NAB Perspectives: After CALM, It’s About To Get a Little Noisy in Here

The Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act was intended to put to rest once and for all the issue of relative loudness between and within broadcast-television programs. However, although the Advanced Television Systems Committee’s A/85 recommended-practices document provides guidelines, best practices, and technical parameters for the transmission of commercial advertisements by broadcasters and the CALM Act essentially codifies it, the real noise may be just starting.

New or updated loudness-measurement and/or -management tools and products are available now from an estimated two dozen manufacturers, including Dolby, Linear Acoustic, DaySequerra/DTS, Junger, RTW, Harris, Tektronix, TC Electronic, Wohler, and DK Technologies, with numerous announcements made at NAB. The convergences of the technical findings and the legislative action have basically made (or, more precisely, refined) a market, and the product and service horses of loudness metering are at the gate.

That’s one reason RTW, which has launched version 1.14 firmware for its TouchMonitor series of audio-metering products at the NAB Show, also announced that U.S.-based distributor Group One Ltd. will distribute the German company’s products.

“CALM and A/85 is the main reason for that, to give us better positioning in the U.S. among all these products,” says Jochen Wainright, international sales manager for RTW.

Loudness-metering solutions have been around for years but are often based on a variety of standards. Now that industry-wide standards have been agreed on, it has triggered release of a slew of new and updated products. And that will inevitably put the onus on marketing departments to differentiate those products.

“It’s started already. They’re already saying one product is better than another,” Richard Kelley, director of sales & marketing at DK-Technologies, which debuted its DK Meter at the show, says wearily. “I don’t want to say hyperbole, but the phrase ‘stretching the truth’ comes to mind.” He recommends that potential customers test meters before buying them.

RTW’s Wainwright says he is letting potential customers try out units before purchase.

Loudness metering is also coming in an array of configurations. For instance, Lawo’s MC66 digital broadcast audio console introduced an average-loudness metering feature at the show. And Digital Nirvana announced a new feature for its Monitor IQ product that includes loudness monitoring and logging of broadcast-audio level. It will analyze all program levels, calculate the relative loudness level, and overlay that on the original HD video the audio was synched to, a low-res proxy video for short-term archiving, and a data file for long-term archiving.

“Our focus is keeping our users compliant with CALM,” says Digital Nirvana’s Howard Mullinack. “It’s a defensive capability.”

With so many new products and services, it might be noisier than ever out there. But in a different way.