UK Broadcasters are expected to begin implementing new loudness regulations next year after the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) publishes a new set of guidelines. Variations in volume are the single biggest cause of viewer complaints, according to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which has published its own standard for broadcasters to measure and normalise audio using loudness meters rather than peak meters. The DPP is now working with trade body UK Screen on an amended version of the EBU spec R128, which it expects to publish in the first quarter of next year.
Several European countries have already started adopting the recommendations; France has linked R128 to its audio-visual legislation and French-speaking broadcasters in Belgium last week switched to R128, while broadcasters in Germany and Austria have agreed to start applying the recommendations by the end of August. In the US The Calm Act will become law in 2013 which will mean all US broadcasters will have to make sure the adverts are played at the same loudness as the surrounding content. So although the legisation only directly relates to the loudness of the ads the Calm Act (stands for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act) the broadcaster will need to measure the loudness of the programme content as well as the adverts and make sure they are all delivered at the same loudness according to the ATSC A/85 standard which is very similar to the EBU R128 standard. (Thanks to Shaun Farley for pointing out the The Calm Act is all about the adverts)
“We also need to look at how we will measure overall broadcast output; a programme in isolation could be compliant [with R128] but we need to make sure the overall broadcast, including commercials and promos, is compliant,” said DPP Technical Standards Group chairman Kevin Burrows.
UK Screen’s representative on the DPP Technical Standards Committee Neil Hatton said dubbing mixers were not the only people who needed to be familiar with the guidelines. “Quick-turnaround programmes or those with a tight budget that don’t go through sound suites will also have to comply with the standard.”
However the UK standard issued by the DPP, as it currently stands, is virtually unworkable as it specifies that all programmes should be delivered to the R128 standard but also specifies that no audio should exceed -10dBfs. However the R128 spec says that peak audio may go up to -1.0dBTP (true peak). Anyone who has tried to mix a compressed LE type programme will find it coming in at -20 or higher. We need the additional headroom to put some dynamic range and room for ‘impact’ into the programme and having to work to both specs is going to be very challenging because of the contradictions, so let’s hope that UK Screen take this on board in working on the revised version.