Nugen’s VisLM Helps Make Content Accessible

Bruce Baklarian TORONTO— Accessible Media Inc. is a not-for-profit multimedia organization with the mission to make all media accessible to all Canadians. AMI operates two broadcast services: AMI-audio and AMI-TV, along with a website. By making print, broadcast, and online media accessible, AMI serves more than 5 million Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing, learning disabled, mobility- or print-restricted, or who are learning English as a second language.

For the television audience, we add audio description for 50 to 60 percent of the video content to allow blind persons or those with low vision to enjoy the programming. This is an achievement that required a great deal of effort.

In order to add the audio description, we ingest the source material and then remix the soundtrack to a specific level to provide space in the mix for the narration. We then record a voice actor who reads from a script that describes the action. The goal is to produce a final mix that combines the original soundtrack and the audio description as seamlessly as possible.

To ensure compliance with ATSC loudness standards and the highest audio quality for our audience, we use Nugen Audio’s VisLM visual loudness metering software as a mixing tool in four post-production suites. The VisLM plug-in replaced bulky analog hardware loudness meters previously used for this purpose. It provides a familiar and intuitive equivalent to a hardware meter, offering both short- and long-term loudness readings, and, very importantly, a histogram.

When producing a mix that incorporates audio description, we measure the overall average loudness of incoming material and adjust it to accommodate the actor’s voice level. As we mix, we increase or decrease the level accordingly. VisLM’s display provides operators with an instant confirmation that’s easy to read. The indication is just like a standard meter display, but also includes a histogram that gives you an overview of the volume weight over time.

In addition to describing prerecorded material, we also do live description, and that’s where the histograms are especially helpful. With VisLM, you know where you are at a glance. Unlike some other loudness meters, VisLM’s layout is intuitive and easy to understand. You can calibrate it according to your needs, and there are options for customization. VisLM provides us with the confidence that everything needed is there and under control in a live program situation.

The success we had in our Toronto operation with the VisLM product was so good that we’ve now expanded its use to all of our production centers across Canada. Sometimes there isn’t time for us to do a full edit and mix in our Toronto facility, so the video team uses VisLM to create a rough mix for quick turnaround. If there’s a second airing of the program later, we’ll then do a full edit and mix. As everyone involved is using VisLM, the content is ready to use when it gets to us, and that helps us cope with our large volume of work. VisLM is cost-effective and much easier to use than the alternatives. Also, unlike the alternatives, it’s highly compatible with other tools we use.

Bruce Baklarian is an audio editor at Accessible Media Inc. in Toronto. He may be contacted

For additional information, contact Nugen Audio at 44-113-357-2250 or