HDTV must sound right

When broadcasters eventually migrate to High Definition, they must also look at providing viewers with high quality audio.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  November 29, 2006

I|~||~||~|At GITEX this year, almost every TV manufacturer had high definition television screens on display. Panasonic displayed the biggest HD screen at 103” and LG was just a wee bit behind with its 102” screen at the exhibition. Sony booked an entire ballroom to display its HD screens and Toshiba even had a mini theatre to demonstrate the power of HDTV. With HD TV screens becoming more affordable, it won’t be long before consumers have HD screens in their homes. When they do, by pure virtue of customer pull, broadcasters might be forced to provide HD content earlier than they have planned, and all the rest in the chain will be compelled to follow suit. Arabsat has already launched BADR-4 in anticipation of the need for increased bandwidth, and most production houses are shooting content in this format. However, very little thought has gone so far into offering high quality audio with HD video. Perhaps one of the prime deterrents for broadcasters in delivering high quality audio so far has been the fact that it eats into bandwidth that they would prefer to employ to deliver additional channels, or interactive services. As a result, although the provision for surround sound broadcasting has existed within the DVB specifications for sometime, broadcasters in Europe — both satellite and terrestrial — have made limited use of it. While, at just 384 kbps for Dolby Digital, the required additional bandwidth per channel is hardly excessive, across programme multiplexes, it can add up to a significant figure compared with that required for stereo. DTS and Coding Technologies have addressed this with a new technology that could reduce the bandwidth by more than half. They have announced the launch of a set top box (STB) transcoding system that can optimise transmission bandwidth usage and also provide high quality multi-channel surround sound The system was demonstrated with full HD video content at IBC this year and it attracted serious interest from many broadcasters planning their HD infrastructures. As Middle East broadcasters are currently only in the planning stage for providing HD, they must also look at technologies that will enable them to provide surround sound so that the viewer can enjoy the true value of High Definition entertainment. ||**||

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