IBC 2010: EBU Intros Recommendations on Loudness

“Today, we can declare victory over loudness!” That was how Dr. Hans Hoffmann of EBU Technical, speaking at IBC 2010 in Amsterdam, introduced the new recommendations for dealing with the old problem of one programme’s being louder than another.

The core R128 recommendation and the four technical documents that support it were developed by the EBU’s PLOUD group, chaired by ORF Senior Sound Engineer Florian Camerer. He was more cautious than the ebullient Hoffmann, saying that the tools to achieve victory are available now.

“We haven’t won yet, but the chances are good. They’ve never been better,” Camerer says. “The will of broadcasters is there because they want to level transmissions out.”

PLOUD has built on the foundation of the ITU BS 1770 algorithm and specifications, introduced in 2006. R128 adds what Camerer describes as “additional goodies,” which include a gating method.

R128 specifies loudness normalisation and permitted maximum level of audio signals and, says Camerer, was designed to be “short, precise, and simple.” Published at the same time were EBU Tech Docs 3341, covering Loudness Metering, and 3342, the Loudness Range document describing loudness normalisation.

Two more documents, 3343 for Production and Implementation and 3344 covering Distribution of Programmes, were not ready in time for IBC. These are still awaiting approval by the EBU Technical Committee before they are published.

Camerer is satisfied with what PLOUD has developed but regards R128 as a starting point: “What we’ve done will stand the test of time, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. So PLOUD will live on because this is only a first step, an important one but it’s not the end of the game.”