While most VoD services offer HD videos today, one of the biggest complain of many offers is the poor sound quality of the rented movies; and Google Play Movies isn't anything better. So far, you only got stereo sound with your latest rented or purchased blockbuster; while watching it at 1080p HD. But now, help is coming from German Frauenhofer IIS, you remember, the guys which invented the MP3 standard and made the digital music as we know it today only possible. As just announced, Android users will soon be able to enjoy Google Play Movies in real cinema-quality surround sound at home or while on the go. Google and Fraunhofer IIS have started to deliver the first movies with a true 5.1 channel surround sound experience from Google Play.
The immersive sound quality consumers have come to expect from TV, Blu-ray disc or DVD is now available with movies streamed or downloaded from Google Play directly to their Android devices running 4.1 or later. Google chose HE-AAC Multichannel as Android's only surround sound codec due to its open-standard nature and excellent bit-rate efficiency.
When connected to a surround sound system and TV via MHL and HDMI, Android users will be able to play high quality audio and video from their smartphones and tablets in surround. On the go, Android devices will play movies in great stereo quality and selected Nexus products will also include the Fraunhofer Cingo virtual surround rendering technology, which will play movies in realistic surround sound on earphones or tablet stereo speakers.
Android's HE-AAC Multichannel implementation includes full support for loudness and downmix metadata commonly known from the broadcast TV world, as well as other features that allow the sound to be tailored for an optimum user experience in any listening mode and environment.
"Google Play movies in 5.1 HE-AAC Multichannel sound are the first realization of our vision of bringing true theatrical surround sound to mobile devices," said Robert Bleidt, Division General Manager at Fraunhofer USA Digital Media Technologies. "The Google and Fraunhofer partnership creates a tremendous value for consumers by offering one format that delivers a high quality experience both in-home and while mobile. Consumers may experience surround sound over headphones while on their way home from work, and finish the movie in true, exciting surround in their living room", he added.
HE-AAC Multichannel is part of the Fraunhofer FDK AAC codec library for Android since version 4.1 and a required feature of all Android-compatible devices. This software makes open-source Fraunhofer implementations of the MPEG audio codecs AAC, HE-AAC, HE-AACv2, and AAC-ELD available to the Android community. HE-AAC is today's most efficient high-quality surround and stereo audio codec deployed in over 5 billion devices and used in TV, radio, and streaming services worldwide. The codec is natively integrated into most operating systems, streaming platforms and consumer electronics devices. In addition to its unique coding efficiency, HE-AAC has the dynamic ability to change audio bit-rates seamlessly in order to adapt to changing network conditions as consumers stream content to a variety of devices. It can be used with any adaptive streaming technology including MPEG-DASH, Apple HLS, Adobe HDS and Microsoft Smooth Streaming.
I haven't found a single movie yet, where 5.1 channel surround sound was highlighted as a feature, therefore it's a little bit difficult to find out if a movie is already featuring it or not. I also wonder if yesterday's announced Google Chromecast will also benefit from this development or if the Chromecast was even the reason for today's press release? Well, in any case we have the trustworthy MHL/HDMI cable connection!
Cheers ~ Arne