Research & Development

What we're doing

BBC Research & Development and the wider industry are working on a new means of producing and delivering audio that can adapt to the playback system and the audience's preferences, giving listening experiences that are more personalised, accessible, and immersive. This is commonly called Next Generation Audio (NGA).

NGA can adapt the audio to provide the best listening experience whatever situation you are listening in. Producers will only need to create one mix, which is automatically adapted to the audience's playback system, whether it is a loudspeaker system, such as stereo, 5.1, or a sound bar, or a pair of headphones.

A key benefit of NGA is that it allows personalisation of the audio mix for each listener. For example, we can adjust the volume of dialogue and important sound cues, making TV more accessible for those with a hearing impairment or those viewing in noisy locations, such as on public transport. NGA also makes it easier to give the listener different audio options, such as choice of language, or sports commentary style. Such personalisation could be manually controlled by the user, through the playback interface or their profile settings, but it could also be influenced by sensors, such as device location or ambient noise level.

A mixing desk in an editing studio, with a scene from BBC's Casualty playing on a monitor

Our NGA work follows three main approaches:

  • Working with industry partners, including audio technology companies and other broadcasters, to establish common standards, workflows, and practices for NGA production and delivery.

  • Collaborating across the BBC to ensure that we are able to deliver effective NGA services to audiences in future.

  • Building a community of practice for NGA production to understand how to bring added value to our audiences and how to improve the production tools available.

We are working actively within the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on this topic. A key piece of this work is the Audio Definition Model (ADM), an open standard for defining NGA programme material, that allows production, archive and exchange of NGA. We have also created a reference renderer and accompanying set of production tools.

Delivery of NGA to audiences is enabled through one of several NGA coding technologies, such as Dolby AC-4, DTS UHD Audio, or MPEG-H Audio. We are working with these technology partners and our EBU colleagues to evaluate these options, to achieve the best quality and value for our audiences.

To gain production experience with NGA systems, we ran a trial at the European Athletics Championships with EBU partners, where we used NGA to offer 3D audio with commentary in multiple language options. We have also worked with the production team of Casualty and the University of Salford to trial audio mix personalisation. To complement production tests, we have run lab-based experiments to explore how users want to interact with such features.

A computer audio editing workstation with mixing desk and speakers

Why it matters

We believe that NGA can improve services for our audiences. Personalisation of the audio mix can significantly improve intelligibility and accessibility, as well as the overall enjoyment of a programme. With so many ways of listening these days, automatic adaptation to the playback system can improve quality, even offering 3D audio where possible. NGA coding technologies are also more efficient than the current generation of audio codecs, which may allow us to improve the quality of existing stereo or 5.1 services. We have worked for several years to ensure that suitable standards are in place for NGA, but now is an exciting time where the technology is mature enough to bring these features to our audiences.

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EBU - Next Generation Audio

BBC R&D - Casualty, Loud and Clear - Our Accessible and Enhanced Audio Trial

BBC R&D - Creating Jade's World

EBU - Audio Definition Model

BBC R&D - The EAR Production Suite: Next-Generation Audio Software Tools

BBC R&D - Investigating user interface preferences for controlling background-foreground balance on connected TVs

BBC R&D - European Athletics Championships: Lessons from a Live, HDR, HFR, UHD and Next-Generation Audio sports event

BBC R&D - The quality of experience of next generation audio: exploring system, context and human influence factors

BBC R&D - An Audio-Visual System for Object-Based Audio: From Recording to Listening

BBC R&D - Comparison of spatial audio rendering methods for ITU-R BS.2051 standard loudspeaker layouts

BBC R&D - Next generation audio system assessment using the multiple stimulus ideal profile method

BBC R&D - Adaptive audio reproduction using personalised compression

This project is part of the Immersive and Interactive Content section

This project is part of the Audio Research work stream

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