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Dolby Brings Premium Audio to Online Video
High-quality audio makes online video look even better; consumers can now expect multichannel surround sound experiences.
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[Note: This sponsored interview was recorded at Streaming Media East, 2012.]

While high-definition video gets all the attention, high quality multichannel audio is crucial to providing a great home theater experience with streaming video. To discuss Dolby's efforts online, John Griffin, senior director for online media with Dolby Labs, dropped by the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York City for a red carpet interview.

"We've seen a lot of research suggesting that the importance of audio to a consumer is just as important, if not more important than video. There's been a lot of studies done showing that consumers generally perceive a movie or a piece of TV content, both the video and audio together. So if you have poor quality audio, it will detract from the video and vice versa," notes Griffin. "So I think it's important for the industry to realize, audio is certainly important."

Online audio is improving with high-quality broadband connections, so much that consumers can expect the same level of performance as with Blu-ray.

"In terms of the increase in broadband, that's enabling content distributors to do not just multichannel, but very high quality multichannel audio distribution. So you're seeing a range of services today from Netflix, Vudu, Best Buy CinemaNow, that have moved and migrated from stereo transmission up to full 5.1, or the case of Vudu, 7.1 channels of surround sound. So you're getting an experience very similar to what consumers are used to for HD broadcast or Blu-Ray, now through online delivery," notes Griffin.

Watch the full red carpet interview with John Griffin of Dolby.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: Hi. I'm Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen, editor of Streaming Media magazine, and I'm here with John Griffin from Dolby Labs. We're at the Streaming Media East show in New York City. And John, Dolby's a name that most people know. They know it for their surround sound, home theater systems. They know it for movie theaters. What is Dolby doing in an online video show?

John Griffin: So Eric, as you mentioned, a lot of consumers know Dolby from home theater and of course the movie theater. We're very focused on bringing the highest quality entertainment experience through the consumer and we work across a range of distribution channels, so that's everything from cinema through to broadcast, Blu-Ray DVD, mobile, and, of course, what we're talking about here, online. As consumers are beginning to get more and more of their premium content through streaming or downloads, they want the convenience of these new use cases, but they don't want to sacrifice quality. So we've been working with the industry, including professional partners, technology ecosystem partners, and importantly, online content distributors themselves, to elevate the quality of the audio and make sure that the immersive HD experience consumers are used to in the movie theater, or in a home theater environment works well and comes all the way through with online streaming, as well.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: Right. Our keynote speaker today mentioned that given the increase in broadband speeds, delivery of 1080p video, and even 3D video, is going to become more and more commonplace. He didn't mention audio though, but it's a truism that without good audio, no one's going to watch your video. So how does the increase in broadband speeds play into what you can do at Dolby to help deliver higher quality sound.

John Griffin: I think I'll take that in two parts. So first, on the importance of audio, often is not described as commonly as important to video, 1080p, for example, and 3D. But we've seen a lot of research suggesting that the importance of audio to a consumer is just as, if not more important, than video. There's been a lot of studies done showing that consumers generally perceive a movie or a piece of TV content, both the video and audio together. So if you have poor quality audio, it will detract from the video and vice versa. I think the CEO of Vevo, actually in a StreamingMedia.com article a few years back, even commented that by raising the quality of the audio, they found with their viewers a perceived improvement with video as well. So I think it's important for the industry to realize, audio is certainly important. In terms of the increase in broadband, that's enabling content distributors to do not just multi channel, but very high quality multi channel audio distribution. So you're seeing a range of services today from Netflix, Vudu, Best Buy CinemaNow, that have moved and migrated from stereo transmission up to full 5.1, or the case of Vudu, 7.1 channels of surround sound. So you're getting an experience very similar to what consumers are used to for HD broadcast or Blu-Ray, now through online delivery.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: You mentioned some of the partners that you're working with. What other partners is Dolby working with to help deliver this high quality online audio experience?

John Griffin: So we work with partners across the ecosystem, everything from content creation through the distribution and playback. On the distribution side, so the actual services, I've mentioned Netflix, Best Buy CinemaNow, Vudu. Some other ones we work with, we just made an announcement recently with Knowhow Movies in Europe, run by Dixons. There's a service in the works called Bottler, that actually uses Dolby Digital Plus to go through to mobile devices, so that's an emerging area we're particularly excited about. More recently, in the U.S., we've been working with a wide range of content distributors. We think that over the coming months, there'll be some new announcements. The industry's migrating pretty quickly.

Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen: Very good. We'll keep an eye out for those new announcements. This is Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen from Streaming Media signing off from Streaming Media East.

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