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    Audio Dialog Levels
    #1
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    Hello,

    I recently took a workshop in advanced editing. The workshop instructor was an editor from CBS and he gave everyone in the workshop raw footage of shows like Big Bang Theory etc to learn how he edits and we followed along. the audio dialog levels were originally recorded at -15db and the editor said he brings them up to -12db. He even showed us the final audio mix and the levels were sitting around -12db. Isn't this too low? I always thought the overall mix should be somewhere between -10 and -6db.

    Maybe my setup at home is wrong but when I ever try to edit and mix something with maxium peaks at -12db for dialog without music it sounds wayy to quiet and I have to crank up the volume to hear everything.


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    Senior Member GaryNattrass's Avatar
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    It is a broadcast TV show so has to comply with broadcast levels.

    -12dbfs (or -10dbfs in the UK) are the maximum levels for broadcast audio.

    This corresponds to a peak of +8db above the standard 0db line up of -20dbfs in the USA and -18dbfs in the UK.

    On-line for you tube etc is whatever you want.

    Note that loudness is a totally different thing altogether and shows are dubbed and mixed to comply to those limits also but still within the recognised broadcast transmission limits.
    Over 15 minutes in broadcast film and tv production: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1044352
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    so how come a public access TV station aired my filmed with it being -6db dialog?


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    Senior Member Rick R's Avatar
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    Most broadcasters use the LU/LK loudness measurement now-a-days. ATSC's A/85 (PDF) is -24LUFS and the EBU is -23LUFS (integrated, plus or minus two). Prior to this, the NTSC was based on a -20dBFS reference with program audio not exceeding -10dBFS. With the newer LUFS measurement, maximum true peaks can be as high as -1.5 dB or so, but they are usually ignored unless they're audible and/or few and far between.


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    Senior Member GaryNattrass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by offbeatbryce View Post
    so how come a public access TV station aired my filmed with it being -6db dialog?
    You may have delivered it as -6 but the limiters on their transmission systems would probably pull it down or the automated playout pulled it down?
    Over 15 minutes in broadcast film and tv production: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1044352
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaryNattrass View Post
    You may have delivered it as -6 but the limiters on their transmission systems would probably pull it down or the automated playout pulled it down?
    oh I see.


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    Sound Ninja Noiz2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by offbeatbryce View Post
    so how come a public access TV station aired my filmed with it being -6db dialog?
    Because it was a public access station. News will also use wildly out of spec material IF it is all they can get. But they will alter it to get into compliance.

    Rules may have changed since the move to all digital broadcast, or not since regulations tend to be way behind. But the old limits were very strict and were to keep stations with in there bandwidths. If you are old enough you can probably remember seeing white lower third text that made a buzz in the audio. That was white that was "too white" crossing over into the audio portion if the signal. Over modulated audio was also able to bleed and in the right circumstance that bleed could affect stations above or below. So the FCC had very strict rules about peak levels and stations had brick wall limiters that protected them from accidentally getting the FCC up in arms.

    That public access station probably had those limiters in use and you just got clamped off at -12.

    The other thing that comes into play is that most TV audio is quite compressed. They do it because it make the dialog easier to hear in a noisy environment and keeps them from getting complaints from customers having to "ride gain" on the TV all the time. Ads are even more compressed which is part of why they usually sound louder. The FCC had a peak limit but not an average limit so you could move your average very close to your peak and still be OK.

    As mentioned most places now are using a standard based on LUFS or something similar. Some use a "dialog normal" which is similar but is sort of a measure of dialog level.

    With digital broadcasting it's not really possible to impact adjacent stations so the peak/ average level specifications may have/be changing.

    And you were talking to an editor, so they are talking deliverables to the mix stage probably, which is not necessarily the same as the specs for the final mix.
    Cheers
    SK


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    Senior Member GaryNattrass's Avatar
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    I still mix the same way I have for over 38 years these days at SKY and even with the new loudness controls I still find that I am peaking just over 5 PPM which is around +6db.

    I also still set up my compressors and limiters pretty much the same way.
    Over 15 minutes in broadcast film and tv production: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1044352
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    I've always delivered TV programs at -12dB max peaks in conjunction with the allowed Australian OP-59 or EBU R128 Loudness levels and -3dB for radio which has totally different standards. For US TV I guess the applicable standard would be ATSC A/85. As Gary pointed out perceived loudness is a very different thing to peak levels. In the case of your -6dB delivery the station may have run your program through a legalizer to reduce your peak levels. I've seen that done before. What can help your monitoring setup is run a good quality audio TV show through your audio monitors/speakers and set a comfortable listening level. Once that is set do not adjust your monitoring level again, keep them pinned to that level. You will soon learn just by ear what is high or low. In conjunction with your audio level and loudness level metering you will develop a consistent approach to getting levels pretty correct. If you keep changing your monitoring levels you never know where you are. Old saying "A man with one watch always knows the time. A man with two watches never knows the time." This was way I was taught by one of the BBC's best audio engineers many years ago and it has stood the test of time.

    Chris Young


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