Mike went to an event organised by the BBC Academy at the BBC base in Media City in Salford, near Manchester England, which is one of three events. The first was at the BBC Radio Theatre in London last week and there is another event in Glasgow on 5th Feb. Then on 4th March in Bristol, Cardiff on 20th March and Belfast on 27th March. You can book tickets here.
These events are designed to raise awareness of loudness and audibility issues in TV sound amongst BBC staff, indies, freelancers and external suppliers and offers two tracks: one aimed at producers and the other at creative technical operators.
Each event includes masterclasses from experienced and renowned audio professionals from both the production sound and post production communities.
Clearly the London event drew all the big names in loudness so in Manchester we watched a number of clips from the London event. That said we had some excellent input from specialists in the North of England and experts who did come up from the south to share their experiences.
Receiving You Loud & Clear
After we had watched the recording of the keynote address from Danny Cohen, Director of BBC TV, who emphasised the importance of delivering good sound to the TV audience from London. We had a very interesting a presentation from Mike Amstrong, senior R&D engineer at BBC R&D who outlined what the issues in terms of complaints from viewers and then went on to explain the research they have undertaken and how hearing changes with age and exposure to high levels of sound compounded with the low quality speakers in newer LCD consumer TVs, all of which help to explain why broadcasters receive complaints about both audibility, due to high background music etc, and volume jumps across programmes junctions.
Crazy Little Thing Called LUFS
Next for technical operators, John Heraty from the BBC Academy, explained all about EBU R128 aas well as how and why it has all come about and the critical issue being that the new loudness meter is designed to display how we perceive loudness rather than what the peak signal levels are, which is what we have had to date, with quasi PPM meters. This was all very helpful to understand what the meter is displaying especially what the meters will be displaying in terms of Momentary (loudness averaged over 400mS) Short Term, (loudness averaged over 3 seconds) and Integrated, (Loudness averaged over the whole duration of the programme).
Loudness Mixing In Sport, OBs, Events, Music & Studio Shows
After lunch we had an excellent panel session from live operators on how to mix for R128 in live or ‘as live’ programmes. we heard from Dave Lee who is the lead sound supervisor for BBC Sport, Robert Edwards, (the man behind programmes like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent as well as football for B Sky B), and Mike Felton who is behind programmes like Later with Jules Holland. The key issue being don’t start too loud as it is very hard to reduce the integrated loudness down because of the way the gate works, so better to start quietly. This also gives you slack so if you need to have an exciting louder element towards the end of a programme then you have loudness to spare.
Post Production Mixing For Audibility & Loudness
This final session really picked up from where the live session left off, and gave us an insight into how little change is required to start mixing to R128. Calibrating monitors is important and then allow your ears to do what they are designed to do which is evaluate loudness and use your preferred loudness meter to confirm what you are hearing. Tony Greenwood MD of a new facility, Core Post, who has chosen not to install any PPMs. Because with the new loudness delivery specs, which come in fully in Oct 2014 here in the UK, he decided PPMs were redundant and hasn’t fitted any at all. Freelancer Dan Pugh and the new head of audio at Dock 10 in Media City, Mark Briscoe, were very honest about their transition to R128 but another common thread that came out from the live and post sessions is actually how easy it is to make the transition and how liberating it is to have that extra headroom how we don’t have to limit everything at PPM6 (-10dBfs).
It was great to meet up with some old friends and make some new friends too.
What has your experience been on mixing to R128 or ATSC A/85 or any of the other delivery specs which have loudness at their core?
How did you find the transistion from signal level metering to loudness metering?
What level do you calibrate your monitors to?
Please do share your experience so we can all become experts together.