PRODUCT: Loudness Tools
- Metering and loudness display for mono, stereo, multichannel and surround applications
- Pick and choose instruments to add to main meter view
- Option to customize meters sizes
I first learned to cook out of necessity to feed myself. I got the job done with whatever tools I had handed down from my parents, and as I got more experience, the food tasted better. Years later, I grew out of that old cookware and sought to purchase better tools to get the job done. I had actually learned to enjoy cooking and the art of it. My tools became my baby, because they were such an important part of the process I used to achieve the outcome I wanted. I chose those tools carefully, just like I choose the equipment I use for my work in audio post.
I was recently switching between a few different loudness plug-ins when I was considering a review for Post of the RTW Touch Monitor TM7 hardware meter. That meter was luxurious, and I would have loved to keep it long term. But with accelerated schedules, moving between mix rooms and constant bouncing from one project to the next, it didn’t quite fit my workflow for the long haul. When the good people at RTW told me they were developing a software equivalent, their Loudness Tools, I quickly nominated myself to give the toolset a test run, and haven’t turned back since.
There are a bunch of software loudness metering plug-ins out there, so what makes RTW Loudness Tools different is its ability to customize the layout. And, the tools you do have on-screen are amazing. Why have the same meter and same layout when day-to-day jobs differ and require different types of measurements? Loudness Tools gives users “instruments” to be able to pick and choose from to customize plug-ins. And these instruments can be as small or large as you prefer.
The Mastering Tools plug-in supports standard sampling rates up to 96kHz, that includes RTW’s Peak Program Meter, TruePeak and Spot Correlator instruments, and also offers all common loudness formats, including ITU BS.1770-3/1771-1, ATSC A/85, EBU R128, ARIB, OP-59, AGICOM and CALM Act. Other key features include numerical or bar graph-type readout, MagicLRA and correlator display, audio vectorscope, RTA (Real Time Analyzer), SSA (Surround Sound Analyzer) and multi-correlator.
What does this all mean for a very busy mixer jumping from independent film to commercial and long-format TV mixing to Web projects? Confidence that even with varying average levels for different mediums, your mix will pass quality control and (in my case) I can sleep well at night knowing whatever I sent out will not get rejected. It gives me the ability to know not only the long-term level readouts, but certain section readouts so I can accurately get the creative emotion needed, by raising or lowering audio while still keeping in “passing range” for whatever provider I’m mixing for.
The ability to pick and choose instruments to add to my main meter view, and to be able to customize the sizes of these meters is indispensable. No two engineer’s layouts have to be equal. Use what instruments you like and leave out what you don’t. Make long-term or short-term readouts larger or smaller depending on the content you are mixing, and how much you need to baby the meters with your eyes. For me, this translates into being able to make my mixes stand out punchier and louder than the rest, especially when my police drama needs to sound rougher and tougher than the tissue commercials surrounding it. Also, quite honestly, when mixing for super-long hours, it’s not unheard of for ear fatigue to set in and you sometimes just need to trust those meters in addition to your ears. RTW has saved me quite a few times since I’ve had the plug-in in my possession.
For years I’ve used that bundled loudness meter that everyone has, and for years it has served me well. But as I progress and get more skilled at my craft, the normal tools just don’t cut it as much. Just as I became more skilled at cooking, my appreciation for finer hardware and software products grew.
Let's be honest, the way we mix hasn’t really changed over the years, but the need to micro manage your mix due to loudness restraints imposed on networks has. For most engineers, it was a steep learning curve to have to eye the meters more to ensure meeting short-term dialog averages. But I do feel that average levels on all mediums have been more, well, average because of the loudness regulations put in place. Luckily as those loudness measurement rules have evolved, so have the products we use to meet matching these requirements. For me, the dead-on accuracy of the RTW Loudness bundle, the fully-customizable instrument features, and the look and feel of RTW’s Loudness Tools make it a stand out plug-in and a smart choice.
Keith Hodne works at PostFactoryNY in New York City. He can be reached at: