If you’ve ever struggled to hear the dialogue in the latest ‘must-see’ TV drama or wished you could hear more from a sports crowd without the overlaid commentary blasting the roof off, then Germany’s Fraunhofer IIS has come up with the perfect solution for you.
The tech, already in use in South Korea, allows broadcasters to transmit all the various sound elements – for example dialogue, music and commentary – as distinct assets which the viewer can adjust individually to suit their personal preferences.
As an illustration, a broadcaster covering a major sporting event could separate the stadium audio from the commentary, allowing the viewer to adjust the volume levels of each to achieve their preferred mix, or even to turn one element off entirely.
If that sporting event were a car race or a rugby match, the viewer might also be able to add or remove team radio chatter or the referee’s radio mic.
Other potential applications for the technology include allowing hearing-impaired viewers to adjust the volume of a broadcaster’s audio description service separate to the programme’s underlying soundtrack and even to use a soundbar or home cinema system to position the audio describer closer to them.
Depending on the volume levels and positioning chosen, this could allow a hearing-impaired viewer to benefit from audio description while others watching in the same room would only hear the main soundtrack.
We saw the technology demonstrated at this week’s DTG Summit and think TV fans are going to love the ability to control their listening experience – no more having to endure mumbling actors because some pretentious TV director decided it was more authentic or atmospheric not to be able to hear the lines, no more having to sit through inane commentary when you just want to focus on the on-screen action.
Obviously a UK rollout will require broadcaster support and the purchase of a compatible soundbar or home cinema system but with Sky and BT already supporting Dolby Atmos in a bid to provide a quality of sound that matches their 4K pictures, we can probably be hopeful that at least one them will want to go even further and offer subscribers the ultimate listening experience.
Check out the video below to see how it all fits together and what’s in store for the future of living room audio: