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At the CatholicTV Network (CTV), a non-profit educational organization that utilizes communication technology to offer 24-hour programming supporting the Catholic tradition, quality assurance monitoring of audio content has become an essential part of the production process.

The network’s programming is distributed through cable companies across the United States, other English-speaking countries and territories, and via the Internet and Apple mobile devices through iTunes. Ensuring compliance with loudness regulations and verifying audio formats for stereo and surround, all while taking multiple audio sources and delivery methods into account, can be difficult. Access to these audio streams is crucial for making informed production decisions. The challenge for CTV, then, was bringing this capability to the wider production and
operation teams.

Assuring quality assurance

The CTV production complex has three studios, one of which is a chapel, while the other two are used for talk shows, panel discussions, presentation segments and music programs. The facility offers two control rooms that can be used to produce shows from any of the three studios. With the completion of the HD upgrade, based on the 3G 1920 x 1080 60P standard, the enhancement required a 3G HD-SDI-compatible audio quality assurance monitoring system able to create user-programmable listen scenarios and also track loudness levels over time.

These capabilities came in the PAM2 3G16 audio monitoring units, both Dolby and non-Dolby, from TSL Professional Products. They have performed flawlessly. Configuration and installation of the units for surround sound monitoring was simple and straightforward, so there was no problem from the wiring side of things. Once we had learned the program user presets and understood the relationships of the settings, everything ran smoothly and reliably. The production team now has a full, legitimate tool to help accomplish the rigorous production schedule.

High QC

A big part of the HD upgrade was the implementation of surround sound and expanded multilingual capabilities. While this has provided access to a much wider audience, it also meant more audio streams. The audio monitoring units give up to eight pairs of AES/EBU and up to six balanced stereo analog inputs, so there is maximum flexibility in dealing with source audio within the facility. This ensures that all possible audio sources will be addressed efficiently. Simplifying audio monitoring of the expanded multichannel facility has been indispensable. The monitors offer operators an easy way to identify channel assignments and levels via soloing and down-mixes.

The units, both Dolby and non-Dolby, provide instant access to relevant audio streams. This enables users to monitor surround sound and loudness for on-air and satellite distribution, as well as handle different audio streams coming in to support programming. The Dolby-equipped unit is used for master-control room surround sound monitoring and quality control of the on-air programming chain’s loudness. The non-Dolby unit is located in the satellite receive center. It helps identify and enable quality control for the many different satellite audio assignments and channels coming in from satellite receivers that are necessary in order to receive global feeds of papal travels and events.

The monitoring units are powerful, yet can be simplified for different operational positions whenever time is of the essence. The units allow A/B monitoring of the multichannel air chain pre- and post-processing. They are also used to time track loudness in order to meet new standards. In regards to level consistency, this has improved overall quality control. Having the ability to preprogram user listening selections has empowered operators and quality control personnel to manage audio levels more quickly and efficiently. The ultimate result is a more consistent on-air presentation.

In summary, having the capability to efficiently monitor multiple audio streams for quality assurance provides better consistency and, therefore, better programming.

Mark Quella is chief engineer, CatholicTV.