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It’s A Blast! Loudness Of Commercials

Posted on July 30, 2002 and read 11,981 times

It’s A Blast! Loudness Of Commercials thumbnail

You’re watching your favourite television program. All of a sudden, you’re startled half out of your seat with a blast of commercial message. Believe it or not, that commercial probably wasn’t as loud as you think!You’re watching your favourite television program. All of a sudden, you’re startled half out of your seat with a blast of commercial message. Believe it or not, that commercial probably wasn’t as loud as you think!

The CRTC often receives complaints about the loudness of television or radio commercials. The issue is a difficult one to resolve, since loudness is a subjective matter. As a result, there are no commonly accepted standards by which to judge loudness. However, a number of Canadian and American studies have found a few of the technical and psychological factors which seem to be involved.

Technically speaking

“Audio compression” appears to be the most frequent cause of listener annoyance. It’s a technical method by which a commercial’s sound track is recorded at a constant and maximum loudness level. When played within a program featuring a normal range of sounds — some loud, some soft — the contrast can be startling. Television and radio stations are in a bind. If they reduce their volume level to try to minimize the effect of commercials, the range between the lowest and the highest sound levels in their normal programming would be too restricted.

Buzzsaw barrage

“Re-shaping the sound” is another commercial production method. The frequencies your ears are most sensitive to are raised in level, while other frequencies (those which can make sounds more pleasant to listen to) are reduced. The resulting commercial now features a sound track that grabs your attention, but may also sound harsh — especially when combined with the audio compression technique.

Faulty level

A faulty audio level setting at the local station is a possibility, but most radio and television stations take care to ensure their programs and commercials don’t exceed the maximum level set by Industry Canada’s Broadcasting Regulation Branch. If you think a faulty level setting is to blame, give the station the specific date, time of occurrence, and commercial involved. Ask them to check the audio levels being fed to their transmitter. A Regional or District office of Industry Canada can also be asked to investigate.

Rude awakening

Even if a commercial doesn’t use the audio compression or frequency reshaping techniques, it could still give the impression of being louder than the program. Sometimes a commercial intrudes on an otherwise tranquil scene in a program. The contrast can be startling — even though the commercial is not really excessively loud.

Source: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission






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