We’ve done many Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays games last year in HD, and we’ll be broadcasting many home games of the Toronto Blue Jays’ upcoming season in HD. We are also simulcasting a number of US HD productions. Dome Productions just completed construction on an HD truck with full 5.1 audio. What we’re debating now is what products to use for surround sound. We’ve purchased the Dolby E Encoder, which has a higher bit-rate for multiple encodes and decodes. It takes eight channels of audio including 5.1 and program left and right and it multiplexes them onto a single AES pair. We can then fire that down our digital path, through our HD video encoder, and then it passes all the way through to master control. It’s then decoded and re-encoded as Dolby AC3 before it leaves the plant because the cable head-ends support AC3 encoding. We haven’t done that yet, but we’re experimenting with it. Interestingly enough, Dome’s mobile unit is experimenting with SRS surround primarily at the request of Fox in the US. We’re not sure if that will work into our plans, but we gather that SRS should be AC3 compatible – it’s still experimental. We’re still trying to iron out some wrinkles in our new system.
Andrew Thomas is Senior Technical Operations Manager for Rogers Sportsnet, in Toronto, ON.