More and more broadcasters are beginning to address loudness management issues, spurred on, no doubt, by the pending CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act. CALM, which mandates the FCC to enforce the ATSC's recommended practices on loudness adopted in 2009, was approved by the Senate last month and awaits reconciliation with the House version.
For the many manufacturers that have introduced loudness management products over the last several years, business may be about to pick up. "You still have people who won't move until Congress makes it absolutely clear that it's time to do that now," observed Jacob Kinsey of Cobalt Digital. "However, I think everybody is thinking about it."
The DTV transition drew attention and money away from other issues for a while, but the impending CALM Act has brought a renewed focus. "If nothing else it's inspired the upper echelons of broadcast to maybe not be so tightfisted with budgets," said Tim Carroll, president and founder of Linear Acoustic.
Harris Videotek LLM-1770
"CALM doesn't talk about putting any laws on the books that don't already exist," Carroll pointed out. "It compels the FCC to enforce what's already been written."
Whether broadcasters plan to purchase new equipment or add on to existing tools, he continued, "I think people are getting serious about having metering so they can at least tell where they are. They're planning for being able to prove that they are in compliance."
"I think that measurement is a big part of it now, as well as logging," agreed Randy Conrod, product manager, Harris Canada Systems. The company has added loudness measurement and logging to its Videotek line with the LLM-1770, which launched at IBC2010. The new device follows the ITU-R BS.1770 international loudness standard and includes settings that match the EBU R128 and ATSC A/85 recommendations.
Harris has formed strategic partnerships over the last few years to expand the capabilities of its equipment, integrating the TC Electronics radar display into its Videotek CMN-LA loudness analyzer, for example. Perceptual-based DTS Neural Loudness Control has also been integrated into the company's 6800+ modules and the X85 processor.
TC Electronics also offers the LM5D radar display plug-in for Pro Tools, and the LM2 hardware meter, conforming to U.S., European and Japanese standards. The Danish company's range of loudness correction processors includes the DB-4, DB-8 and the newer DB-2.
Conrod observed that the EBU recommendation differs from that of the ATSC, recognizing shorter-term audio events. "DTS Neural uses some look-ahead technology to adapt to that," he said. "So we adhere to the recommendations and have the ability to go a little bit beyond."
Cobalt has integrated Linear Acoustic's AEROMAX technology into its 3-Gbps capable Fusion3G 9985 dedicated loudness processing card. Both the 9985 and 9085 cards can run +LM audio loudness metering when used in conjunction with Cobalt's OGCP-9000 remote control panel as a user interface. Linear Acoustic AEROMAX processing and +LM loudness metering are options on all Fusion3G cards. The Compass 9085 offers the same features on a non-3G card.
Cobalt's modular approach is a big attraction to its major U.S. broadcast network, TV station and cable operator clients. "They want to do this economically," Kinsey said.
Linear Acoustic was one of the first to market with loudness processing hardware, but now, according to Carroll, the focus is moving toward file-based solutions, hence the company's various strategic alliances, which include Miranda, Snell and RadiantGrid, in addition to Cobalt. The company also recently agreed to incorporate a software version of its LQ-1000 loudness meter inside Digital Nirvana's MonitorIQ Broadcast Monitoring System, which offers aircheck logging. "You're going to see additions to systems that are logging video and closed captioning that add loudness measurement," Carroll predicted.
Linear Acoustic sought out RadiantGrid to help develop the company's first software product, AERO.file, which allows processing in file-based workflows. RadiantGrid's transwrapping and transcoding capabilities have been combined with Linear Acoustic's AERO.qc quality control technology in the product. RadiantGrid will add these same new capabilities to the RadiantGrid Platform.
Dolby Laboratories recognized the industry's shift toward file-based workflows early on, and in 2007, introduced the DP600 program optimizer, which supports file-based loudness normalization and also offers encoding, decoding and transcoding between the company's various audio formats. The DP600 won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development in 2009.
Wohler expanded its core monitoring and metering business into loudness control with the AMP2-16V, a 2RU product that also offers mixing and SDI embedding in addition to Dolby monitoring, a video monitor and level meters. The company recently added the Pandora loudness analyzer, based on an Apple iPod Touch (included with the device), to its product line. Pandora provides ITU-1770/1 compliant metering of two to eight analog, SDI or AES audio channels and allows users to set reference level, gating and metering modes.
Miranda has also integrated Linear Acoustic AEROMAX processing into its Automatic Loudness Control solutions for the companyMs modular Densité interfaces. Miranda's ALC solutions may alternately be ordered with Jünger Audio Level Magic processing or Miranda wideband audio processing, as appropriate. Miranda's ALC can be used in "set and forget" mode, automatically meeting the set output target loudness. Alternatively, an ALC profile can be automatically triggered that is best suited to the program content according to tags set by the broadcaster's traffic team.
Jünger Audio teamed up with Harmonic last year to integrate its Level Magic automated audio level control technology into video delivery solutions. Jünger's Level Magic rack frame product provides loudness control for 16 independent SDI video streams with up to eight audio channels each in just 3RU of space—a density unrivalled in the market, according to the company. Level Magic relies on a sophisticated adaptive level control algorithm and complies with ITU-R BS. 1770.
In another recently announced partnership targeting loudness, DaySequerra, a provider of DTS-based audio gear, collaborated with Ward-Beck Systems Ltd. to provide DTS audio processing solutions specially designed for openGear. The new Ward-Beck products utilize a DaySequerra DSP audio processing engine and feature proprietary DTS Neural Technologies algorithms to solve loudness issues in stereo and surround radio and TV broadcasts, transport 5.1 surround over stereo infrastructure and synthesize perfect, artifact-free, spectrally balanced stereo from mono content. Daysequerra also offers the standalone iLM4ST Intelligent Stereo Loudness Monitor and iLM8 Intelligent Loudness Monitor.
As Carroll commented, the current market is good for customers and manufacturers alike: "There's now lots of stuff out there, because all of a sudden it's a good thing to be manufacturing loudness gear."
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Steve Harvey began writing for Pro Sound News and Surround Professional in 2000 and is currently senior content producer for Mix and a contributor to TV Tech. He has worked in the pro audio industry—as a touring musician, in live production, installed sound, and equipment sales and marketing—since November 1980.
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