Broadcast annually since 1956, the ESC is the world’s longest-running international television music competition and one of the most-watched non-sporting events in the world, with a current estimated audience of 200 million. Achieving a production without a glitch, which is then delivered through the EBU Network to the ESC enthusiasts around the world, requires tremendous technical effort and a massive broadcast infrastructure. In terms of audio, to facilitate the excellent capturing of sound and the song contest atmosphere, Lisbon’s Altice Arena was equipped with 232 microphones in total. In addition to providing the stage, presenters, guests and Green Room with microphones, 26 microphones were installed exclusively for capturing the ambience in the auditorium.
For the creation of an immersive sound image, the Fraunhofer sound engineers on site at the Altice Arena installed a dedicated surround microphone array in a “Hamasaki Square” configuration 26 meters above the ground. The four figure-of-eight microphones arranged in a square form were used for capturing the ambient, diffuse sound in the arena during the trial. This way, the Fraunhofer sound engineers were able to use the audio feeds from the main production and the 37 feeds for monitors in commentary booths for production of the immersive mix, in addition to the stereo and 5.1 mixes provided by the EBU and its production team.
The immersive mix was produced for reproduction on a 5.1+4H target loudspeaker configuration: 5.1 surround channels plus four additional height speakers. With the MPEG-H Audio authoring and monitoring tools, all music and ambience audio feeds as well as up to five different languages for the commentaries as individual objects were mixed into one stream. Furthermore, various MPEG-H presets (versions of the mix, such as “Default”, “Dialogue Enhancement” or “Venue”) were authored live, together with metadata describing the personalization and interactivity options.
All presets, downmixes to various configurations, different Dynamic Range Control (DRC) modes and interactivity features were monitored using the 5.1+4H speaker setup as well as binaural rendering over headphones. During live demonstrations to broadcasters and sound experts onsite, the immersive mix recreated an impressive experience of the Altice Arena atmosphere. The MPEG-H TV Audio System’s personalization features, such as language selection, dialogue enhancement or position interactivity, could be experienced with a MPEG-H player installed on a tablet providing an easy to use interface for these features.
In the near future, the MPEG-H immersive mix of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest will be demonstrated to all EBU members in the EBU premises, using an immersive soundbar with MPEG-H Audio capabilities.