James Cridland

Is object-based media in your future?

“Object-based media” sounds very techie. But as I stumbled across a BBC Research & Development web page last week highlighting where they’ve got with it, I am reminded how powerful the idea is (and how much it could play a part in the future of radio).

So, what is object-based media?

If you’re recording a radio program, typically the only thing that you record is the output of the board — just a stereo recording of the stuff you’ve done. That’s just fine; later, you’ll take that recording and play it on the radio, and it’ll sound okay.

But instead of just recording the output of the board, you could record a little more than that.

Imagine if you recorded the audio from every single channel on the board — and also record the position of every single fader on the board in real time.

With the right kit, that would enable you to recreate the entire program, if you wanted to. But because it’s recorded every single thing that went into the program — every ‘object’ — it allows you to do much more.

You could make adjustments based on your audience’s needs. You could remove music beds to make it easier to be heard; or you could take all the current music out and replace it with 80s songs (and still hear the presenter effortlessly talk to the vocals, including their fader pumping).

You could extract a good interview, without any music bed, for use in news bulletins or podcasts.

You could tweak and polish — correcting an over-eager fade there, or a correspondent who you cut slightly early here, or to fix the levels for an enthusiastic phone caller.

Or be rather more radical — you could much more easily telescope a three-hour program to fit a two-hour repeat.

Given the right additional information from a producer in the form of metadata, you could even make different lengths automatically. Perhaps automatically make a version that’s as long as a listener wants it for their commute. Perhaps strip all the music out.

Object-based media is a brilliant idea: made by engineers who understand the radio production process. And it’s also just as applicable for TV as radio.

The BBC have explained what they’re doing over on this website — you should take a look.