ITU rubber-stamps '3D' audio format

It's behind you! And above you! And will make UHDTVs bandwidth-guzzlers!

Big-screen TV fans – actually, vendors and media outfits – will be celebrating at the prospect of yet another audio standard.

The ITU has given clear-for-takeoff to the new standard, ITU-R BS.2088-0, which glories in the title “Long-form file format for the international exchange of audio programme materials with metadata”.

The standard, here, is based on the existing RIFF/WAV formats, modified so that a single file can “carry a complete audio programme containing audio samples as well as metadata for any combination of object, channel and scene-based audio”.

Which means, roughly, that there's a standard for a more three-dimensional sound format: “we hear sound from all around us – a bird above us, a car behind us, and a voice ahead of us. Emulating this same experience in the media will be ‘immersive audio’”, the ITU explains in its canned release.

Designed to be paired with UHDTVs, the ITU expects vendors to use the standard to implement things like personal preferences for the immersive experience.

More pragmatically, the standards' authors note that the existing 4 GB file limit in the prior standard probably wasn't going to cut it for immersive sound, so the standard specifies a WAV-based 64-bit format called BW64.

There are also flags to maintain compatibility with the older file formats, and – an important point in an era where archivists need to find audio in a forest of stuff on hard drives – there's a “standard format for the coding history information and other related metadata” to “simplify the use of the information after programme exchange”. ®

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