The Basics

One of the key features of object-based audio is that audio objects can last for finite period of time (instead of the whole duration of the programme), and that some of their properties can vary over time. Therefore the audio metadata needs some time-related parameters to describes these properties. The ADM has time and duration attributes in various elements, and their correct use is important to ensure things work correctly.

The elements that contain time related parameters are:

Element Attribute Meaning
audioProgramme start Time for the start of the programme
end Time for the end of the programme
audioObject start Start time of an object in seconds relative to the start of the programme.
duration Duration in seconds of an object.
audioBlockFormat rtime Start time in seconds of a block relative to the start of the object.
duration Duration in seconds of a block.

To help explain how these elements relate to each the other, the diagram below shows the relationships.


As the start of an audioProgramme a time can be set (this is not essential, but recommended if known), but this time has no influence on the audio contents of the file; the audioProgramme is describing the whole file, so it starts at the first sample and ends at the last. In the example in the diagram, the time starts at 15:00:00:00 and ends at 15:30:00:00. It is important to ensure that endstart = the actual duration of the file. All the other timing takes the start of the audio file as time zero. The XML below shows how this is represented (an audioContent element has been added to provide the reference to an audioObject element):

<audioProgramme audioProgrammeID="APR_1001"
                start="15:00:00.00000" end="15:30:00.00000">
  <audioContent audioContentName="Cont1"

The audioObject start attribute corresponds to the start time of the object, relative to the start of the file. The duration attribute corresponds to how long this object lasts. If this parameter is omitted the object lasts for the whole duration of the file. The audio samples in the file will correspond to the start and duration of the object as shown in the diagram (in the example this will be from 00:08:00.00 to 00:23:00.00). The XML below shows how this is represented (an audioPackFormat element has been added to provide a reference to an audioChannelFormat element):

<audioObject audioObjectID="AO_1001" audioObjectName="Object1"
             start="00:08:00.00000" duration="00:15:00.00000">
  <audioPackFormat audioPackFormatID="AP_00031001"

The audioObject refers to an audioPackFormat (not shown for clarity) and an audioChannelFormat, which do not possess timing properties. The audioChannelFormat contains one or more audioBlockFormats that contain the finest level of timing information. By using multiple audioBlockFormats, where their parameters vary over successive blocks, dynamic behaviour for that channel can be achieved.

The start (rtime) of the audioBlockFormat is relative to the start of the audioObject. So the positions of the audio samples in the file corresponding to a particular audioBlockFormat is found by adding its rtime to the start of the audioObject to get the first sample, and adding its duration to find the last sample. The XML below shows how this is represented. Note that the first audioBlockFormat in the code isn't shown in the diagram, as the first block ought to start at a rtime of zero, but the diagram wouldn't illustrate the relationship between audioBlockFormat and audioObject so clearly if it was shown.

<audioChannelFormat audioChannelFormatID="AC_00031001"
  <audioBlockFormat audioBlockFormatID="AB_00031001_00000001"
                    rtime="00:00:00.00000" duration="00:02.00000">
  <audioBlockFormat audioBlockFormatID="AB_00031001_00000002"
                    rtime="00:02:00.00000" duration="00:03.00000">
  <audioBlockFormat audioBlockFormatID="AB_00031001_00000003"
                    rtime="00:05:00.00000" duration="00:02.00000">

Rules to Follow

Is it possible to give timing values that are invalid or problematic, such as values that run off the end of the audio file or cause overlapping blocks. There are some rules that should be followed to ensure a correctly functioning file:

  1. All the time and duration values must be non-negative.
  2. The time attributes should be in the correct format: HH:MM:SS.sssss (where sssss is at least 5 d.p. of the seconds) for the attributes in all elements. More than 5 d.p. can be used, and is recommended for sampling rates greater than 48 kHz. For nanosecond precision 9 d.p. should be used.
  3. The difference between the audioProgramme start and end time should match the duration of the audio file – within the precision of the timecode representation. Omit the end attribute if it uncertain what the length it.
  4. The start + duration time of audioObjects should not be more than the duration of the file.
  5. The rtime + duration time of audioBlockFormats should not be more than the start + duration of the referring audioObject if possible.
  6. If the audioBlockFormats overrun the end of an audioObject, then it will be assumed the audio samples will only be read for the duration of the audioObject.
  7. The order of audioBlockFormats within an audioChannelFormat should be chronological in the XML code.
  8. Successive audioBlockFormats should be contiguous. Therefore the rtime of a block should equal the rtime + duration of the previous block.
  9. It is recommended to have the first audioBlockFormat in an audioChannelFormat starting at 00:00:00.00000. Use the start time of the audioObject to set the starting time of a sequence of blocks.