High-definition video with 5.1 audio has been a fact of life in the more advanced parts of the global television industry for several years now, but as is usual with any transition to a new transmission format, the infrastructure at even the most progressive broadcasters is often not fully set up for seamless HD operation. On the audio side, many broadcasters still do not have established workflows for archiving or editing in 5.1, and there are still very few available effects and music libraries in ready-to-use true 5.1. Other broadcasters would like to provide audio in 5.1, but cannot yet make the considerable investment required to mix in discrete-channel 5.1, and are currently restricted to producing programme material in stereo.
Stereo workflows, equipment, files, libraries and infrastructure, in short, are likely to be around for many years, and indeed may never be completely superseded. Any audio accompanying archive video recorded before the 21st century will almost certainly remain in stereo but some means of rendering this in 5.1 will be needed by HD broadcasters for the foreseeable future.
SoundField has catered to this need since 2009 with the introduction of the UPM-1 upmix processor, a hardware device capable of creating a natural-sounding 5.1 soundscape from two-channel stereo, without adding unnecessary reverb or phase shifts. Since its release, the UPM-1 has proved very successful with major broadcasters who need to ensure that their 5.1 audio output is maintained at all times, even when playing back older material with a stereo-only soundtrack, or when incorporating legacy library material, jingles or sound effects that are only available in stereo.
However, the word from forward-thinking broadcasters over the past three years has been that still greater flexibility is required in this area. And so, in response to feedback from the industry, SoundField has created the X-1, a 1U rackmount device that combines broadcast-quality upmix and downmix processing in one box, and aims to smooth the transition for broadcasters upgrading from stereo to 5.1 workflows.