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Dolby AC-4 Takes To The Air In Public Polish TV Trial

Dolby AC-4 Takes To The Air In Public Polish TV Trial

Even in the internet age, terrestrial broadcast TV remains the central source of entertainment and news for hundreds of millions of Europeans. While it continues to thrive, it is rapidly changing due to pressures on spectrum, consumer demand for more choice, and expectations of higher quality. Dolby’s AC-4 audio compression technology is ready to help broadcasters answer those challenges, and we are delighted to see the first full trial take to the air with Telewizja Polska (TVP).

We take a very active and partnership-driven role in the creation of new industry standards, so it’s satisfying to see AC4 go from a specification to a full TV service reaching an audience of over six million people.

Dolby’s office in Poland has worked closely with TVP and Emitel, the transmitter operator, to make AC-4 a seamless part of the broadcasting chain. With the country migrating to the new DVB-T2 standard over the next two years, AC-4 is a very good match for this next generation of terrestrial digital broadcasting. It uses less bandwidth than existing codecs, and has the ability to carry new features and services that improve the viewing experience. For example, viewers will be able, in the future, to not only select different languages or commentaries, but boost dialogue over background sound, improving accessibility for many.

To deploy a new audio codec on-air, one key step is to prepare the transmission workflow with the necessary encoding capabilities. This was made much easier in this case by leveraging AC-4 encoding built into ATEME’s TITAN Live encoder.

Testing began internally at TVP in 2018, with AC-4 coverage of the Poland v Lithuania pre-World Cup football match. Live events like this can benefit from the AC-4 system in many ways. Viewers can enjoy a full Dolby Atmos immersive sound experience, with the energy of the stadium all around. AC-4 also enables viewers to choose the audio experience they most enjoy – for example, with a favourite commentator, or no commentator at all. As broadcasters and viewers become accustomed to the potential, we expect to see many new services that capitalise on these unique live events to engage even further with viewers in new and exciting ways.

Getting there takes work, but we’re more than happy to help. For example, we worked with TVP to help test a range of TV sets currently on the Polish market for compatibility. Although our licensing system with set makers involves a testing and approval stage, nothing builds confidence like seeing – or in this case hearing – a new system work exactly as it will for the end consumers. We estimate that over 70 percent of new televisions shipping in Europe have AC-4 capabilities, so the compatible user base is large and growing rapidly, and it will continue to expand as people buy new sets compatible with the new broadcast standards.

TVP is initially using AC-4 for its Kultura HD arts channel, which carries concerts, documentaries, and other cultural events. TVP expects this programming will get the most critical appraisal from its discerning audience. The initial test comprises two transmitters in Krakow and Katowice covering some six million people. Expansion is already planned to reach the entire country.

Our experience with TVP and Emitel has been very positive, especially given the extremely challenging circumstances of 2020. TVP was originally considering AC-4 for introduction with future UHD 4K services, but as we worked with them it became apparent to them that there is enough immediate potential for it to be worth introducing sooner. The viewership seems happy with this first step.

With this live service up and running, we can say with confidence that the European terrestrial broadcast market is ready for AC-4. To learn more about using Dolby AC-4, please contact us.

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