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post #1 of 53 Old 10-21-2012, 09:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Seems like every year I complain. Here we go again... Does ABC use "circle surround" for prime time and local stations convert it to 5.1DD? Why is the center channel dialogue so muffled? Sometimes I can barely make out the dialog during the shows like-
Revenge
666 Park Ave
Once Upon A Time
Castle

The audio for commercials during these programs is fine, the local news is fine, and all the 150 other Tv channels I have are fine.

I have turned the center channel on my system up and it doesn't help. The dialog is drowned out by sound effects, music, and loud booming bass. Do I go have to go back to R/L analog - Pro Logic just to hear ABC prime time shows clearly?
Quote:
Originally Posted by videojanitor View Post

I don't know what is causing this ABC audio problem, but it is not unique to KXTV. It sounds the same on KABC in L.A. It's so bad, I gave up on ABC.... I have wondered why there was no national thread for this problem. It's got to be coming from ABC like this, based on the clues I have gathered. How this can go unnoticed at the network level is beyond me. It feels like I've put cotton in my ears -- as you said, very muffled and often unintelligible. No problem with the commercials though (figures).

Seems to be happening in Sacramento and LA.
Anywhere else?
West Coast Feed problem?
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post #2 of 53 Old 10-21-2012, 11:13 AM
 
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Considering how unwatchable their video is, I change the channel before I have time to notice the audio.
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post #3 of 53 Old 10-21-2012, 11:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hammerdwn View Post

Seems like every year I complain. Here we go again... Does ABC use "circle surround" for prime time and local stations convert it to 5.1DD? Why is the center channel dialogue so muffled? West Coast Feed problem?

What the Hell is "circle surround?"

ABC feeds DD5.1 as 3 discrete stereo channels that supply, in this order: L, R, C, Lfe, Ls and Rs. These six mono channels are fed into the affiliate's DD5.1 encoder.

That said, I haven't watched an ABC network feed in ages, as I get my programming via other means (no bugs, no snipes and no commercials).

I'll have to try and tune in an ABC west feed and see what it sounds like. I do have to capture the feed and then convert the audio to DD5.1 to hear it in that form. But, I can listen to the center channel on its own to determine if there is something wrong with it. Also, as there isn't a Castle episode tonight, I can't use that one as an example.

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post #4 of 53 Old 10-22-2012, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

What the Hell is "circle surround?"
ABC feeds DD5.1 as 3 discrete stereo channels that supply, in this order: L, R, C, Lfe, Ls and Rs. These six mono channels are fed into the affiliate's DD5.1 encoder.

How is this different from regular 5.1 channels?

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post #5 of 53 Old 10-22-2012, 04:46 PM
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Not sure what "regular" 5.1 is. If that refers to AC3 (aka Dolby Digital), the difference is that the audio is not sent as a single stream. As Mr. Video stated, it's sent as 3 pairs - L/R, C/Lfe and Ls/Rs. Professional baseband audio typically uses AES pairs (similar to stereo SPDIF). SDI video can embed up to 8 pairs into the horizontal interval (HANC), and 2 pairs create a "group". Group 1 is pairs 1/2 & 3/4, 2 is 5/6 & 7/8 and so on for four groups.

ABC and NBC use the Tandberg (now Ericsson Television) MPEG 4 encoding with "Phased Aligned" stereo MPEG audio streams. Three streams represent 5.1. Until ABC used the MPEG4 system, they were using 5.1 AC3 @ 640kbs. The new system should be a significant improvement.

CBS/CW uses Dolby E for 5.1, which requires an external decoder for the IRD. Fox's splicer system sends the embedded AC3 as a ready for transmission stream.

Circle Surround is a matrixed system by SRS Labs designed to utilize phase shifting for converting 5.1 to stereo audio and back. Dolby's Pro Logic 2 also is a matixed system. It had been used for some time on ESPN's feed from a venue to their Bristol, Connecticut facilities. Some early matrix formats from the Quadraphonic era were SQ and QS. Matixed systems are usually inferior to discrete systems for channel separation, but can use less bandwidth.
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post #6 of 53 Old 10-22-2012, 11:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

CBS/CW uses Dolby E for 5.1, which requires an external decoder for the IRD.

Actually, Dolby-E can be decoded using computer software, though for broadcast use, the hardware is a must. The software for decoding Dolby-E, unfortunately, is not cheap.

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post #7 of 53 Old 10-23-2012, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

Not sure what "regular" 5.1 is.

What everybody else uses. The term "Circle Surround" implies that it's better than others (or may actually be worse).

Quote:
If that refers to AC3 (aka Dolby Digital), the difference is that the audio is not sent as a single stream. As Mr. Video stated, it's sent as 3 pairs - L/R, C/Lfe and Ls/Rs. Professional baseband audio typically uses AES pairs (similar to stereo SPDIF). SDI video can embed up to 8 pairs into the horizontal interval (HANC), and 2 pairs create a "group". Group 1 is pairs 1/2 & 3/4, 2 is 5/6 & 7/8 and so on for four groups.

What does this mean to the audio I hear in my living room? It sounds like all 5.1 channels eventually end up in my speakers and the infrastructure behind it isn't important.

Quote:
ABC and NBC use the Tandberg (now Ericsson Television) MPEG 4 encoding with "Phased Aligned" stereo MPEG audio streams. Three streams represent 5.1. Until ABC used the MPEG4 system, they were using 5.1 AC3 @ 640kbs. The new system should be a significant improvement.

With the 384 Kbps AC3 audio that my ABC affiliate gives me, I doubt I'll notice. This audio is lower technical quality than DVD.

Quote:
Circle Surround is a matrixed system by SRS Labs designed to utilize phase shifting for converting 5.1 to stereo audio and back.

Wait, I thought you said Circle Surround was fully independent stereo streams.

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post #8 of 53 Old 10-23-2012, 01:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scowl View Post

What does this mean to the audio I hear in my living room? It sounds like all 5.1 channels eventually end up in my speakers and the infrastructure behind it isn't important.

AC3 audio is not meant to be decoded and then recoded. That is why ABC used 640 kbps, to help ease that issue. By sending discrete audio, there is only one AC3 encoding. But yes, it all ends up as DD5.1.
Quote:
With the 384 Kbps AC3 audio that my ABC affiliate gives me, I doubt I'll notice. This audio is lower technical quality than DVD.

While it is true that AC3 for DVDs can be encoded at 448 kbps, you are right in that you'll probably never notice any difference.

Those with very expensive theater setups in their homes might. But, what will piss them off more than the audio, is all of the macroblocking in the video.

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post #9 of 53 Old 10-23-2012, 04:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

AC3 audio is not meant to be decoded and then recoded. That is why ABC used 640 kbps, to help ease that issue. By sending discrete audio, there is only one AC3 encoding.

That makes sense. I probably won't notice any improvement but I'm glad they're trying to improve the audio.

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post #10 of 53 Old 10-23-2012, 05:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

Actually, Dolby-E can be decoded using computer software, though for broadcast use, the hardware is a must. The software for decoding Dolby-E, unfortunately, is not cheap.
The Harris NetPlus 300 (which they use) does have an internal option for Dolby E decoding. Still extra money, but so is the Phased Align option.
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Wait, I thought you said Circle Surround was fully independent stereo streams.
It matrixes discrete 5.1 to compatible discrete stereo and then recovers 5.1 with a decoder, similar to PL2. AC3, Dolby E and Phased Aligned audio can encode 5.1 as discrete channels.
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post #11 of 53 Old 10-23-2012, 07:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVOD View Post

The Harris NetPlus 300 (which they use) does have an internal option for Dolby E decoding.

Still hardware, just internal instead of external. biggrin.gif

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post #12 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 12:33 AM
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OK, as promised, I captured the west coast feed of an ABC show and I was able to do Nashville.

I extracted the audio as 16 bit WAV files and brought them into the audio editing program that I have.

Here is what the 6 channels looked like for the hour (commercials included):

http://vidiot.com/images/Nashville-waveform.png

As can be seen, the center channel (third waverform from the top), has a level that matches, or exceeds the top two L/R channels. The average of the three channels is -6 db.

I listened to the center channel, on its own, and heard no issues with it at all.

I even did a special mix whereby I placed the center channel into both of the channels of that particular stereo wave file and reduced the level by 3 db (standard practice when mono audio is placed into both channels). I then mixed the L/R/Center into a single stereo wave file and gave a listen to the beginning and the recording session at the end of the program.

There was nothing wrong with the audio. The center was crisp and clear and easily heard.

If there is a particular section of this episode that anyone would like to hear, let me know and I'll extract that stereo portion of the wave file and make it available. Please give the approximate time the section starts and what it is about, so that I can find it.

If need be, I can make an AC3 file of a particular section for listening to as well.

In conclusion, in my non-expert opinion, I heard nothing wrong with the audio that ABC is supplying to the west coast affiliates.

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post #13 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 05:00 AM
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When you say the average of the 3 channels is -6 db what is that relative to? Relative to movie soundtracks, is there a reference TV level per se? Thanx.

(Separately and perhaps slightly OT or for another thread, last week's episode 2 of Nashville had left channel only and what sounded like stage direction ..."puts the amp in the back of his truck" over the dialogue. What audio was that? Since I watched episode 1 just prior and it sounded fine and switching to another station or any other recorded show sounded fine it was really puzzling. Never heard something like this before. Is there an audio overlay for sight impaired viewing?)
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post #14 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 05:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jqmn View Post

When you say the average of the 3 channels is -6 db what is that relative to? Relative to movie soundtracks, is there a reference TV level per se? Thanx.

It is relative to 0 db, which in digital terms is the max value.possible for the number of bits involved. In the case of the digital audio sent out by ABC, which is 16 bits, 32768. The standard for the average peak value for digital audio is -6 db. 1 kHz is normally sent out at -20 db.

The audio levels for this episode of Nashville was to standard. The 6 db of headroom is used
when extra loud sound is needed.
Quote:
(Separately and perhaps slightly OT or for another thread, last week's episode 2 of Nashville had left channel only and what sounded like stage direction ..."puts the amp in the back of his truck" over the dialogue. What audio was that? Since I watched episode 1 just prior and it sounded fine and switching to another station or any other recorded show sounded fine it was really puzzling. Never heard something like this before. Is there an audio overlay for sight impaired viewing?)

By law, Descriptive Audio (The AD symbol seen at the start of the show) has to be on X number of hours of programming a week (I forget the number). ABC recently added another stereo audio stream to the mux, making a total of 5. The 5 audio streams are:

1) Dolby Stereo mixdown
2) Left/Right
3) Center/Lfe
4) Left Surround/Right Surround
5) Descriptive audio/(Spanish?)

Based on your description, it looks like the affiliate screwed up and sent the 5th audio stream to the AC3 encoder instead of the 2nd audio stream.

So yes, you were hearing the descriptive audio that is meant for visually impaired viewers.

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post #15 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 11:19 AM
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Appreciate the explanation. Thanx.
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post #16 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 12:25 PM
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You are welcome.

There is a minor technical error in the explanation. I wonder if anyone can spot it.

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post #17 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 12:36 PM
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Watching College football Saturday's on ABC is horrendous. The center channel comes out of the LR speaker
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post #18 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 12:46 PM
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When audio is stereo only, pretty much every network is that way. It is hard to have a center channel with only two channels. Those two audio channels are applied to the network DD5.1 in the L/R stream and all other streams are silent.

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post #19 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 02:08 PM
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Fox has converted all stereo sources with a PL2 decoder to 5.1, so it does have a center channel.
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post #20 of 53 Old 10-25-2012, 02:43 PM
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At least someone got it right.. biggrin.gif

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post #21 of 53 Old 10-26-2012, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

In conclusion, in my non-expert opinion, I heard nothing wrong with the audio that ABC is supplying to the west coast affiliates.

I sampled a couple of prime-time shows this week and they sounded OK. Perhaps they fixed the problem? It's definitely been pretty muffled for the past few weeks (or more).
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post #22 of 53 Old 10-26-2012, 03:26 PM
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ABC audio OTA on the West Coast has sounded just fine. No noticeable degradation in quality, at least to these old ears.
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post #23 of 53 Old 10-29-2012, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

There is a minor technical error in the explanation. I wonder if anyone can spot it.
Is 16 bits a little closer to 65536?

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post #24 of 53 Old 10-29-2012, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scowl View Post

Is 16 bits a little closer to 65536?

16 bits does indeed have 65536 total bits, but they range from 0 thru 65535..

But that isn't the technical error.

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post #25 of 53 Old 10-30-2012, 05:43 AM
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I feel like the kid in the class...how about--

"The audio levels for this episode of Nashville was to standard. The 6 db of headroom is used
when extra loud sound is needed."

If you mean dialnorm for this program was set to -6 then it isn't that 6 db of "headroom" existed "when extra loud sound is needed" it is just that this particular program along with the other content abc broadcast needed a dialnorm of -6 to hit the TL?
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post #26 of 53 Old 10-30-2012, 07:41 AM
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Nope, that isn't it either.

And nope, that isn't what I meant about the -6db. Dialnorm is normally -3db, which it probably was.

It was something else.

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post #27 of 53 Old 10-30-2012, 06:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by videojanitor View Post

I sampled a couple of prime-time shows this week and they sounded OK. Perhaps they fixed the problem? It's definitely been pretty muffled for the past few weeks (or more).
Yep, after watching the shows since my original post, it is obvious that they did fix the problem which we have been stuck with for years. Hopefully it will it stay fixed.
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post #28 of 53 Old 10-30-2012, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by hammerdwn View Post

it is obvious that they did fix the problem which we have been stuck with for years. Hopefully it will it stay fixed.

The "they" must be the local affiliates. I've pulled stuff from the ABC west feed in the past and have never heard an audio issue.

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post #29 of 53 Old 10-30-2012, 10:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo View Post

I've pulled stuff from the ABC west feed in the past and have never heard an audio issue.

Considering audio isn't sentient and is incapable of discussing issues, that's not surprising. Audio problems, on the other hand, are more likely to occur. biggrin.gif
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post #30 of 53 Old 10-31-2012, 07:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo 
OK, as promised, I captured the west coast feed of an ABC show and I was able to do Nashville.
I extracted the audio as 16 bit WAV files and brought them into the audio editing program that I have.
Here is what the 6 channels looked like for the hour (commercials included):
http://vidiot.com/images/Nashville-waveform.png
As can be seen, the center channel (third waverform from the top), has a level that matches, or exceeds the top two L/R channels...

I really appreciate your capture and analysis but in this case it seems like looking at the dB levels is misleading. We never said the center channel audio was lower than the others. The problem was that the dialog was muffled and drowned out by music or other sound effects (turning up the center channel was no help). I'm certainly no expert in 5.1 but when I look at that waveform, I see the center channel is much busier than all the others which could very well mean the dialog is being overpowered.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrvideo 
...I've pulled stuff from the ABC west feed in the past and have never heard an audio issue.

But were you specifically listening to the center channel? Were you listening for muffled dialog that was over powered by music, surround effects, and loud booming bass? If so, why were you listening for that? If not, would you really have picked up on it?
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