[Inter BEE Forum 2007] Audio Symposium Report 1

2008.3.17 UP

Prospects and overseas trends for commercial surround-sound creation in digital broadcasting

Report by Mick Sawaguchi, Audio Department Coordinator, Pioneer Corp.


Formerly, the Inter BEE international symposium was held in parallel with a broadcasting equipment exhibition, but from this year onwards, it will take on the format of a larger convention, with the Inter BEE forum exhibition and symposium as equal partners. The main reason for this is that the organizers have felt an impending sense of crisis in that not having a convention in Asia that was on a par with NAB in the United States and IBC in Europe would mean their losing their mantle to global projects in countries such as Singapore and China, leading quite simply to the end of global exhibitions in Japan. We hope that everyone participating in this year's event, as well as everyone accessing our site on the Internet came away feeling "Hey! This year was a little different!" We hope that you all look forward to what promises to be an even more vibrant exhibition next year.

So, the main theme here is the creation of surround-sound up until last year, and bottlenecks in bringing this to home viewers. As a result, we came to the following definitive conclusion. Looking at the situation from a surround-sound perspective would also be a plus for people in the broadcasting industry, and we would be able to push the value of surround-sound in digital broadcasting from 2011 onwards. Happily, for the first time, the Action Guidelines #8 Report Findings included an authoritative statement to the effect that "marketing efforts will be made for the popularization of surround-sound" in the promotion of digital broadcasting next year, and this is very encouraging news for us.

At the same time, with turnover of 6 trillion, the Japanese advertising market is in transition, with television commercial advertising comprising 33% of this, at \2 trillion. However, the last few years have seen a downward trend in the profitability of advertising revenue, whereas for new Internet advertising media, the converse is true, with dramatic increases of 25% per year. Most of you are probably saying to yourself "Hang on! I've seen this type of thing before!" You'd be right, in that this is very similar to the situation approximately 10 years ago, when the CD recording industry first came up against the delivered music industry. How can we break this deadlock? One hint can be obtained if we look back at some changes in global industries.
Let's take the watch-making industry as an example. Previously, when quartz watches manufactured in Japan entered the market, the illustrious Swiss watch-making industry entered a decline. So what is the situation now, in 2007? The Swiss watch-making industry has adopted new strategies that involve emphasizing the hand-made and quality aspects of their watches, and by collaborating with other brands, they have guaranteed robust profitability and positioning.

Up until now, the common practice of broadcasting commercials created with stereo sound has used the concept of exposure, which is grounded upon the idea of "louder and bigger." To this end, the skills required by mixers in post-production included the idea of "how can we squeeze more in?" but does the original sound really need all this processing?

By providing commercials recorded in HD video quality that use 5.1 channel surround-sound, and that do not have this race to loudness, as well as employing original, natural sounding music, voices, and special effects, I can create and provide commercials that can be differentiated from those on the Internet. Additionally, instead of a numerical race for sheer numbers of advertisements, we create commercials that also have the aesthetic of a "short film."

Consequently, we have called upon four panelists to talk about the situation in America which is the leader in this field; Europe, which is in the same situation as Japan; and the situation within Japan, which is just embarking on its first steps. Comments from our four panelists are summarized below.

November 22 (Thurs.), 13:00~16:00
Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex 2F, International Conference Room
Presenters: Mr. Jay Scott (GTN)
Mr. Florian Camerer (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation)
Mr. Jeff Fuller (11-Sound)
Saori Kitamura (1991 Company)

We asked each panelist for a report, giving their opinions on the following points.
- From the point of view of production side, what new audio representations are possible within the limited time frame of commercials? Furthermore, what are the benefits of these?
- What benefits do clients and agents feel as a result of these?
- How about broadcasting managers at content delivery companies?
- Have viewer reactions been positive when compared to with stereo?

1. Advertising in the United States, and 5.1 channel surround-sound
Jay Scott

This is Jay Scott's second time in Japan. He has been a colleague in the surround-sound industry since 1991, and talking last year at AES San Francisco about these plans, he promised to give us his full cooperation. Jay's studio GTN is in Detroit, home of the "Big 3," and this has meant that the majority of the commercials that he brought with him for demonstration of surround-sound are for automobiles. (Below is an abstract of his presentation)

Commercials created using 5.1 channel surround-sound have been screened in the United States for several years, and this is a growth area for media, especially when coupled with the high adoption rate of HDTV (high definition digital televisions) in the home. I will talk about the three factors that contribute to this: content creation, content delivery, and home viewers.

Current situation

The United States is approaching the date of February 2009 by which migration over to digital television (DTV) must be completed (not necessarily HDTV). Approximately 20% of American homes have HDTV, which is a healthy rise from the rate of 13% in 2005. However, an important point is that only 61% of these households are able to receive full HD transmissions. Senator Daniel Inoue from Hawaii made the following point. "We have not yet notified the general public about a gradual migration over to digital transmissions." However, this day is approaching. 5.1 channel surround-sound for broadcasting is currently tied to the HD delivery format, and given the growth in HD accompanying the start of DTV; I see this as an opportunity for market growth for 5.1 channel surround-sound.

[Content creation]
So, let's start with content creation. Advertisers have many reasons for creating HD and 5.1 channel surround-sound content. From a creative point of view, 5.1 channel surround-sound has many more possibilities than stereo, with higher levels of flexibility than LtRt 2ch stereo. In short,
enhanced bass,
movement within the sound space,
superb imaging capabilities from the center speaker,
and an enlarged sound space through the addition of speakers.

In a media marketplace in which there is fierce competition to gain the attention of consumers, it feels as if many advertisers are trying to differentiate themselves from their competition with commercials utilizing HD and 5.1 channel surround-sound. However, we are still in a transitional phase. In May of this year, SHOOT magazine carried out a survey of executives at a number of advertising companies regarding their degree of interest in HD. Responses ranged from their being fully involved, to their expressing guarded optimism. However, all of the responses indicated HD was a normal part of their experience.
At the same time, we are conducting training into how HD can be utilized. One activity is inviting post-production artists and vendors to attend a Q&A session that explains both HD, and the process of using HD in their work. This covers not only production and creation, but has been expanded to cover media and account management. I participated in seminars for AICE (Association of Independent Creative Editors) and for advertising agencies, and explained the creative possibilities of 5.1 channel surround-sound, as well as its technical requirements. These initiatives currently under way are reaping big returns, producing an increasing number of people familiar with HD and 5.1 channel surround-sound workflows in the commercial process as a whole.

Even commercial music libraries have started to provide their music using 5.1 channel surround-sound systems. For sound effects, there are high possibilities for delivery at the 5.1 channel surround-sound mixing stage, either as components specific to a project, or from a dedicated 5.1 channel format library. Additionally, highly capable tools mean that up-mixing from a stereo sound source is also possible. In other words, the tools that enable the creation of commercials, which can be thought of as "30 second films," are highly refined. The latest generation of HD video tape machines provides uncompromising image quality as well as discrete, hi-fi multi-channel sound, letting us create outstanding products.

[Content delivery]
Next, I will talk about content delivery. At the completion of content creation, or at times while this is being carried out, there is a need to show clients or the general public a preview of our work. However, delivery of HD/5.1 channel surround-sound material during the content creation stage is not an easy. At present, there is no cheap way to deliver the HD/5.1 channel surround-sound content which has become widespread in commercial workflows. However, media such as recordable HD-DVD and Blu-ray disks have matured, and it is expected that these hardware-based media formats should be able to provide one solution. At the file level, Windows Media 9 and high-definition QuickTime formats are capable of delivering high quality, multi-channel products, however until these delivery formats become a part of the content creation workflow, this role will be fulfilled by precisely designed HD/5.1 channel surround-sound preview rooms.

For delivery to broadcasters, we are approaching the deadline for a full switchover over to DTV; however we are still in a transitional phase. At present, the majority of commercials are delivered to networks on either HD-CAM/SR or HD-D5 HD video tapes; unfortunately, each network has its own standards, meaning that each tape needs several variations. These include various image restrictions based upon issues related to external libraries, slate information, ISCI codes, tape formats, HD formats, metadata, track layouts, surround types (5.1 channel surround-sound or LtRt), data formats, (Dolby E or discrete), and 16x9/4x3, and these requirements can also change at the last minute.
However, other distribution methods are appearing. In November 2006, DG Fast-channel introduced HD NOW, which is an electronic distribution format for HD advertising content. This system delivers to servers at each broadcaster file-based content, which is in a format that can be broadcast directly. If this type of file delivery system becomes commonplace not only as a metadata application on set-top boxes, but in the world of DTV, then high-efficiency, low-loss distribution of advertising content will be possible.
*Author's note
There is a great deal of interest in the concept of HD-NOW, therefore we will ask Jay to speak in more detail on this after the talk, and we will introduce additional technical information that we have found.

This inserts into commercials created by advertising companies metadata corresponding to each broadcaster's delivery format, and delivers these via satellite or high-speed Internet using a transmission terminal called a DG-DROP BOX. With this system, broadcasters receive these files using a terminal called a DG-SPOT BOX, deliver these to their server either using a tape-based format or as video files, and then broadcast. The monthly lease costs for the system are $200.

This is a tapeless system with the following specifications.
MPEG-2 transmission specifications
45Mbps TS 4:2:2 component video
720P/1080i support
MPEG-1 Layer01 48k/max 24bit audio transmission, with up to 8 channels.

[Content viewing]
Next, we will talk about consumers. Let's look at figures more suited to audio, namely the rate of uptake of home theaters. The CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) calculates that 36% of American homes have a home theater, which is up from 16% in 1998. Various surveys have started to measure the impact of advertising created in HD. At present, it is unlikely that television viewers will view advertising in HD rather than in SD, but they are reacting favorably to advertising using various methods. First,

In homes with HDTV, there is a high likelihood that viewers will search for programming in HD.
There is a high level of agreement that advertising in HD matches the needs and interests of HD viewers.
72% of viewers notice either all or some of the time whether or not a commercial is in HD. Their "purchasing intent" regarding advertising created in HD was 55% higher than for that created in SD.
Brand recognition by HD viewers is three times higher than that for SD viewers.
HD viewers on many networks recorded significantly higher values for the impact of advertising, and an emotional connection with HD advertising.

Additionally, while viewers are unlikely to make purchases during a HD broadcast, viewers showed a tangible reaction during their HD/5.1 channel surround-sound experience.

Problems still exist, but we can now use broadcasts to deliver to viewers who are already set up to receive high-quality audio experiences. We feel that 5.1 channel surround-sound will continue to be a superb resource for the effective delivery of advertising content.


2. "Advertising in Europe using surround-sound"
Florian Camerer, Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF)

Multi-channel audio broadcasting is seeing increased popularity in Europe. In Europe, a great many broadcasters are broadcasting using discrete surround-sound (5.1), using mainly DVB-S (satellite digital video broadcasting) or DVB-T (terrestrial digital video broadcasting). These started with German private broadcaster Pro7 in 1999, and Austrian public broadcaster ORF in 2003. The advantages of 5.1 channel multi-channel audio broadcasting are being explored in several programming areas. These are concerts and operas, plays, movies and documentaries, and sports, and in radio, radio dramas. There is a steady increase in the number of homes with surround-sound home theater systems, and given that number of HDTV systems that are combined with 5.1 multi-channel audio is increasing, the future for surround-sound looks bright.

However, we are a little surprised that advertising agencies are not fully cognizant of the new possibilities of surround-sound in increasing the impact of advertising campaigns. Advertising using 5.1 channel sound at present sometimes appears to be no more than commercials for consumer electronic products directly marketed to surround-sound home cinema systems. Here, I am reminded of Japanese audio-visual manufacturers. The use of surround-sound for advertising on surround-sound home cinema systems is unsurprising, but the wider possibilities that this technology can bring to advertising are not fully understood in Europe.

This may be a problem with communication, or a misunderstanding, because new tools that can increase the effectiveness and impact of advertising are typically welcomed wholeheartedly in the advertising business.
If this stems from a problem with communication, then it may be because the management personnel in charge are not fully aware what can be achieved using this new multi-channel format, nor of the ease or difficulty of creating sound in this format.
If, on the other hand, this stems from a misunderstanding, then it may be because in the past, the development of new technologies was carried out internally, or put differently, implemented by engineers. The period for their enthusiasm to transition from their being "crazy about it" to the project being "worthy of pursuit" generally took some time.

Problems and possibilities of 5.1 channel surround-sound in the advertising industry

First, the problem of dynamics. Overcompressed advertising is even now the biggest complaint from listeners. Resolving this dilemma will mean advertising with even more of an impact, and with an even higher dynamic range. This means that the PPM (Peak Program Meter) can move from being dominant, to being easy to differentiate from the present ultra-compressed clips that have no movement. These all give a more open sound with more impact, and are aimed at providing a breathtaking quality of sound. More importantly, how should 5.1 surround-sound channels be used effectively, and with purpose? Up until now, this field has shown the largest amount of promise, but unfortunately, it has been almost fully ignored by European advertising agencies.

There are many diverse possibilities, and these are being promoted by situating two speakers to the side of, and behind listeners (right surround and left surround). This lets the sound operate more freely and effectively, and such features are the holy grail of advertising.

The following keywords are a brief introduction to the various influences that sound, and in particular surround-sound have on products.

- Audio and visual content "teamwork"
- Experience <=> contrast
- Adaptation & fatigue <=> irritation & surprise
- Space, localization, perspective, envelopment
- Effect => impression
- Movement
- Transitions, transformations, (space, time, characters)
- Addition of density, size, impact
- Subjective listening points (PoL <=> PoV)
- Emphasis, focus
- Amplification or abatement of realism
- Exaggeration or mediating behavior
- Pace settings, changing tempo

By utilizing these effects, we can easily increase the presentation and particular effectiveness of advertising. Making particular use of surround channels lets us bring forth exciting possibilities that can create interest in content. Basically, viewers these days are used to audio that is presented frontally, from a 2 channel stereo system. Accordingly, up until now, tools to attract viewers' attention by promoting loudness but that also produce conflict between levels show a low likelihood of success in the medium-term. On the other hand, 5.1 surround-sound is a brand new method, and one that provides a wide range of tools to capture the attention of the audience.

Europe is still in the early phases as regards the adoption and reception of 5.1 surround-sound in advertising. Up until now, only a small number of commercials in HD have come to light. While broadcasting using surround-sound is a comparatively new technology (8 years in private broadcasting, 5 in public broadcasting), this is a little surprising given that the advertising business in particular is always eager to introduce new methods and possibilities that can create a stronger impact with audiences.
5.1 channel multi-channel audio is very persuasive at drawing the attention of listeners to content. In light of the fact that its introduction will take some time (taking into account the natural tying of surround-sound and the new HDTV transmission platforms), this field shows much promise. Now is the chance. Accordingly, I strongly urge that you fully familiarize yourselves with the possibilities that 5.1 multi-channel audio can impart to providing advertising campaigns with impact.
Shell Oil
Risk insurance
Alfa Romeo