New York, October 25, 2000-The Audio Engineering Society's Technical Committee
on Network Audio Systems made a breakthrough in the real-time transmission of
audio data over the Internet during the 109th Convention in September. Members
of the AES Technical Committee on Network Audio Systems, with the help of the
AES Technical Council presented a demonstration of the Internet transmission of
multichannel music in high-resolution, production quality 24bit/96kHz PCM
between McGill University in Montreal, Canada and the University of Southern
California in Los Angeles.
Leading the demonstration was a team of audio experts from McGill University, which includes AES Technical Council Chair, Wieslaw Woszczyk, who is the university's Director of the Graduate Program in Sound Recording, Jeremy Cooperstock, Professor and Member of the Centre for Intelligent Machines and John Roston, Director of the Instructional Communication Centre. This dedicated team was also responsible for the successful transmission of 5.1 Dolby Digital stream from McGill to NYU's Cantor Film Center during an off-site demonstration at the 107th AES Convention in New York in 1999, which was repeated to INET 2000 in Yokohama, Japan in June 2000.
Chris Cain, chief engineer in the Sound Department at the School of Cinema-Television, and Professor Chris Kyriakakis of the Integrated Media Systems Center headed the USC team of graduate students and faculty members who prepared connectivity and tested and arranged for the live demonstration. Professor Tom Holman was also on hand during the demonstration and provided a warm welcome to the approximately 200 AES guests.
"Unlike previous high bandwidth demos of which the main appeal was 'look at how much data we can send over the network,' this was a first in terms of demonstrating the feasibility of compelling possibilities for remote audio mixing applications," says Cooperstock. While a jazz group performed in a concert hall at McGill University in Montreal, world-renowned recording engineers Brant Biles and Bob Margoulef mixed the 12 high-resolution audio channels received from Montreal for an audience in the Norris Theater at the USC School of Cinema and Television. The audience saw the McGill Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Gordon Foote, projected on a large screen in MPEG-2 video. The high quality video was transmitted over the same Internet link as the audio, using the new high speed Internet networks CA*net3 in Canada and Internet2 in the U.S.
This milestone event was the first time that live audio of this quality has been streamed over the network. While real-time transmission of audio data over the Internet has become relatively commonplace, the quality and number of channels has so far been limited due to bandwidth constraints.
"This unprecedented demonstration has given us a taste of the future," says Woszczyk. "Ultimately, we hope to be capable of network audio and its transmissions, not only for the distribution of high quality multichannel audio to consumers, but also to provide production network environments to the producers."
Committed to supporting the establishment of compatibility between professional audio and Internet technologies, the AES has been a forerunner in the research of audio streaming over the Internet for several years. In 1998, AES representatives met with White House officials to present a white paper highlighting the technical and legislative steps needed to ensure improved audio quality over advanced networks. This meeting was the first time in the Society's history that a formal white paper was presented at the White House. As a result of the historic event, the National Economic Council (NEC) contacted university-based R&D-oriented music and audio departments across the nation, encouraging them to initiate music and audio research over Internet2.
The success of the demonstration presented at the 109th AES Convention holds much promise for the future of music education. "Students in widely separated geographical locations will be able to work collaboratively on joint composition, performance and recording projects," says Roston. "There will also be 'master classes', where the master musician and the student are in different locations. Our transmission method can be used for any type of data so it will benefit educational and research projects in other subject areas, such as medicine which require real time feeds of high quality multichannel data."
Referred to as the "recording studio that spans a continent," the demonstration was an illustration of how much the recording industry stands to gain through the transmission of high quality audio over the Internet, including less expensive location recording and the capability for real time global transmission of high quality audio, both of which will open the doors to a new world of recording. The advances will not only benefit engineers and producers, but the artists as well, for whom interactive remote practice or performance applications will provide an opportunity for those who are geographically separated to work together.
In the near future, home listeners will also be able to take advantage of the benefits that high quality audio streaming over the Internet presents. According to Cooperstock, we should expect to see a home listener tuning in over a 56k modem to a concert being mixed remotely at 40 Mbps.
Note: Technical information is available at www.cim.mcgill.ca/~jer/projects/aes