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WDR and Fraunhofer IIS working on optimized TV audio

Next Generation Audio (NGA) for enhanced speech intelligibility

In a joint project, German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk WDR and Fraunhofer IIS are testing how TV audio can be optimized with regards to speech intelligibility and accessibility. The audio transmission system used is the MPEG-H Audio system, substantially developed by Fraunhofer IIS. MPEG-H is able to enhance speech intelligibility and spatial sound.

MPEG-H provides various benefits for viewers:

  • MPEG-H Audio improves speech intelligibility by enabling viewers to adjust the volume level of speech or dialogue to their individual needs. This is possible because speech is transmitted as a separate audio object.
  • Audio description is already transmitted in parallel with many TV programs, in order to offer accessibility. Audio description provides an acoustic description of the scene on the screen for viewers with visual impairments. To facilitate distinction from the actual TV soundtrack, MPEG-H Audio supports individual placement of the audio description in the sound image in the room and allows users to adapt its volume.
  • Today’s audio productions are channel-oriented and designed to be played back in certain formats, such as Stereo and 5.1 Surround. Using MPEG-H, audio production and playback can be decoupled. The flexibility of MPEG-H Audio enables the production format to adapt to the capabilities of the playback device with regards to the number of speakers and their arrangement. Also, a suitably equipped MPEG-H soundbar is able to recreate various loudspeaker constellations. This opens the door to enhanced spatial audio playback at home with just a minor installation effort.

Establishing Next Generation Audio requires changes in production and distribution, as well as appropriate consumer devices. The cooperation between WDR and Fraunhofer IIS will consider all these areas.

(Press release in cooperation with WDR)

Header image: © simonkr – istockphoto.com; Fraunhofer IIS

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