Last update: December 5, 1999 a.D.
Today is the 2nd anniversary for the adoption of Dolby Digital as a mandatory audio option on 625/50 type DVD-Video discs. On Friday December 5 1997, the Steering Committee of the DVD Forum voted 8-2 to change the DVD-V specification for PAL discs to include AC-3 as a mandatory option.
July 11, 1999
According to my ISP this part of my site continues to get a lot of visitors (undoubtly because of several external sites which still links to "I Want Cinema Sound on DVD"), so I have decided to update the site with the latest news. However, there will not be a lot of activety on this site in the future, its now presented mainly as a historical document on the PAL video standard DVD audio war. I will clean up the layout in the future and report major news, but since the issue is mainly settled by now, I will consentrate my energy on other stuff.
The DVB Project recognises Dolby Digital
The Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) Project has recognised Dolby Digital audio compression technology as an accepted audio transmission format. The DVB Project has given broadcasters the option to transmit exclusively in Dolby Digital in all new applications where all receivers are guranteed to be equiped with Dolby Digital decoding. The announcement follows the decission of broadcasters in Australia and Singapore which previously has announced that their DVB service will only feature Dolby Digital audio.
Australia's Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) Selection Panel named Dolby Digital (AC-3) the preferred method of audio encoding in august 1998. "We believe that using Dolby Digital audio encoding will help provide Australia with the best available HDTV service," said Bruce Robertson, Chairman of the Federation of Commercial Television Stations (FACTS) Specialists Group-DTTB.
This recent developements contradicts several of the statements found in the DVB Projects own "Facts about DVB-T":
Audio takes up much less bandwidth than video, and European broadcasters believe that using the world-wide MPEG audio standard was the best formula for broadcasting today. The original tests showed that the performance of MPEG Layer II audio was similar to that of AC-3 for stereo.
Recent tests which compare MPEG-2 Audio and AC-3 in surround sound mode are sometimes misrepresented and AC-3 is sometimes said to have been shown to be better. Yet, according to these tests, AC-3 was better on "pan-pipes", and MPEG-2 was better on "applause". Which of the two sounds are you more likely to hear in an HDTV broadcast?
All independent engineers will tell you that there is not much difference in quality between the two, but on the other hand, the new MPEG-4 Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) produces significantly better quality than either. However, MPEG-4 is not backwards-compatible, and may thus have disadvantages during the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting.
MPEG-2 audio comes into its own where backwards-compatibility with existing (stereo) transmissions is needed. AC-3 needs an external channel mixer to mix roughly six surround sound channels into stereo.
As known by most people all Dolby Digital decoders have the necessary hardware to automatically downmix a 6 channel audio mix into Dolby Surround, 2-channel stereo or mono sound.
The "MPiG" page was featured in the february 1999 issue of Super AV magazine. Super AV is issued in Hong Kong. "MPiG" has previously been featured in leading danish, german and italian AV magazines.
Columbia Tristar has decided to scrap the use of MPEG Multichannel on PAL DVD discs. All future 5.1 soundtracks will be encoded with Dolby Digital only. Apparently this move was taken after the German market reacted negatively to some of the first Columbia Tristar discs which only has MPEG Multichannel sound. Hopefully these discs will be remastered with Dolby Digital soon.
In the beginning of january '98 I visited the WCES'98 show in Las Vegas, USA. I discovered that the "MpiG site" is very well known in the industry (!) and a lot of people recognised my name on the badge. I was therefore able to talk to alot of different people in the consumer electronics industry (including several people from Dolby Labs).
From: Christian De Zuanni
Subject: Dolby Digital & MPEG2
Date: 3. februar 1998 18:59
Dear Mr. Braathen,
I am not quite much into all those questions about MPEG and Dolby Digital and who is going to win and why. What on the contrary deeply concerns me is what is best for someone who owns a digital satellite receiver which is based on MPEG2 video and audio code and this someone would like to set up a sort of Home Theatre whose main audio source would be that satellite receiver. I would really want to recreate the surround experience you can have at cinema. What would happen if I go and buy a surround system based on AC-3 Digital Dolby and connect it to my satellite receiver?
Would I ever get sound from all five speakers and surround effects? Would all the dialogue come from the center speaker and surround effects from the rear speakers?
Consider that the only audio output source would arrive to the AC-3 amplifier through a right-and-left RCA cable. And so I guess the sound would first be turned to an analogical signal from the receiver and so the AC-3 amplifier would get it that way. I'm just assuming that the two systems are compatible because the Dolby Digital amplifier would process an analogical signal.
The digital satellite receiver I am talking about is called GoldBox and it is manufactured by Philips under the Italian Digital PayTV D+.
Please, I really need to solve all my doubts before purchase any product. I will not like to buy something I would never exploit to its maximum performance.
Thank you in advance. Will you please accept my best regards,
Digital Video Broadcasting in Europe is currently using MPEG1 for audio (stere/mono). The MPEG2 BC-mode is supposed to be added in the future to brodcast 5 channel discrete audio. However, I dont know of ANY DVB receiver which is fitted with a digital audio output! Thus, current generations of receivers is 2-channel sound only (with matrix Dolby Surround capability).
A DVB receiver connected to a Dolby Digital receiver will give you Dolby Surround Pro Locig decoding (if the sound is encoded), thus you certainly will get surround sound even from your DVB receiver. But you will not get MPEG Multichannel decoding without upgrading your equipment in the future.
Unless DVB starts to use AC-3 for 5.1 channel sound (possible, but perhaps unlikely), the best solution will be to get hardware ompatible with both Dolby Digital and MPEG Multichannel decoding (and maybe DTS as well). This will ensure the best possible sound regardless of the source.
Since no DVB receiver I know about (correct me if I'm wrong) have the necessary digital audio output, its not feasible to expect 5.1 sound from DVB transmissions in the near future (at least not from equipment bought today). Thus a Dolby Digital receiver (which also handles Pro Logic decoding of both analog and digital sources) should be more than enough at the moment.
The MPiG web page was featured in the italian magazine AUDIOreview, which devoted a complete page to the subject in issue 171 (number 6/97). The page is shown below.
THE VICTORY PAGE is now online! Read other peoples comments and add your own.
Last update: Dec 22.
The DVD Forum was originally established in 1995 as the DVD Consortium by the ten companies that initially promoted DVD technology. On Friday Dec. 5, the Steering Committee of the DVD Forum voted 8-2 to change the DVD-V specification for PAL discs to include AC-3 as a mandatory option.
The following 8 companies voted for the change:
The DVD Forum has now opened its membership to additional companies interested in developing and promoting DVD hardware and software products as well as user industries.
Today I received this e-mail from Mr Dressler which is currently present at the DVD Forum meeting in Japan:
I just left the first meeting of the new DVD Forum here at the Intercontinental Hotel, Tokyo. In the hour previous to this general forum session there was a separate meeting of the DVD Steering Committee, which is comprised of the original 10 member companies of the DVD Consortium (which was recently terminated). The steering committee conducted some final discussions, and then took a vote to decide the issue of audio for the PAL DVD format. The vote was in favor of changing Dolby Digital status to one of the "mandatory" formats in the PAL DVD specification. This was announced at the DVD forum meeting to all attendees. There is to be a press conference held by the forum later today, and an official written statement will be issued probably some time after that, but "soon".
In any case, it is now finally official, and it is therefore legal to produce PAL DVDs with only Dolby Digital audio. I thought you would want to know--but maybe you already heard!
On Friday Dec. 5, the Steering Committee of the DVD Forum voted 8-2 to change the DVD-V specification. The change is to include Dolby Digital (AC-3) in the list of audio types, at least one of which must be on the 625/50 (PAL) disc. In other words, the 625/50 disc must contain at least one audio track chosen from the following types: PCM, MPEG-1 audio, or Dolby Digital. This means that a 625/50 disc can now be made with a Dolby Digital track and without any MPEG audio at all.
This is a welcome change for those content providers who wish to provide content which contains a 5.1 ch Dolby Digital track and, for reasons of limited disc capacity, did not wish to also have to include a 2ch MPEG-1 audio track. With the specification change, the MPEG-1 track is no longer required for conformance.
If you have any comments on this issue please send them to me and I will put them on a special VICTORY/CONGRATULATIONS page at this web-site. I will publish any comment, positive or negative, on this change to the PAL DVD audio specifications. Please send your mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. And, even after this change, don't forgett to add your name to the supporter page!
Mr. Yajima has made a formal request to Philips asking them to agree to the PAL DVD audio specification change. Even if Philips says "no", it should not affect the ultimate outcome of this matter. Of course this remains to be seen.
The new DVD Forum begins December 5th and thus the end of the formal DVD Consortium is very near. Its said that this matter is intended to be finished before the new Forum comes into existence. Phlips might try to stall the matter to buy themselves more time to make a faultless MPEG Multichannel encoder.
Source: Mr Dressler at Dolby Labs.
For months now I follow up the frustrating discussions and meetings of the DVD-Forum, former known in german as DVD-Konsortium, and their endeavors to make a final decision about the digital multichannel audio system.
Anyway, on the 5th of december the DVD-Forum will meet again to decide to integrate AC-3 as DVD multichannel audio standard again due to the fact that Philips wasnt able to present a faultless MPEG-2 encoder system by end of October. This date was set as fixed time for Philips. In order to maintain the market introduction of PAL-DVDs spring 1998, Warren Lieberfarb of Warner made an urgent request to the DVD-Forum.
In the actual issue 12/97 of the german magazin "Video" once can read on page 136 "Latest news: On the 23rd of October the DVD-Konsortium meet in Japan. They had a draft in changing the DVD-video-specifications. Hence should AC-3 add to the list of the obligated PAL-DVD standards. If this is going to be reality, AC-3 and MPEG-2 are equally permitted. AC-3 (5.1 or 2-channel) could be therefor the only audio standard for PAL-DVDs - a rather hard backstrike for Philips."
Finally from the historical point of view, AC-3 is the only multichannel audio system I can and will support. Its a cinema and home cinema sound system. If you like to add me to your list in supporting multichannel audio on DVDs you may do so by remark ONLY AC-3!
Thomas "TeeJay" Jaspers
The DVD PAL spec is being redrafted to include AC-3 as an equal choice for audio, not a secondary option as before. It means it would be possible to make PAL DVDs with only AC-3 if that is what is desired. This all came about after IFA, as it has lately been seen that it is not yet possible to make PAL DVDs with MPEG-2 audio, so the video companies have demanded the spec change.
"Waiting for the ink to dry"
But look what Garry Margolis wrote to me after a posting to alt.video.dvd:
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 1997 22:27:28 -0700
From: Garry Margolis email@example.com
To: Espen Braathen EspenB@powertech.no
Subject: Re: PAL DVD Audio (was Re: DTS Replies, Part III)
In article "Espen Braathen" wrote:
- Most of Hollywood has rejected the use of MPEG-2 audio in Europe. Stay
- tuned for more details soon.
Oh? Really? Are your sources the same ones that have provided your
information on MPEG Multichannel in the past? And you still believe them?
Garry Margolis firstname.lastname@example.org
Director, DVD Mastering Support
Philips DVD Entertainment Group
I'm speechless! Even Philips Electronics in Norway had heard about these rumors by mid October, but Garry Margolis at Philips DVD Mastering Support was without a clue!
Photo by Roland Von Unruh. All rights reserved.
A picture of the MPiG editor Espen Braathen. Taken at the norwegian Sound and Vision Show 1997 (LYD&BILDE'97) where I was talking about the DVD-Video format and Dolby Digital multichannel sound at the Pioneer Electronics stand.
AC-3, Dolby Digital and Dolby are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation.
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Please note #1: This web site is not affiliated with Dolby Laboratories (it's true!) or Philips Consumer Electronics (did anyone think that?).
Please note #2: The editor does not make any apologies for syntax and spelling errors found on this homepage. This is the best I can do at the moment. Take it or leave it!
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Updated July 11, 1999.