Live at NAB Show: Dolby Touts Latest AC-4 Strides

LAS VEGAS – Dolby is using this week’s NAB Show here to tout the continued strides that have been made by its AC-4 audio compression technology, including the latest news on the ATSC 3.0 broadcast TV front as part of its partnership with the Pearl TV organization of U.S. broadcasters that include Cox Media Group, the E.W. Scripps Company, Hearst Television and others.

“We are actively working with our partners to get Dolby AC-4 on air across the globe,” according to Mathias Bendull, Dolby VP-Multi-Screen Services Audio. “A great example of this is Pearl TV’s announcement at NAB that Dolby, along with several other key partners, are working together to get the first next-generation TV signal test bed in the Phoenix Model Market on-air using ATSC 3.0,” he said.

Univision-owned KFPH-CD Channel 35 went “on the air” using the new ATSC 3.0 standard and transmitting UniMas network programing, Pearl TV announced April 9, the opening day of exhibits at NAB.

Sony Electronics will supply TVs, demodulators and application development tools for ATSC 3.0.

“Supplementing the partnership announced at 2018 CES, Sony will collaborate with Pearl TV, not only in developing the Electronic Program Guide, but also in testing technology and service models to insure the customer experience is of the best quality and drives engagement,” Pearl TV said in the announcement.

Dolby, Pearl TV and video delivery technology company Harmonic are “closely working together to put KFPH-CD on air with Dolby AC-4,” Bendull said.
In February, Capitol Broadcasting Company’s WRAL-TV (NBC’s Raleigh, North Carolina affiliate) and NBCUniversal successfully delivered the 2018 Winter Olympics using the ATSC 3.0 broadcast TV standard in Dolby AC-4, he also noted.
This past summer, France Televisions and Dolby “achieved a world first with a live broadcast production” of the French Open in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos with Dolby AC-4, he also said, pointing out that broadcast was available on France Televisions’ terrestrial channel in Paris and through FRANSAT elsewhere in France.
Dolby AC-4, which “takes next-generation entertainment experiences to the next level,” is seeing “strong adoption and is easily accessible across the entire multi-screen audio ecosystem, from content creation and distribution to playback,” including TVs and mobile devices, he said.

In a key win for Dolby AC-4, the technology was selected as part of ATSC 3.0 and recommended by the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) as the sole next-generation audio solution for North America.

HD Forum Italia also selected AC-4 as its only next-generation audio solution in Italy, which was joined by AC-4’s “standardization within” the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and adoption by the Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB) consortium, Bendull said.

Meanwhile, on the hardware front, “as consumers want to watch their content when, where and how they want, we are extremely pleased with the adoption of Dolby AC-4 by two of the top three mobile phone manufacturers: Samsung and Huawei,” he said, adding: “This lays the foundation for streaming content in Dolby AC-4 to mobile phones, including immersive experiences.”

Dolby has also “seen strong interest from TV manufacturers and now have a total of 10 major global consumer electronics manufacturers who have announced support of Dolby AC-4 throughout their product lines,” he said. Those TV makers are Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio, Hisense, TP Vision, Skyworth, ChangHong and Konka, he noted, adding Samsung, LG and Sony already “have Dolby AC-4 enabled TVs in market across the globe and Huawei is shipping its flagship” P20 and P20 Pro smartphones with both Dolby Atmos and Dolby AC-4 enabled. “We expect other manufacturers to bring products with Dolby AC-4 to market in the coming months,” he said.
Dolby has “done our part to enable and build” the next-generation audio eco-system with AC-4, he went on to say. But, “to grow, deploy and fully benefit from the new eco-system, the two most important next steps are: activation (i.e. launching services) and industry cooperation for coordination of consumer benefits and ease of use,” he said.

On the activation front, he said: “As broadcasters and streaming service providers plan their transition and deployment strategy for Dolby AC-4, we engage with them to ensure a smooth implementation path for Dolby AC-4 throughout their workflows as well as the deployment of Dolby AC-4 enabled devices in the market.”

On the industry cooperation front, he said, broadcasters and consumer electronics manufacturers “need to decide how the built-in enhancements of Dolby AC-4, such as advanced loudness and dynamic range control as well as Dialogue Enhancement, will be displayed within their user interfaces so that they are easy for consumers to use and understand.” To address that issue in the U.S., the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) is “working on solutions with the aim to harmonize the user interface for consumer ease of use,” he said.
At this year’s NAB Show, Dolby “will be talking to the industry about how only Dolby can take all your entertainment experiences to the next level, which Dolby AC-4 is a critical part” of, he told the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA). Dolby is also inviting industry partners to take part in an “open dialogue about their expectations for new features,” he said, adding: “Our Dolby AC-4 end-to-end solution provides the foundation for new opportunities and improvements of existing capabilities.”
Dolby “developed and deployed Dolby AC-4 with the primary purpose to transcend people’s expectations of what audio should sound like,” he said, adding Dolby AC-4 “provides broadcasters (terrestrial, PayTV, or streaming services), who have an increasingly scarce resource spectrum, a framework of opportunities to extract more value for their consumers.”

AC-4 “enables greater flexibility for broadcasters and provides consumers with an immersive and personalized experience,” he said, adding the technology also “maintains the highest audio quality for consumers while maintaining lower bandwidth than other formats as well as delivers compelling new features such as personalized audio.” AC-4 also “matches the 50 percent efficiency saving offered by HEVC in video and is four times more efficient than AC-3,” while enabling “immersive audio, vastly enhanced accessibility, interactive personalized audio, and features advanced dialogue enhancement and audio-video synchronization technology.”
Importantly, AC-4 also “adds no extra cost for OEMs and is the only next-generation audio codec which supports Dolby Atmos,” he stressed, adding: “Not only is Dolby AC-4 ideally suited for enhancing today’s audio experiences, it can also enable the future of audio.”