Engineers say complying with the FCC’s upcoming loudness control regulations is a complex process that needs to be incorporated into station workflows.
Thanks to the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act, those screaming TV commercials should be off the air by December 2012.
But ramping up for the day the CALM Act become enforceable is much tougher than asking advertisers to turn down the volume.
Rather, broadcast engineers, speaking today at the Content & Communications Expo in New York, say controlling loudness can be a companywide endeavor that affects everyone from truck-based sound mixers at sports games to content producers.
“Incorporate loudness control as part of your workflow,” said Greg Coppa, CBS’s director of advanced technology and engineering. It’s OK to expect providers of content, particularly commercials, to comply, too, he said.
“If it’s not correct, scale it to the target or rejected,” Coppa advised.
Steven Silva, who, as Fox Networks engineering and operations director, procedures and training, has been working on loudness management since 2005, recommended broadcasters follow government guidelines to make the process easier throughout companies.
“It’s all about education so everyone knows how to measure loudness and manipulate it and then enforce it,” he said.
There are, however, still some uncertainties among broadcasters of what all the details of the law will require.
Under the CALM Act, which President Obama signed into law last December, TV and cable providers and distributors are required to follow a set of recommended methods to measure and control the audio loudness of digital programming, including commercials.
However, the FCC has until this coming December to create the rules under which CALM will be enforced. Broadcasters, in turn, then have a year to get their loudness mitigation system in order.
CBS, for example, “spent several painful years” implementing loudness mitigation systems based on the government’s “recommended practice,” Coppa said.
“There are still some gray areas as to what those rules will be,” he said.
Panelists did not dispute the merits of the CALM Act. As Silva said, “Loudness is an issue that’s been with broadcasting ever since it began.”
But Jim Kutzner, senior director of advanced technologies for PBS (which is making its loudness uniform despite being commercial-free), said he hopes the CALM Act is the end of the federal government’s regulation of the issue.