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The Impact of Licensing Costs on the Growth of Next-Gen Audio Technologies
At the end of 2015, media circles were abuzz with discussions on the HEVC/H.265 video coding standard, who’s adopting it, how much it will cost to license, and what the launch of the Open Media Alliance might mean.
The spotlight on video has burned so bright that nextgen audio has not been covered at all. This relative obscurity is unwarranted, however, given both the complementarity of these two next-gen technologies and the imminence of important standards-based decisions. Dramatic technological improvements in audio ready to be broadly deployed and adopted to support the advanced video features are now the talk of the town. As consumers flock to update their home theaters, and also their mobile devices, the pressure is on to deliver something that also sounds fantastic. And 3D audio delivers that perfect complement to 4K UHD content. Using 3D audio, sound sources can be placed in virtual locations.
This allows audio to sound as if it were coming from any direction—such as from behind, above or below a listener— regardless of the location of the speakers. Proponents of 3D audio describe it as an "immersive technology," and for anyone who has experienced it, it seems almost unreal, clearly a step-change in user experience. As with any new technology, a "Beta vs. VHS" watershed moment for adoption is likely to happen. For 3D audio, that moment could be a decision concerning "ATSC 3.0" by the Advanced Television Standards Committee expected this fall. By way of background, the ATSC is a global nonprofit whose membership includes broadcasters, electronics manufacturers, broadcast equipment makers, regulators, and related experts.
ATSC ushered in the era of digital television, and its new standardization process is being watched closely by many industry observers for TV and beyond. Its 3.0 audio and video selections will potentially be deployed in billions of devices and content titles over the next decade. For video, the main contender is HEVC. As for Audio, it's up for grabs with MPEG-H 3D Audio and AC-4 vying for adoption. Another technology—DTS—had been in contention as well, but it has since been withdrawn from ATSC consideration.
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