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Measure For Measure: Addressing Loudness Control

Timo Wildenhain, Product Marketing Manager at Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH, analyses the intricacies of loudness control and how the company continues to address clients’ demands.

We are among the first DAW manufacturers that offer fully integrated EBU-R128 loudness measurement and processing within DAW pro-audio products. The latest updates of Nuendo 6 and WaveLab 8 both provide extensive measurement capabilities for professionals working in audio post-production, broadcast and the mastering scene.
Over the past years, we have closely been keeping track of the development of the R128 standard. I believe that a final solution was necessary to counter the 'loudness war'. Especially in the TV sector, advertising campaigns with incredible level differences between TV programme and ads led to an increasing number of people switching off the programme instead of bearing through the commercial, which is counterproductive for the sponsor.
In addition, the perceived compression levels of audio material have been increased year by year, which destroys any natural dynamic in music, speech or environmental sounds. And this isn’t only true for audio post-production but becomes increasingly more important in music mastering as well.
When dealing with sound dynamics, measuring average loudness values is a much better approach than to (more or less) simply keep track of the peaks. Not to forget that, from a DAW manufacturer’s viewpoint, the R128 standard is technically overall well defined, which is an important aspect.
There are many formats on the market that are less accepted simply because they’re not standardised. This is essential for prevailing on a broad basis.
In regard to Nuendo 6, we decided to implement a measurement solution that fully integrates with the new software mixing console.
There are many advantages pertaining to such solution.
First, our clients today expect a seamless production environment. Loudness measurement should belong to the common metering section rather than a separate plug-in or standalone application. It should be visible at any time in order to see what’s going on with the level. Nuendo 6 offers a dedicated loudness tab in the metering area. Once activated, the user is capable of measuring integrated, momentary and short-term loudness, displayed by numerical and graphical values. In addition, we have a Loudness Range display for the overall dynamics of the signal and, of course, a peak warning algorithm is included as well. This, however, seems insufficient when needing to measure a longer audio part.
How frustrating it must be to take close care of each second of the measurement of a 45-minute TV episode.
Our solution to this problem is the Loudness Lane. Nuendo 6 writes a value curve that shows the overall loudness progression of the audio material, making it possible to find problematic levels right away. The analysing process is part of the offline analysis, hence real-time playback of the project is not required, and this allows for immediate results.
WaveLab 8 also provides fully integrated loudness measurement. The well-known WaveLab analysis toolset has been extended by three dedicated graphs showing the momentary, short-term and integrated loudness values, plus peak indicator and range value graphic. It might be the most detailed graphical loudness view we have in our product portfolio so far. Similar to Nuendo, WaveLab also includes the Loudness Lane, showing the loudness progression over the entire project.
Moreover, WaveLab 8 comes with loudness processing next to the pure metering. This allows for normalisation of standard -23 LUFS or any other values required via offline processing. WaveLab even offers loudness normalis­­­­­­ation as a batch process, making it possible to process multiple audio files at once.
Steinberg will continue to integrate loudness measurement and metering tools in Nuendo and WaveLab in order to make working with loudness values a lot easier.

Read the article in the online edition of RFV here.
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