Audio houses gear up for CALM Act
Issue: February 1, 2013

Audio houses gear up for CALM Act

NEW YORK — On December 13, 2012 the FCC-passed CALM (Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation) Act officially went into effect, requiring commercials and promos to have the save average volume as the programs they accompany. Since audio shops have had a year to put the adopted rules into action after it was passed in December 2011, many have come up with streamlined approaches to handle these new compliances. Some networks remain timid about investing in technology to accommodate these new laws, thus top tier audio shops have taken a proactive approach to ramp up their technological offerings to produce compliant work across the board.


NY-based audio shop SuperExploder has been mixing their commercial and long form content to the required -24 LKFS spec in 5.1 Surround Sound, as network television began to adopt these standards slightly ahead of cable networks. In order to prevent their final mix from being rejected or requiring hours of re-adjusting on the network side, SuperExploder’s due diligence ensures that each and every project they mix meets the required levels. 

Notes SuperExploder mixer Ted Gannon, “An upside to the new law is that we can now make mixes much more dynamic—so much of the allowable range went unused previously. The expectation for TV advertising had been to make every element as loud as possible—get the mix to the absolute loudest it could legally be and keep it there for the spot’s duration and I always felt restrained by those expectations.”

Sonic Union

NYC audio post shop Sonic Union has tailored their mixing approach through the development of high definition and digital broadcasting, battling their artistic viewpoints on the spot’s audio with the client’s satisfaction of the overall volume allowed by this technology.  With these new specifications, the team is able to return to a more creative approach on the audio. 

Notes Sonic Union mixer Michael Marinelli, “What it took to really force this issue was the work of some very intelligent engineers to come up with a way of measuring how we hear. What they produced was as standardized way of measuring average overall ‘perceived’ loudness of a piece of audio. If you can measure it, you can then control it. Now that our emphasis was about to switch from making sure the mix was loud enough on air, to basically hitting a set number on an LKFS (fancy new measurement meter) meter, we saw this an opportunity to change our approach to mixing workflow.”

Sonic Union decided to scrap stereo mixing altogether, adopting a streamlined approach entirely in 5.1 surround while monitoring, in real time, their LKFS output through the entire process. At the end of each session, they have one single master mix that can be formatted in whichever specifications their clients require. The studio has worked hard to establish an approach that would allow them to be CALM compliant, while still maintaining the ease of working with their clients the way they’ve been accustomed to.

Adds Marinelli, “The CALM Act is not to be feared. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. This new standard has allowed us to once again be able to mix. A wise old ponytailed Engineer once said, ‘Remember, without soft, there can be no loud.’”