The most fundamental audio issue of all is control of loudness. Every day, millions of people adjust their volume controls over and over. Music recordings from the past often appear to be significantly softer than modern Pop and Rock recordings, and in a television context, promos and commercial are generally much louder than film, drama or newscasts. No wonder that it is always the volume buttons on remote controls that get worn out the first.
Since the early days of digital audio, the most common way of determining the level of a given piece of audio has been to measure sample-peak level. However, this method is easily deceived and, in the effort, to appear louder than competitors, many producers and mastering engineers have found it necessary to use excessive amounts of compression, limiting and maximization, which not only make audio highly inconsistent in terms of loudness (compared to e.g. older recordings and across genres), it also compromises the quality of the program material significantly.
Rather than counting the samples, level should be measured by how loud the listener perceives a given piece of audio - in other words, Perceived Loudness in combination with a new, improved way of measuring peaks called True-peak is the solution to the problem. For this purpose, several international broadcast standards have been developed based on thorough research and circumstantial listening tests performed by independent organizations and manufacturers in the film and music industry - including Dolby and TC Electronic - has been brought into the equation as well.
In fact, a notoriously loud commercial block in television have caused legislative assemblies across the globe to make compliance with certain broadcast standards mandatory. For instance, The CALM Act has been passed in the US, which demands US broadcasters to comply with the ATSC A/85 standard, and in Italy EBU R128 compliance has already been turned into law, while broadcasters several other European countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Norway and Spain aim to comply with R128 in production, ingest and transmission.
Many other countries throughout the world are currently in the process of legislating in this particular field, which is a clear sign of how serious the issue has become in digital NAND with multi-platform broadcast. In other words, there is no doubt that this is the way of the future for broadcasters.
To resume, audio is precious and deserves to be reproduced respectfully, for ages, sound was a natural phenomenon, only existing in the exact moment it was being produced, but technology allowing for recording and reproduction of audio has changed that once and for all.
Now, beautiful audible moments can be captured and reproduced to enjoy at any time. However, technology can also be abused, which, as described in the above, is rarely beneficial to the music and film-loving listener and excessive and inexpedient use of compression, limiting and maximization causes audio to suffer considerably.
With the new broadcast standards - and the equipment that allow for compliance with these standards - production, post and broadcast professionals now have a valuable and efficient set of tools in the ongoing fight against the Loudness Wars.
With the new broadcast standards, cross-genre program material can finally co-exist, and volume knobs and buttons can expect a longer life, while audiences will get a far more pleasant listening experience.
Keywords: TC ELECTRONIC;CLARITY M ;CLARITY X;DB4;DB6;SYSTEM 6000;LOUDNESS PILOT;LM2;LM4;LM6;