The EBU and its members BBC R&D and IRT have released the 'EAR Production Suite', a set of tools for producing immersive and personalizable audio content suitable for any distribution codec. Currently available production tools are generally tied to one of the existing commercial Next Generation Audio systems (AC-4, MPEG-H and DTS:X), with a codec-specific range of features. The EAR Production Suite, which builds on the easily converted Audio Definition Model format, is designed to ease the adoption of Next Generation Audio (NGA) by making a system-independent path available.
The EAR Production Suite is an opensource project and supports the Audio Definition Model (ADM) natively. It comes with a set of VST® plugins for digital audio workstations (DAWs) to monitor programme content on any ITU-R BS.2051 loudspeaker configuration, using the ITU ADM Renderer (ITU-R BS.2127). The Suite also enables professionals to import and export ADM files, compliant with the EBU ADM Production profile (Tech 3392). The VST® plugins are currently optimized for the Reaper DAW, which features an extension interface that is used to import and export ADM files within a BW64 container.
The collaboration between BBC R&D and IRT on the project took place under the umbrella of the EBU Audio Systems group and started in spring 2019, with experts and software engineers from both organizations using agile methods to develop the Suite.
The EAR Production Suite is fully functional and demonstrates the intended use of the ADM in audio production workflows, creating a blueprint for consistent integrations of the standards in other professional tools., so that the standards can be adopted in other professional tools in a consistent manner.
NGA delivers audio experiences that are more accessible, personalized, and interactive – independent of how they are consumed, be it on headphones, soundbars or multi-speaker setups. NGA frees producers from the need to create multiple audio mixes for different reproduction systems by allowing them to deliver a single, multi-purpose audio master instead.
NGA is so flexible and scalable because it uses metadata like a screenplay – to orchestrate individual audio elements into an overall experience. This metadata is created at the mixing desk and transported alongside the audio elements to the end-user device, where the renderer converts them to a configuration of audio signals that matches that device’s specific playback system (e.g. headphones, stereo, 5.1 etc.) and the user’s preferences and control inputs.
For broadcasters, it is crucial to maintain interoperability and reproducibility. The only way to properly enable this is by establishing open standards. The EBU works alongside standardization bodies such as the ITU, AES, SMPTE, and ETSI to develop the necessary open standards and facilitate the adoption of NGA by broadcasters.To ensure interoperability in NGA workflows, it is important to specify a common standard for the metadata that is used to describe the audio. The Audio Definition Model (ADM) defined in ITU-R BS.2076 is such a standard.