In this free video tutorial, with the support of our friends at Nugen Audio, learn from our own loudness guru Mike Thornton how to use loudness differential monitoring using colour bands in the VisLM loudness meter to keep within loudness targets.
Long before loudness workflows came along, I would always consider what the key narrative elements are in any program I am working on, and make sure that they are clearly audible even in the most challenging listening environments like a car travelling on the motorway where the ambient noise is very high. I know that other elements I add to enhance the narrative won’t be heard in high ambient noise environments but those in a quieter space will be able to enjoy those details as well, but I know that they key elements will be audible for everyone.
Loudness range can also help here and you should consider how your project is going to be consumed and choose an appropriate loudness range.
Use The Comfort Zone
As you plan your mix, consider the comfort zone. This has come out of all the listening tests that went into the development of the BS1770 loudness standards, which form the basis of delivery specs like the EBU R128 and ATSC A/85. What they found is that there is a zone, within which, consumers don’t feel they need to reach the remote control to adjust the volume. This comfort zone is between +3LU and -5LU around the target loudness and is a useful guide to consider for the short term meter. Because the research showed that if the loudness goes outside this comfort zone for a significant period of time, consumers will reach for the remote control and that defeats the object of this new loudness workflow.
I use colour banding to help, and when I am working on radio documentaries and podcasts I tend to work on a comfort zone of +2 to -3LU and so I set up the Nugen Audio VisLM to have colour bands so above +2LU it is red, between +2 and -3LU it is green and then below -3LU it is blue and this is all set up in the Options window in the Nugen VisLM loudness meter plug-in.
How To Set Colour bands in VisLM from Nugen Audio
- In the presets menu in VisLM I select the +9 Relative scale. This makes my target loudness 0LU which I much prefer to use.
- As the example is a podcast I will change the offset to -16 as that is my chosen target loudness for content played on mobile devices, and ties in nicely with the AES recommendations.
- Because I wouldn’t have a lot of low-level content I bring the bottom of the scale up to -39LU.
- Now I am ready to create by colour bands. I prefer that the top band is red. Click on the colour block and choose a red, then adjust the threshold to +2.
- Next the green zone, with a bottom threshold of -3. Set the next band to green from the colour palette and then adjust the threshold to -3LU.
There you have it, when I am mixing I aim to keep the key narrative elements inside my green zone and I usually end up with a Loudness Range of around 5 for this kind of content.
Use Different Comfort Zones And Colour Bands To Suit Your Content
For drama, I would aim to work at the more normal comfort zone of +3 to -5LU. Consider splitting this expected zone into two shades of green, but ultimately, you choose what works best for you.
The Help, helps...
I find using the colour banding really helpful as I now only need to glance at the VisLM window to see how I am doing. But in reality, one of the easiest ways to produce loudness compliance mixes is to calibrate your monitors and then don’t adjust them. That way if it sounds too loud it is too loud and if it sounds too quiet it is too quiet.
Colour banding can also help with familiarity with a script, where because you know what is being said you can still hear and understand it. If I see my dialogue falling out of the comfort zone, I will review that section to make sure someone listening fro the first time really will be able to understand what is being said.