Supporters of the site HHB Communications Ltd. supplied Britain’s Got Talent Sound Director Robert Edwards with a DK-Technologies DK2 Audio and Loudness Meter that was used for the show’s semi-final and final episodes. ITV maintains a dual acceptance policy for programme delivery, which means that programmes can be delivered with observance to the traditional +8dBm Peak level or to -23 LUFS (plus or minus 1 LUFS).
“It is vitally important to know where our programme sits in relation to these emerging standards,” Robert Edwards says. “In the UK we have very strict delivery standards, and a correspondingly high level of compliance. Therefore, the development of practical skills, using accurate metering to deal with any new delivery constraints, is essential to stay ahead of the game.”
The DK2 offers ITU, EBU and ATSC compliant loudness metering, as well as phase, FFT spectrum analysis, logging and, where necessary, surround sound metering using DK’s internationally adopted Starfish display.
The picture above concerned me because the PPMs were reading around PPM 5 and the loudness was reading -18.8LUFS which isn’t actually very close to the -23LUFS that is the R128 spec we are starting to work to in the UK & Europe. Also in my conversations with other broadcast audio mixers there has been some concern voiced, (including by me last year on this site which was also picked up in the Broadcast Magazine’s Tech Brief magazine, when the Digital Production Partnership here in the UK announced this parallel standard) that it was going to be very difficult to achieve both specs as people have been finding that delivering compressed audio at PPM6 produces a mucher louder programme than R128 will permit. So I contacted Robert Edwards and he replied very quickly and with his permission here is his response…
The explanation is simple. The photo was taken just after the line-up period before the show, so the integrated LUFS meter is responding the -18 LUFS of the steady state -18dBFS line-up tone.
I personally think the LUFS debate is a lot like us joining the Euro. It’s a solution to a problem we really don’t have in the UK where compliance to delivery formats is really quite high. Overall the programme typically measured -21LUFS, which was just outside the -23 LUFS (+/-1 LUFS) delivery spec, but since ITV don’t seem to measure the LUFS yet, we were just measuring/observing the LUFS level and not reacting to it. Of course, the delivery spec of peak +8dBm was met (PPM6). I’m currently looking at the LUFS level of YFSF for ITV live on Saturday nights for the next couple of weeks, which I’m also mixing and it’s broadly coming out the same. So I’m confident that by adjusting the monitoring level and reducing the master output by 1 dB, I could meet the target and still produce the “In your face” style of broadcasting that ITV asks me to produce.
The photo is only misleading if the intention in the photo was to show the typical programme level. It doesn’t.
It is great to see one of leading UK broadcast audio mixers not only getting to grips with this thorny issue and developing new techniques to be able to continue to mix the programmes the way his clients like, whilst meeting the loudness standards that are coming into general usage, but also pitch into the debate. I have to say that I don’t completely agree that we are all fine here in the UK. On our commerical channels like ITV the ads are often much louder than the the programmes that surround them and that will be one of the issues that complete adoption of R128 should resolve.
I have just finished a ‘post’ job and chose to deliver it to the R128 spec (although it wasn’t a requirement of the client) and it was very interesting to find I very quickly stopped looking at my PPMs and trusted my ears and was able to mix programmes to within the 1dB tolerance in R128. But when I did look at the PPM I noticed it was going over PPM 6. It is liberating not to be tied to the PPM6 ceiling and to be able to take the peaks all the way up to -1dBfs on occasions giving the opportunity for ‘impact’ moments as well as quiter moments, bringing back some dynamic range into the content I am mixing.