Ron DiCesare is the senior recording engineer at New York City’s Ultra-Sound (www.napny.com), a boutique audio post company that provides editing, mixing, voice-over recording, sound design, and music services for TV, radio, and test commercials.
DiCesare has been mixing spots for broadcast for over 20 years. In the past, broadcast audio levels were not strictly standardized. Each station had its own requirements. In December 2010, the FCC passed the CALM act (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act) which requires audio levels to be at -24 LKFS +/- 2 db. DiCesare uses the Dolby Media Meter 2 (www.dolby.com) plug-in to make sure his levels conform to the new standard. He said, “The Dolby Media Meter plug-in is my new favorite piece of gear. I must admit, monitoring Dialog Norm levels is somewhat new to me. For TV commercial mixers like me, we rarely if ever know which of the numerous networks our commercials will air on. In the past, each station had their own level specifications, so we just kind of shot for the middle ground when it came to audio levels. But now with this recent standard for commercials, the guess work is finally gone.”
The Dolby Media Meter 2 ($795) is the latest version of Dolby’s loudness measuring software. It runs as a stand-alone application, or can be used as an AudioSuite, RTAS, VST, or AU plug-in. Used as a Pro Tools RTAS plug-in, the Dolby Media Meter 2 measures loudness in real time, allowing you to track loudness during the mix. In addition to a loudness measurement using the ITU-R BS. 1770-1 algorithm, you can also choose to measure loudness as Leq(m) for cinema trailers and commercials, Leq(A), True Peak, or Dialogue Range.
For DiCesare, a plug-in loudness meter is more conducive to his work flow then the Dolby hardware alternative, the LM100. “The plug-in version gives me the flexibility to show 4 main values at the same time. When I’m mixing, I like to see the Infinite Dialog, Short Term Dialog, Infinite All and Short Term All windows. That way I can see both the Dialog Norm level and the overall program level simultaneously.”
One key benefit for DiCesare is being able to use the meter as a Pro Tools RTAS plug-in, which allows him to see his loudness levels in realtime. “I love how the Short Term Dialog and the Short Term All are calculated and displayed. The Short Term works as a 10 second value that constantly updates every second, a sliding scale so to speak. That means it will show levels for seconds 1 through 10, then 2 through 11, then 3 through 12, and so on. It is always showing you the most current 10 seconds of the program material you are listening to. That way, you can pin-point a small area that could be too hot, rather than trying to guess based on the overall reading. So, the Short Term values are very helpful especially for longer formats.”
Recently, DiCesare worked with client Time Warner Cable on a series of spots that required numerous versions. He said, “It's possible that I could be outputting 50 to 75 spots at one single time, all with different tags. Having one spot rejected by a network would be bad enough, but imagine the snowball effect it would have on a job requiring 75 versions of a spot. That's when you really want to make sure all your levels are within the limits set by the CALM Act. I rely on the Dolby Media Meter measurement as my de-facto level.”