A missed opportunity

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A missed opportunity

Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Chriss Scherer, editor

The fall convention circuit is coming to a close, and the NAB Radio Show and AES Conventions played the leading roles. Add to this mix several regional and state conventions, and it makes for a busy time of the year. I try to attend as many of these conventions as I can, but it is impossible to attend them all.

The fall conventions don't carry the same big product introductions as the spring NAB convention, but there are a few bright spots. Some of them are covered in this issue's New Products section. Instead of new products, I find that the sessions and seminars at the fall conventions are the real gems of the shows. This year was no exception, but there was a different twist.

With a few exceptions, the sessions at the NAB Radio Show for the most part were a rehash of the topics from last year, with IBOC again taking the spotlight.

The surprising twist was at the AES convention, which hosted three radio-specific sessions. Attending the radio sessions at AES afforded me the opportunity to hear familiar information while I observed non-radio attendees learning something completely new.

The session on audio processing for broadcast included a panel of the leading names in broadcast processing, past, present and future. While the topic often incites strong passion from the participants, this panel was quite civil. There was a good deal of technical information presented, but unfortunately, the non-broadcast audience probably did not benefit as much as a broadcast audience would have.

If nothing else, the non-broadcasters may have gained some insight into what happens to an audio signal when it is processed for broadcast. Mastering studios have been borrowing from our bag of tricks with multiband compression and clipping for several years, which is becoming a problem as the cascaded processing heavily degrades the signal. The problem is compounded once any perceptual audio encoding in introduced to the signal.

This will be a slow process for the studios to understand. They want their productions to sound the way things sound on the radio. Two years ago, I helped coordinate an AES paper on radio audio processing that was authored by Bob Orban and Frank Foti. I saw this year's panel as the next step.

Another panel looked at digital broadcasting in the United States. I had hoped that this last radio panel would really let radio shine. Unfortunately, the title did not accurately reflect the true nature of the material. There was an element on a multichannel audio broadcast in Germany, which was really a video broadcast channel with no video. I wouldn't call that radio in its truest sense.

The panel included Tony Massiello from XM Satellite Radio, David Layer from the NAB/NRSC and Leonard Kahn from Kahn Communications. I was disappointed that an Ibiquity representative was not present for a direct presentation, but Layer gave a good overview of the current status of IBOC.

From a typical AES attendee's point of view after attending the session, digital radio only means satellite radio. This is true today, but there was no clear indication that terrestrial digital radio is just moments away. To make it worse, Kahn went on about his Cam-D system, with no evidence or hard data to support that the system has been tested on the air.

The audio and consumer markets appear ready for the digital radio transition. But, we, as broadcasters, still have much work to do to educate and inform the masses as to the possibilities of terrestrial digital radio.

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