AudioMedia - February 2012 - (Page 36)
The Level Playing Field
The war on loudness is raging worldwide, with different countries going down different regulatory routes and concern over un-dynamic implementation amongst the amplitudinallychallenged. KEVIN HILTON finds out just how many broadcasters it takes to turn it down (and up).
t s t o o e a s y a g e s , sound was a natural phenomenon, only existing in the exact moment it was being played, but technology allowing for recording and reproduction has changed that once and for all. Now, beautiful audible moments may be captured and reproduced to enjoy at any time. t’s too easy to think that nobody has the same problems as you do. National, regional, and local broadcasters in each country have their specific challenges and difficulties, but broadcasting is an international business that relies on a high proportion of programme exchange and general co-operation between companies, whether public or commercial, so one broadcaster’s problem can easily become another’s. Loudness is an issue that has dogged broadcasters for almost as long as the medium of television has existed. When the BBC’s former research and development facility at Kingswood Warren was opened in the 1950s, on the list of areas to be looked into was how to deal with discrepancies in sound levels between different types of programme material. The perceived difference in sound levels, particularly between programmes and commercials or trailers, has been a long-term irritant for TV viewers round the world for many years. The problem – and the irritation – has grown even more in the last 20 or so years due to the adoption of digital transmission and the availability of multiple TV channels. Broadcasters, regulators, independent developers, and manufacturers alike have made several attempts to deal with loudness, but these either did not have any long-term effect or were purely a local solution. At the root of the problem is the fact that two separate programmes can register exactly the same level on a PPM (peak programme meter) or a VU (volume unit) meter, but one can still sound substantially louder than the other.
This is usually due to a combination of one piece of material having a greater amount of compression – as has been common with TV commercials – and the programme it is immediately following containing a wide dynamic range, with a quiet section leading up to the advertising break. During the late 1990s a new type of meter was introduced that could quantify comparative sound levels, rather than merely peaks. Among the first generation of loudness was a unit from Chromatec, which featured an algorithm designed by Dr John Emmett, formerly with Thames Television’s R&D department and now Chief Executive of Broadcast Project Research (BPR). This was released around the same time as a similar product from Dorrough; both were then followed by offerings from Dolby, TSL, RTW, and DK-Technologies. Despite such units being used by broadcasters and companies that specialise in delivering commercials and other broadcast inserts, TV companies and regulators continued to receive complaints from viewers tired of having to pick up the remote and change the volume when what they perceived as an overly loud programme or commercial came on. Showing that everyday concerns are still important to the most powerful man in the world, when he signed the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Bill into law during December 2010, President Barack Obama said he didn’t want to “keep on picking up the clicker” while he was watching the game. The CALM Act shows that the US has taken loudness seriously in recent years. It also illustrates the different approaches and degrees of regulation that individual countries have chosen; while America has resorted to the law, with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) having the power to impose fines on any
CALM Down Dear
broadcast loudness control and more...
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AU DIO ME D I A FE BR UARY 2012
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AudioMedia - February 2012
Audio Media - February 2012
Special Report: BVE
Cut Scene: PS Vita
New at NAMM
NAMM Show Wrap-Up
RND Portico 5024
Untrason Signature Pro
Final Cut: Drive
Allen & Health GS-R24
Product Sampler: Broadcase Consoles
ClassicCut: The Haunting
AudioMedia - February 2012