Feds turn down the volume on US ads

For a long time, canny advertisers have used dynamic range and loudness as a way of drawing attention to their messages between programmes. Now, irked by increasing volume levels on US TV ads, the Federal Communications Commission has passed an act to keep them in line with the rest of the scheduled programming. In time-honoured fashion, it won’t be long before the shakedown hits these shores too…

The FCC’s Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (cleverly acronym-ed to ‘CALM’) will come into effect this December, and make sure adverts’ loudness stays within allowed limits. “The average volume of a commercial,” an FCC spokesman explained, “cannot be louder than the average volume of the programme during which the commercial airs.”

While the current standards in the UK exist as self-imposed guidelines from the broadcasters themselves, Jigsaw audio consultant Rob Holsman said it won’t be long before limitations similar to the US hit these shores. “The same standards will be brought in across Europe and the UK over the next few years, although many broadcasters have already adopted them.

“It is the broadcaster’s responsibility to ensure that their transmissions are in accordance with regulations, but of course they are already minimising their accountability by insisting adverts that are submitted hit those guidelines, and sending back submissions that don’t conform,” he added.

So what’s the best way to ensure your work is broadcast-safe? Jigsaw audio expert Alex Judd said many of our post-production house customers have already been gearing up for the changes with new products to keep their loudness levels in check. “Anyone making adverts and promotional videos, or producing the audio for them, will need to have or invest in metering equipment or software that shows the PPM [Peak Programme Meter] signal of their content,” he said.

Hardware such as TC Electronic’s TM7 and TM9 loudness monitors has been popular for providing a standalone solution with a consistent readout, and there’s also a native plug-in version for Pro Tools which provides much of the same functionality at a fraction of the price – the TC Electronic LM6 Radar loudness meter. Waves, normally known for their effects plug-ins, have also got into bed with loudness monitoring, releasing their WLM software. Plug-ins are a very affordable way to ensure you stay within acceptable loudness limits, so it’s likely these will feature alongside most post-production houses’ DAWs very soon.

For more information on PPMs and loudness monitoring solutions, call us on 03332 409 306, email audio@Jigsaw24.com or leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you.  You can also keep up with the latest audio news and offers on our Twitter (@JigsawAudio) and Facebook page.

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