Singer.

Robert Seidel

ATSC 3.0
Currently VP of CBS Engineering and Advanced Technology, with responsibility for TV technologies at CBS and the CW networks, Seidel headed up the team that assisted WRAL-HD, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina, to become the first TV station to transmit HDTV in July 1996.  The transition included adding the ability to carry 5.1-channel sound using Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standards and Dolby AC-3 encoding.

The 45th Grammy Awards Ceremony broadcast by CBS Television in February 2004 marked the first scheduled HD broadcast with a 5.1 soundtrack. The emergent ATSC 3.0 standard reportedly will provide increased bandwidth efficiency and compression performance. The drawback is the lack of backwards compatibility with current technologies, resulting in a need for new set-top boxes and TV receivers.

As Seidel explained, the upside for ATSC 3.0 will be immersive soundtracks, using either Dolby AC-4 or MPEG-H coding, together with audio objects that can carry alternate dialog and commentary tracks, plus other consumer features to be refined with companion 4K UHD, high dynamic range and high frame rate images. In June, WRAL-HD launched an experimental ATSC 3.0 channel carrying the station’s programming in 1080p with 4K segments, while in mid-summer South Korea adopted ATSC 3.0 and plans to begin broadcasts with immersive audio and object-based capabilities next February in anticipation of hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics. The 2016 World Series games between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs marked the first live ATSC 3.0 broadcast of a major sporting event on experimental station Channel 31, with an immersive-audio simulcast on the Tribune Media-owned Fox affiliate WJW-TV.

Immersive audio will enable enhanced spatial resolution for 3D sound-source localization and therefore provide an increased sense of envelopment throughout the home listening environment, while audio “personalization” will include level control for dialog elements, alternate audio tracks, assistive services, other-language dialog and special commentaries. ATSC 3.0 also will support loudness normalization and contouring of dynamic range.

Doug Trumbull

Higher Frame Rates
With a wide range of experience within the filmmaking and entertainment technologies, including visual effects supervision on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, Trumbull also directed Silent Running and Brainstorm, as well as special venue offerings. He won an Academy Award for his Showscan process for high-speed 70mm cinematography, helped develop IMAX technologies and now runs Trumbull Studios, which is innovating a new MAGI process to offer 4K 3D at 120fps. High production costs and a lack of playback environments meant that Trumbull’s Showscan format never really got off the ground, which was “a crushing disappointment,” he conceded to the SMPTE audience.

But meanwhile, responding to falling box office receipts during the ‘50s and ‘60s, Hollywood added more consumer features, including large-screen presentations and surround sound, although the movie industry also began to rely on income from the TV community for broadcast rights to popular cinema releases.

As Seidel added, “The convergence of toolsets for both television and cinema — including 2K, 4K and eventually 8K — will lead to reduced costs, and help create a global market around the world [with] a significant income stream.” He also said that “cord cutting” — substituting cable subscription services for Amazon.com, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix and the like — is bringing people back to over-the-air broadcasting.

Trumbull countered that TV will continue at 60fps “with a live texture that we like,” whereas film will retain its 24fps frame rate “that we have loved for years and which has a ‘movie texture.’ Higher frame rates for cinema, such as 48fps used by Peter Jackson for several of the Lord of the Rings films, has too much of a TV look. Showscan at 120fps and a 360-degree shutter avoided that TV look, which is considered objectionable.” (Early reviews of director Ang Lee’s upcoming 3D film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which was shot in 4K at 120fps, have been critical of its video look and feel.)

complex-tv-networkNext-Gen Audio for Film and TV
During a series of “Advances in Audio Reproduction” conference sessions, chaired by Chris Witham, director of digital cinema technology at Walt Disney Studios, three presentations covered key design criteria for next-generation audio for TV and film. During his discussion called “Building the World’s Most Complex TV Network — A Test Bed for Broadcasting Immersive & Interactive Audio,” Robert Bleidt, GM of Fraunhofer USA’s audio and multimedia division, provided an overview of a complete end-to-end broadcast plant that was built to test various operational features developed by Fraunhofer, Technicolor and Qualcomm. These tests were used to evaluate an immersive/object-based audio system based on MPEG-H for use in Korea during planned ATSC 3.0 broadcasting.

“At the NAB Convention we demonstrated The MPEG Network,” Bleidt stated. “It is perhaps the most complex combination of broadcast audio content ever made in a single plant, involving 13 different formats.” This includes mono, stereo, 5.1-channel and other sources. “The network was designed to handle immersive audio in both channel- and HOA-based formats, using audio objects for interactivity. Live mixes from a simulated sports remote was connected to a network operating center, with distribution to affiliates, and then sent to a consumer living room, all using the MPEG-H audio system.”

Bleidt presented an overview of system and equipment design, together with details of a critical AMAU (audio monitoring and authoring unit) that will be used to mix immersive audio signals using existing broadcast consoles limited to 5.1-channel assignment and panning.

Dr. Jan Skoglund, who leads a team at Google developing audio signal processing solutions, addressed the subject of “Open-source Spatial Audio Compression for VR Content,” including the importance of providing realistic immersive audio experiences to accompany VR presentations and 360-degree 3D video.

“Ambisonics have reemerged as an important technique in providing immersive audio experiences,” Skoglund stated. “As an alternative to channel-based 3D sound, Ambisonics represent full-sphere sound, independent of loudspeaker location.” His fascinating presentation considered the ways in which open-source compression technologies can transport audio for various species of next-generation immersive media. Skoglund compared the efficacy of several open-source codecs for first-order Ambisonics, and also the progress being made toward higher-order Ambisonics (HOA) for VR content delivered via the internet, including enhanced experience provided by HOA.

Finally, Paul Peace, who oversees loudspeaker development for cinema, retail and commercial applications at JBL Professional — and designed the Model 9350, 9300 and 9310 surround units — discussed “Loudspeaker Requirements in Object-Based Cinema,” including a valuable in-depth analysis of the acoustic delivery requirements in a typical movie theater that accommodates object-based formats.

Peace is proposing the use of a new metric for surround loudspeaker placement and selection when the layout relies on venue-specific immersive rendering engines for Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro-3D soundtracks, with object-based overhead and side-wall channels. “The metric is based on three foundational elements as mapped in a theater: frequency response, directionality and timing,” he explained. “Current set-up techniques are quite poor for a majority of seats in actual theaters.”

Peace also discussed new loudspeaker requirements and layout criteria necessary to ensure a more consistent sound coverage throughout such venues that can replay more accurately the material being re-recorded on typical dub stages, which are often smaller and of different width/length/height dimensions than most multiplex environments.


Mel Lambert, who also gets photo credit on pictures from the show, is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based copywriting and editorial service, and can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.