In the photo from left to right in the front row: Audrey Gaskill (AuD student, SPAA), Dr. Anjolii Diaz (Psychological Sciences), Dr. Lynn Bielski (SPAA), Dr. Lauren Shaffer (SPAA), Haley Matthias (AuD Student,SPAA), Rylee Ellett (AuD Student, SPAA). In the back row: Phillip Williams, Senior Software Engineer for Audio Algorithms at Netflix, and Dr. Christoph Thompson (Music Media Production, School of Music). Not pictured: Dr. Jocelyn Bolin (Educational Psychology), and Stan Sollars (TCOM)

Every time you click play on the latest trending Netflix show, you should know that College of Health, and Ball State University researchers have been behind the scenes working to ensure you have the best experience.
The mission of Netflix, from their website states: “At Netflix, we want to entertain the world. Whatever your taste, and no matter where you live, we give you access to best-in-class TV series, documentaries, feature films and mobile games. Our members control what they want to watch, when they want it, with no ads, in one simple subscription. We’re streaming in more than 30 languages and 190 countries, because great stories can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere. We are the world’s biggest fans of entertainment, and we’re always looking to help you find your next favorite story.”

You might be curious how Ball State researchers are helping Netflix improve their service, but just as much as the content of the stories matter, the audio component matters too. The first collaboration with the company started back in the fall of 2019, when Drs. Lynn Bielski, and Lauren Shaffer helped Netflix complete their first listening preference experiment in the Spring of 2020, just days before the shutdown.  Since then, most of the communication about the projects, like most working conditions went virtual. The Interprofessional Community Clinic was excited to be able to host, Phillip Williams, Senior Software Engineer for Audio Algorithms at Netflix, on November 9, 2022, so he could consult directly with this team of researchers to work on development of current and future projects.
The projects have been the result of collaboration between faculty from several departments on campus and students from Doctor of Audiology program, along with Netflix Engineers:

  • Christoph Thompson, Music Media Production
  • Dr. Jocelyn Bolin, Educational Psychology
  • Stan Sollars, Telecommunications
  • Anjolii Diaz, Psychological Science
  • Haley Matthias, AuD Student
  • Rylee Ellett, AuD Student

Currently there are two ongoing projects with Netflix actively collecting data. One examines the listening preferences in adults over age 55 and the other utilizes the newly completed Dolby Atmos listening facility. The project in the Dolby Atmos room involves training of student listeners in the Music Media Production and Telecommunications programs prior to preference testing. The audiology students are involved in both projects, providing hearing evaluations for participants, collecting data and gaining research experience.
A future project in development combines listening preference with objective measures of listening effort through EEG collection.

Dr. Bielski said, “I greatly enjoy working with Netflix. Working on an inter-disciplinary team of BSU faculty as well as with Phillip Williams from Netflix has provided me with excellent experience as a researcher. It has allowed me to involve students in projects that will provide them with excellent training and experience as well. The relationships I have built both with my on-campus colleagues and the team from Netflix is what I have enjoyed most about the experience.”