CALM Act ChangesWill Speak VolumesAbout Sound Levels

Solving the dilemma of overly loud commercials remains a rallying cause for TV stations
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Complete Coverage: NAB Show 2013

Much has happened in the tech world since the FCC adopted rules to implement the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act in December 2011, and even in the nearly four months since the agency began enforcing those regulations last Dec. 13. Technologies for addressing overly loud commercials will still be making a lot of noise between April 6-11 at the 2013 National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas.

“Loudness and compliance with the CALM Act are still top of mind for stations,” says Ken Hunold, staff engineer, audio production at Dolby Laboratories, which has been working on products to address loudness issues for some time.

During NAB, Axon and Linear Acoustic, which is launching a new LQ-1 loudness meter, will be offering new products that include Dolby’s new CAT1000. With this module, equipment manufacturers can incorporate Dolby encoding and loudness metering technologies into their products.

The ongoing push by vendors to launch new loudness products for NAB 2013 and the strong demand for these products reflects the fact that a number of small TV stations and cable operators are still working to comply with the CALM Act. They have received economic hardship waivers that give them until December 2013 to follow the rules.

Much of the demand, however, is coming from broadcasters that continue to look for better solutions than the ones they deployed last year.

Nugen Audio owner and creative director Jon Schorah notes that many stations addressed the problem by installing loudness monitoring technologies in their playout systems, an approach that can reduce the dynamic range of an ad or program and impair audio quality.

“It saves them from getting a fine but doesn’t produce the best audio,” Schorah says. “As other stations begin airing compliant material that is more dynamic and sounds better, it is forcing people to address the issue on a more fundamental level.”

Don Bird, chief marketing officer at Wohler Technolgies adds that stations are now working to address the problem earlier in the process with more sophisticated tools. “They are moving the task of complying with loudness from transmission back to ingest and production,” Bird says. “Ultimately, that will offer better-quality audio.”

Bird and others also note that producers are increasingly being required to deliver CALM Act compliant material, which is pushing them to address the issue in post-production.

To help the cause, Junger Audio will demo its Monitor Audio Processor (MAP) system that is aimed at the production and content creation sector. “It allows a QC [quality control] check on the audio mix so they can mix to a target loudness level,” says Anthony Wilkins, international sales manager at the company.

Banks of Material

Another sizeable issue to consider in a CALM equation is the matter of archives. “There are content providers who have thousands and thousands of hours of archive material that needs to be made compliant,” adds Bird of Wohler, which is offering file-based technologies for addressing the problem.

Vendors are also working to provide solutions that can simplify and automate the process, notes Oliver Masciarotte, CX director at Minnetonka Audio Software. During NAB, Minnetonka will be demoing its new AudioTools Server 2.5, which is designed to automate even very complicated audio tasks. Minnetonka also will be launching AudioTools Focus, an affordable loudness control product to be priced at $7,995. “We wanted to make sure that AudioTools Focus cost less than the $10,000 fine,” Masciarotte says.

Despite the headaches of CALM Act compliance, some argue that the attention on audio is long overdue. “The CALM Act has forced everyone’s attention on audio for the consumer, and that is a big win for everyone,” says Schorah.

E-mail comments to gpwin@oregoncoast.com and follow him on Twitter: @GeorgeWinslow

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