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One Step ss metering o c mpetitive loud In by Richard Kelley O ver the last few years audio loudness has been a hot topic for the broadcast industry and one of the key issues faced by engineers in control of audio output. Significant differences in volume have led to many complaints from viewers who don’t like having to reach for the remote every time they change channel or are faced with a deafening commercial break. These differences in loudness are most common between television programming and advertisements, but they can also exist across the same channel and even within the same programme, for example with live sports feeds or during a movie or talk shows. To deal with this problem various countries around the world have introduced new legislation based on optimum loudness levels recommended by broadcast industry organisations such as the ITU and EBU in Europe and the ATSC in the US. In some countries this legislation is being enforced with financial penalties against broadcasters who don’t comply. In the US, for example, television stations have until December 2012 to fall in line with the new Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM), which makes it illegal to broadcast commercials at louder sound volumes than TV programmes. ne A crucial element of the forthcoming requirements is the need to log all content with reference to loudness and peak levels so that broadcasters can show how their audio levels are performing. As a company that has been manufacturing high quality metering products for many years, DK- Technologies was among the first to adopt the ITU’s loudness recommendation 1770/1771, the ATSC’s A/85 recommendation and, more recently, the EBU’s R128 recommendation. The company’s audio metering products incorporate proprietary Loudness software based on ITU algorithms and covering both the 400Hz and 1kHz reference frequencies. New customers automatically have both specifications included in their products, while existing customers can apply for a software upgrade to bring their meters up to the latest spec. At NAB 2011, DK-Technologies introduced a new audio loudness metering product - the DK Meter - that was physically smaller than anything else on the market and also much more affordable. This product, available in two formats to cover stereo and 5.1 audio, was introduced as a direct response to industry requests for a cost effective, portable and easy to use loudness meter. As a result, DK arrived at this year’s NAB exhibition with a new version of the DK Meter, the DK3. Like its predecessors, the DK3 is no bigger than a smart phone and is compliant with all known loudness metering recommendations including ITU-R BS.1770, EBU R128 and ATSC A/85. What makes it different is the inclusion of a 3G HD/SDI video input so that users can de-embed audio from a video stream. This useful addition makes the DK Meter range even more versatile as broadcast engineers will now be able to work with any 5.1 audio format, including analogue, AES and SDI. All three products in the DK Meter range are easy to use, easy to install and can be powered from a computer USB port, making them ideal for location recording. As well as being supplied with all known loudness measurement recommendations, they also incorporate standard DK- Technologies meter scales. Pricing for these products is highly competitive – starting at just €995.00 in Europe. Faced with such a runaway success, many manufacturers might have rested on their laurels for a year or two as sales rolled in, but given the speed at which the market is moving we knew we couldn’t afford to do that. The loudness metering market is already a crowded place and to stand out from that crowd it is imperative to keep the innovations coming. This focus on loudness has resulted in new equipment coming onto the market that can either meter the output of an audio signal or automatically control loudness when the agreed parameters are exceeded. 54 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE The DK Meter has been an immediate success and is now shipping more units than any other product the company has ever made. To cope with demand DK has established a new route to market by making the DK Meter available directly from our website as well as from our traditional dealer network. Recognising that controlling audio loudness shouldn’t be left to the very last point in the broadcast chain is a key part of our R&D philosophy because putting right compliance issues at that stage is likely to be more complicated, expensive and more detrimental to the quality of the audio. Instead, we believe that broadcasters – and production facilities creating programming – should be checking audio levels much earlier in the process and correcting any levels that fall foul of the new laws. With a product that is as portable and cost effective as the DK Meter, audio can be checked as it is recorded. It is our intention to continue developing the DK Meter range and we are already working on two new models with even more advanced features that we plan to introduce at IBC 2012.This is a highly competitive market but we feel confident that our approach to R&D, which is very much user–led, will keep DK-Technologies at the forefront of affordable loudness metering.