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40 TVBEurope Loudness March 2013 Forum

“We need to cover all TV genres with standardised measurements”

Sounding off about loudness

In the latest TVBEurope’s Forum discussion,David Davies gathers expert opinion on the implementation of new loudness broadcast standards and finds out what still needs to be done to resolve this (very) long-running problem

“THE LOUDNESS train is gaining speed,” declared Florian Camerer, senior sound engineer at ORF and chair of the EBU’s working group on loudness, PLOUD, during an IBC breakfast event last September. With the activation of the EBU 128 Loudness Recommendation — which specifies a target level of broadcast audio at -23 LUFS +/1 LU — in countries such as France, Germany and Austria still fresh in the memory, there was a palpable feeling that the

goal of loudness normalisation was finally within reach.

But with the pace of adoption continuing to vary, are we really as close as we might like to think? And is there a risk that in the process of reform, some crucial elements — principally the re-education of broadcast technical personnel and the need to accommodate creativity in mixing — have yet to receive adequate attention? Joining Camerer to

reflect on the loudness revolution are Kevin Burrows, CTO broadcast

How confident are you that the introduction of the EBU R128 loudness recommendation and ATSC A/85 (CALM Act, US) are paving the way towards a new, unified era for television loudness control?

Camerer: I am VERY confident. Well, as chairman of the group responsible for R128 I should be...! But honestly, all signs point in the right direction. I think that the critical mass for the switchover to loudness metering and normalisation has been reached already and that it is only a question of ‘when’ a broadcaster will switch — not ‘if’. Of course there are still a

few refinements needed, most notably how to treat very wide dynamic range programmes such as feature films, and what to measure and base the normalisation upon. Solving this is not trivial and [constitutes] one of the major differences between Europe

and the US (non-dialogue- centric vs dialogue-centric). Pascoe: I think it’s important

to recognise the differences in the politics on the two sides of the Atlantic here. The ‘R’ in EBU R128 stands for ‘recommendation’; regulation may be applied at the regional level by local agencies. While ATSC A/85 is also a recommendation, the CALM Act brings this recommendation into Federal Law (“inclusion by reference” and enforced by the FCC). So while European broadcasters are able to move towards loudness normalisation at a manageable pace which suits them, US broadcasters are being forced to find an

Mark Pascoe:“I think it’s important to recognise the differences in the politics on the two sides of the Atlantic”

Steve Plunkett: “Enforcing loudness control within the transmission chain, in playout, is necessary but complex”

and distribution,

Channel 4, and a leading light at the UK’s best practice-promoting Digital Production Partnership (DPP); Tim Carroll, president and founder, Linear Acoustic; John Emmett, technical director & CEO, Broadcast Project Research; Richard van Everdingen, who runs Delta Sigma Consultancy; Neil Hatton, CEO of Azimuth Post Production and UK Screen’s representative on the DPP; Michael Kahsnitz, technical

director, RTW; Felix Krückels, senior product manager, Lawo; Thomas Lund, HD development manager, TC Electronic; Bob Nicholas, director broadcast business development, Cobalt Digital; Mark Pascoe, senior technical marketing manager, Broadcast Group, Dolby Europe; Peter Poers, managing director, Jünger Audio; Steve Plunkett, chief technology officer, Red Bee Media; and Peter Schut, chief technical officer, Axon Digital Design

— material being delivered with a narrow dynamic range, not dissimilar to that which we had in the old analogue days. Burrows: The introduction of R128 should be absolutely all we need to unify loudness, but there are challenges to deal with such as legacy material and short interstitial items. One of the reasons it is taking time is that we need to include guidance information and allow for training to be set up as it is not an exact science. Lund: The R128 standard is

by far the best broadcast has ever had for dealing with audio level. It’s a challenge to find content where it doesn’t provide a credible normalisation answer; it works for all genres and even minimises the need for precious headroom. When you add the extra tools R128 also provides coherent measurements of short- term and momentary loudness, loudness range and true-peak assessment. [But] some work is still in progress; for instance, to ensure that speech level isn’t mixed too much lower than programme loudness, regardless [of] whether a mix is intended for broadcast, cinema or IMAX. Everdingen: The introduction

of loudness normalisation is the best change we have ever had in audio for television broadcasting, [but] it does not mean that there [will be] nothing left to improve. It is important to gather information from practical experiences and to continue research in to how loudness normalisation can be made even better than it already is. It also depends on the local application whether or not loudness normalisation is properly applied.

“In all honesty, I think the EBU overdid their recommendation by making it way too complicated and way too strict for the different platforms”

approach in order to comply with the CALM Act. Unfortunately, this has

resulted in the overuse of dynamic range compression at

the head-end in order to ‘comply’, frequently across all content rather than just the commercials, bringing us back to the situation where we started

Peter Schut, Axon Plunkett: It is very important

that consistent measures are employed across the industry to address the issues of loudness. The application of

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