5.1 to play role in HD simulcast of BBC One

The BBC will launch a high definition version of its main TV channel this autumn, with "some programmes" in 5.1 surround sound from the beginning, writes Kevin Hilton.
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The BBC will launch a high definition version of its main TV channel this autumn, with "some programmes" in 5.1 surround sound from the beginning, writes Kevin Hilton. BBC One HD will be carried by digital terrestrial (Freeview), cable and satellite services, after gaining approval from the broadcaster's governing body. The BBC Trust has also given the go-ahead for transmission hours on the dedicated BBC HD channel to be extended from an average of nine hours a day to 12 hours daily. "The launch of a HD simulcast of BBC One is great news for audiences," comments BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons. "As we move towards digital switchover this is a high profile commitment to the provision of HD services, which will help to fulfil the BBC's public purpose of delivering to the public the benefit of new technologies." Programmes shown on the BBC HD channel have 5.1 sound-tracks, with a small proportion up-mixed from stereo in a 5.1 Prep Room operated by BBC Studios and Post Production at Television Centre in west London. Andy Quested, head of technology for BBC HD, says the high def version of BBC One will have "multi-channel audio on some programmes from the beginning". He adds that the intention is to increase the number of programmes with 5.1 sound over time on both BBC One HD and BBC HD. Quested points out that BBC One HD is not a dedicated high def service, so it will feature some programmes up-converted from standard definition, as well as new HD productions."The number of HD programmes will grow but it will be several years before all programmes are in HD, barring repeats," he comments. "BBC One HD gives us a chance to try out some new technical ideas but that won't be until we have the channel running well." If up-mixing from stereo to 5.1 is used, Quested says he is not sure if it will be done using post-production methods or a "live" option. "I do have a criteria for measuring the impact of up-mix, though," he adds. "Simply put, a significant majority of the audience must not be able to tell the difference between the original stereo and the set-top box down-mix of the up-mix."



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