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Quiet Victories Won In the Loudness Wars

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-am-the-table dept.

Music 251

Stowie101 writes with a few pieces from an article on what's been happening in the fight against over-compressed radio music and deafening tv commercials: "The first major step towards the elimination of heavily-compressed music could be the International Telecommunications Union's ... measurement of loudness that was ... revised in 2011. ... Acting to rectify the problem on the broadcast side of the issue, many European and Asian broadcasters are adopting loudness standards that are based on the criteria first introduced by the ITU. Here in the U.S., the federal government has also been proactive to improve the quality of broadcast television. By the end of 2012, the broadcast community will have to follow the CALM Act that requires commercials to be played at the same volume as broadcast television. In terms of music and recording, these broadcast standards do not apply. But Shepherd theorizes the measurement standards will be applied to the production of music. 'Measuring loudness, in general, isn't easy. Now the ITU has agreed on a new "loudness unit:" the LU. You can measure short- and longer-term loudness over a whole song. They've also agreed on guidelines for broadcast; what the average loudness should be and how much you can vary it. The recommendation has been made law in the U.S. for advertisements and is also being adopted in the U.K. and all over the world. All the major broadcasters here — Sky, the BBC, ITV — have agreed to follow the standard.'"

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251 comments

too much regulation! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448049)

We really don't need all this extra layer of oversight here, the industry is capable of regulating itself once people have had more time to make their opinions known and choose stations whose practices they agree with.

Re:too much regulation! (4, Insightful)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448055)

You mean, by making choice between Company A, Station 1 and Company A, Station 2?
Man, are naive, idiot or just a kid?

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448207)

ummm... there are LOTS of choices. in music just stop listening to the clearchannel shit and you're fine. go for good indie musicians and so on who don't pull that crap.

commercials, who needs em anyway.

i see no problem here that needs yet more laws. especially since we're staggering with debt ALREADY.

Re:too much regulation! (5, Insightful)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448499)

It's not about debt or anything that complicated. Just restoring regulations THAT WE HAD YEARS AGO would help immensely. Same story as with banking. Those regulated pushed to do away with the regulations and then really bad things happened. It's all about greed.

A fair amount of freedom in running businesses and healthy competition is usually good. But the changes made in broadcast ownership REDUCED competition. And if investment bankers want to be involved in high risk investments it should be only with fund owned by those willing to take the risks, not with taxpayer insured depositors money from traditional savings/checking banking.

Broadcasters traditionally have an important role to serve the public interest. If we did away with PAID radio/tv political ads, using only fairly doled out community service time, there'd be far less money inviting corruption in campaigns. Obviously limiting fund-raising has failed. But doing away with a major part of the spending would really help.

Has anyone noticed that Christmas season ads start at Thanksgiving or even Halloween, and they didn't years ago? Blame the FCC rule change on ads. Stations used to voluntarily pick a limit on how many minutes an hour of ads they run, and could exceed that two weeks a year. So ads would go nuts before Christmas (and elections when held). Now that insanely heavy level of ads has become the norm.

Re:too much regulation! (5, Informative)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448687)

A section of historic FCC rules for radio is here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=Sbw8AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=steps+shall+be+taken+to+preserve+dynamic+characteristics+of+music&source=bl&ots=B2uXF56uEj&sig=K4gC8p4b1LaXyTTt6VsgnNFpdO4&hl=en [google.com]

The phrase "However, precautions shall be taken so as not to substantially alter the dynamic characteristics of musical programs" was removed after being in the rules only a short time. Many broadcasters protested, wanting to use very aggressive audio processing. Sometime it was to sound loud than the competition (doesn't work when everyone does it), sometimes it was to help hide the noises present with a marginal signal.

There were past loudness rules for ads. Here are the full details of what's being proposed for DTV now. DTV audio has generally been better and more dynamic. However when programs are dynamic, the average loudness is lower, making commercials stand out even more.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/06/03/2011-13822/implementation-of-the-commercial-advertisement-loudness-mitigation-calm-act [federalregister.gov]

Re:too much regulation! (4, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448701)

Has anyone noticed that Christmas season ads start at Thanksgiving or even Halloween, and they didn't years ago?

Mostly I've been noticing people saying that. Every year. For the 20+ years i"ve been paying attention.

Maybe 30 or 35 years past it was that way - and it would be great if it were that way again - but that wasnow literally more than a generation ago.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448803)

There are lots of choices? Really? Pretty hard to use internet radio when I'm in my car. And college stations aren't too useful more than a few miles away.

Re:too much regulation! (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448581)

There doesn't really need to be outside competition for a company to change, at least in theory. If the A company notices that station 1 and 2 are doing things differently and that one is getting more ears, they might want to know why. They might find out it's because station 2 doesn't play loud commercials, and people like that, and they'll get people listening to both if they limit the noise.

There's always competition with radio even if all the radio stations are owned by the same parent company: you can turn it off.

I'd disagree with GP in any case though: consumers aren't that smart. If I listen to station 2, whether or not it's owned by a different company based on how annoying their commercials are, I'm going to be outweighed by people who don't care.

Re:too much regulation! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448715)

I never realized how many socialists read slashdot

You honestly think that the only way anything positive happens is as a result of regulations?

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40449113)

Yes

Re:too much regulation! (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448063)

it's true! once we get rid of invasive state copyright protection, we'd be one step closer to true competition among broadcasters.

Re:too much regulation! (3, Insightful)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448077)

We really don't need all this extra layer of oversight here, the industry is capable of regulating itself once people have had more time to make their opinions known and choose stations whose practices they agree with.

Because that worked so well in the past. This "Self Regulation" is what caused the problem in the first place.

Re:too much regulation! (4, Informative)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448237)

more a matter of "no regulation". just a medium with a defined peak and no consequences in hardware for driving the average too high.

vinyl had physical limits that would make the music sound like shit if they were exceeded, and in extreme cases would cause the disc to be unplayable. CDs don't have that problem. they can be 16khz, fullscale, 100% of the time and pass verification, but will pass the hardware problems down the line (to your tweeters in this case - they'll burn even if the speaker is running well below it's rated max power).

things were made worse considering people in the pop music target audience would often brag about blowing their speakers up...

Re:too much regulation! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448269)

"CDs don't have that problem"

Digital has physical limits that make music sound like shit too, CD's are not any different they just sound like different, worse shit than vinyl when the limits are exceeded.

Re:too much regulation! (5, Interesting)

Tyler Eaves (344284) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448653)

Untrue. Vinyl imposes lots of additional limitations, and is much more complicated than a binary "too loud" "not too loud". The louder you cut a record, the wider the groove is. The wider the groove is, the fewer grooves you can physically fit on the record, and thus the less music you can fit per side. If you cut an LP as hot as a typical modern CD (And I'm not even talking a LOUD modern CD, just an average one), you could only fit 12-14 minutes per side. A hot track, and that number will be more like 10 minutes. Whereas with the (sane) mastering common 40 years ago, 20-21 minutes per side was typical, although there were some compromises there too...optimal quality peaks at about 17 minutes per side or so. A recording without a lot of dynamic range, with the loudness turned down a bit (like a live album), and 25 minutes per side isn't at all unreasonable.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40449101)

Digital has physical limits that make music sound like shit too, CD's are not any different they just sound like different, worse shit than vinyl when the limits are exceeded.

They may be physical limits in the sense of reproduction, but we're talking construction of the CD. That was the whole point of the comment, you can ruin sound while the data doesn't care.

Or can you make a constructive example to back your attempt at a counter-assertion?

Re:too much regulation! (2, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448315)

more a matter of "no regulation". just a medium with a defined peak and no consequences in hardware for driving the average too high.

There have been consequences in software though.

MythTV has been using the difference in loudness/dynamic range to identify and skip commercials. I hope these measures don't compromise that, I'd hate to have to start watching adverts again...

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448261)

What problem?

Overcompressed music can be avoided by listening to NON-overcompressed music. If you think it doesn't exist, you need to stop being a good little consumer and consuming what the talking heads tell you to. Start thinking for yourself, and you'll find a new world full of all sorts of good stuff, very little of which is run through compression filters.

Leave the teenagers to their Justin Beiber and start looking for actually good music.

There is no problem here. There's only a problem for "mindless consumers" of what the content industry tells you you should like.

Re:too much regulation! (1)

Tore S B (711705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448389)

Well, by all means, enjoy the smug self-satisfaction you seem to derive from a personal taste in music with no room for pop, but - what if you're an audio engineer with a well-developed ear rendering over-compression as very jarring, but you still like pop music?

I loves me some ABBA, and not only does the technical production not get in the way of my enjoying their stuff, but it's pulled off so well that it's a not-insignificant part of my enjoyment.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448735)

There isn't a "problem" here. It's just a marketing practice used. It's not hurting you. If you don't like it, you don't consume the product... meaning, listen to a different source of music, different tv channel etc....

and by the way, it's 2012 here. Competition in music means a lot more than just changing to a different radio station. You have internet radio, cds, mp3 players, satellite radio and others. The people above who are saying there isn't competition to choose from in the industry are either idiots or technologically illiterate

Re:too much regulation! (4, Interesting)

AG the other (1169501) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448103)

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Sorry I ran out of breath to laugh any longer.
I have a decibel meter app on my phone and I've seen levels go from the middle 50s during the program to the upper 60s during the ads.
The app isn't probably that accurate but that is a really big jump, enough to cause me pain sometimes. There is one ad from a local lawyer that jumps up to 70 at one point.
Guess who I won't be calling for legal services.
The industry has listened to and ignored citizen complaints for 50 years. What makes you think they will change now?

Re:too much regulation! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448197)

Your measurements are useless without a control because we have no idea what your TV volume was set at. Besides you were probably not doing an actual average volume (RMS) measurement.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448221)

"I've seen levels go from the middle 50s during the program..." That's what level his TV was set to.

Re:too much regulation! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448295)

Which program? Which channel? Are you an idiot?

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448313)

All of which is irrelevant. 50 is the baseline. Anything above that is louder.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448667)

He's saying the volume went up significantly during the commercial, stop being a stupid pedant fuckhead.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448307)

You're missing my point. Anyhow your cute little iPhone app is definitely inaccurate because 70dB is well below the threshold of pain.

Re:too much regulation! (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448509)

But discomfort is wildly subjective, and "sudden discomfort" may be reported as "pain" even without triggering any pain sensors.

Re:too much regulation! (3, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448677)

because 70dB is well below the threshold of pain.

He mentioned a "local" ad from a lawyer. I would imagine even at 1db it would cause pain. Possibly even with mute on.

Re:too much regulation! (4, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448459)

dB needs no baseline. from mid 50s to upper 60s is 12 dB (just to assign a number to it). That difference is 8x as loud. Absent any other information, it's not unreasonable to assume that to be correct, and there's no need to know what the TV was set at, the 8x difference would likely remain the same, unless it was reaching the mechanical limits of the system on either end.

Re:too much regulation! (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449273)

His data may not be perfect but it is good enough for relative measures. You'd have to be living under a rock with your head in the sand (or profoundly deaf) to not notice the way the volume jumps at each commercial break.

And that's even discounting the dirty tricks like compressing the commercials to the point of terrible sound quality to squeeze a bit more loudness out and other dirty tricks with the audio to fool TVs with 'smart volume' type systems meant to limit the loudness jumps.

.

Re:too much regulation! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448363)

Yes, the public has been ignored, research even ordered destroyed when it didn't support the pre-determined outcome.

The story
http://web.archive.org/web/20090123153744/http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2006/09/18/senator_says_media_study_suppressed/ [archive.org]

The suppressed report
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-267448A1.pdf [fcc.gov]

Some PBS coverage
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEoKXKUnLsY [youtube.com]
PBS transcript
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11162007/transcript5.html?print [pbs.org]
more PBS info
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11162007/profile2.html [pbs.org]
Info related to Providence Equity (where a former FCC chair went)
www.sungarddx.com/pdf/Data_Exchange_Fundraising.pdf

Loud commercials have been addressed before. If the ad agency has used aggressive audio processing, and uses less energy at bass frequencies, the station actually needs special equipment to sense the higher average energy and compensate. The peak voltage value can be the same with a large difference in loudness.

To those that think so-called market forces make things good, explain why we've now got those half-hour infomercials, 18+ minutes of ads an hour instead of 9 to 11, and far less depth and diversity in news coverage. The same former FCC chair that Bill Moyers talks about taking a job at a major communications-oriented venture capital group has since become head of the cable-tv industry group that pushed for the Comcast/NBC/Universal merger. Cable companies don't want broadcast tv to be excellent.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448765)

You're missing the point. You're not supposed to call them to complain and plead with them to change, you make your voice heard by consuming other products. If you don't like the station allowing the loud ads, don't watch.

If you've been complaining to an industry for 50 years and they cause you so much pain, why are you still using their products? No one is forcing you to listen to the radio or watch TV

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448857)

If you don't like the station allowing the loud ads, don't watch.

You miss the point. They are entitled.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448127)

Hey, a sockpuppet. You know that works better with a throwaway account, right?

Re:too much regulation! (0)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448195)

interesting free market trollspin here...

interestingly enough, regulation like the CALM act (and OP48 here in Australia) were entirely a response to the public. given that the public is who the broadcasters rely on, i'd say it's a market response through a different avenue.

having an objective loudness measure is simply adding some accuracy to what was already widely practised in the industry - TVCs would be routinely rejected if they were too loud. this consisted of a peak test (no more than -10dBFS usually) and a VU test (a little analog device, set to read 0dB on a sine with amplitude -20dBFS, and averaging over about 200ms). if it sat consistently above 0 VU, it'd be rejected, and if it exceeded -10dBFS (unless it was analog, which needs a bit of headroom), it'd be rejected.

this has been practised since the beginning, but this happens on the production and distribution side. the TV networks were free to crank the volume when they cut to the ad break if they wanted (and i suspect some did, as ad's i'd checked myself would be different volumes on different channels).

the OP48 guideline actually made things a little worse, because ALL ads were required to follow it, and it was marked on the title slates (and rejected if not). when people called in saying the ads were too loud, the networks would simply say "no they aren't - look at this document!" and continue to abuse our eardrums.

i haven't read CALM (i'm not in the USA), but i sincerely hope it defines the level as measured on the end-user's playback device (or on the multiplex that is transmitted) rather than before the ad reaches the broadcaster, as it is here.

in response to TFA, this will not affect the loudness war on music, but that seems to be waning anyway. certainly engineers will have the tools to measure, but producers will continue to not give a fuck, and bands, producers and engineers will continue to numb their hearing with copious amounts of cocaine and crank the master gain instead of the monitor gain to compensate.

if Apple or one of the big hardware manufacturers could implement (and use by default) a loudness measure at playback time, this will hopefully indicate to the industry that it's time to make it sound good rather than just loud.

iTunes has "soundcheck", and many software players implement "replaygain", but i'd love to see these become the default on the actual hardware, so remove the user from the equation. not hating on the users, or wanting to pull wool over their eyes, but most users are casual listeners who don't want or need the hassle of learning new tools for the trivial pursuit of having all their music play at the same volume. in my experience people love the idea but would like it to happen without manual intervention.

Re:too much regulation! (3, Insightful)

smellotron (1039250) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448305)

i haven't read CALM (i'm not in the USA), but i sincerely hope it defines the level as measured on the end-user's playback device

More significant is that CALM is based on a model of accoustic perception which is much more complex than peak/RMS amplitude. For one, human hearing is more sensitive at specific frequencies (e.g. speech and crying babies, and probably any resonant frequencies of our skull). For another, sharp/percussive peaks tend to be perceived as quieter (or at least less annoying!) than equal-volume sustained tones. So compressing a drumset beat and some attorney's voice [youtube.com] to the same "average" range means that the music will sound quieter than the advertisement. So whether CALM normalizes at the broadcaster or at the end-user, it should be strictly better because its measurement more accurately models perception and should have less error inherently.

Also, piling in against the free-market spin doctor: broadcasters are granted a form of monopoly due to limited resources for transmission. They should be regulated and hand-slapped for what appears to be blatant disregard for their government-granted customer base.

Re:too much regulation! (4, Interesting)

catmistake (814204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448619)

Awesome post... but I have a nitpick, sorry::

For one, human hearing is more sensitive at specific frequencies

yes, this is absolutely true

(e.g. speech and crying babies, and probably any resonant frequencies of our skull).

no, I don't think any of these are examples.

Human speech ranges from 300 Hz to as high as 3.4 kHz, but most commonly and generally hover between 800 Hz and 1200 Hz. Humans don't perceive 1kHz as being louder, but 4kHz always sounds louder and sounds at this frequency tend to cause the listener ear fatigue.

A baby's cry is closer to that 4kHz loudly percieved and tiring frequency, but at around 3.4 kHz at its highest, it's below it enough that I'm nearly certain that's not the reason a baby's cry sounds louder. I believe the reason we hear a baby's cry as louder has more to do with the evolution of the hypothalamus and less to do with the actual frequency of a normal baby's cry. If we pitch shift the frequency of a baby's cry, or even reduce the sound pressure, it still stands out against a background of random noise, such as sounds of lots of people talking or a cacophony of wild animal sounds, because we have evolved to recognize the timbre of this sound, which is more distinct than its natural frequency range. The hypothalmus allows us to filter perceptions... but filtering out a baby's cry is universally accepted as being nearly impossible (I'm sure it can be done, but the mere fact that most find it unsettling or irritating and before long will seak to quell it speaks volumes).

The human skull has been shown to resonate at frequencies between 500Hz and 7.5kHz... so that's pretty much where we hear everything... we certainly hear below 500Hz and above 7.5kHz, but that's such a huge chunk of our normal hearing spectrum that it's unlikely there is any particular frequency we hear louder because of skull resonance.

Regardless of this, again, nice post.

Re:too much regulation! (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449021)

a baby's cry can be ignored... but the baby will just try again, and louder (MUCH louder).

i'm so glad my 13 month old is so well behaved.

Re:too much regulation! (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448995)

i'm aware of these things.

but even a dumb, unweighted RMS over 200ms measured _at the output_ would be more useful than -20 EBU-R128 LUFS measured on the tape before it goes to the broadcaster. get my point? in the latter scenario, the broadcaster has free reign to turn the volume up as much as they want. in the former, that's taken into account, because they're measuring the loudness that goes into the viewer's TV.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448311)

If the industry could regulate itself, the loudness wars wouldn't exist, would they? In theory the industry regulating itself would be great, but in practice it simply doesn't work too well - or at least doesn't work in a way that is good for the people.

Re:too much regulation! (2)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449089)

It never would work that way. Basic game theory always predicts that rational agents engage in a 'race to the bottom.' Just like how the Prisoner's Dilemma puts both players in prison, if some underhanded technique even has the potential to make one firm more competitive, it is guaranteed to become an industry standard. "Voting with your dollars" doesn't work. It can't work.

Economics 101 should be mandatory.

too much stupidity (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448569)

We really don't need all this extra layer of oversight here, the industry is capable of regulating itself

Yeah, we do. There are a lot of really stupid people out there that will fuck everything up for everybody if they think they can make a quick buck doing it. I like having as much freedom as possible, but this is yet another case that has already proven to to require the government to step in and tell the retarded children to quit playing with the gain knob and just focus on hawking their crap.

Re:too much regulation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40449217)

Look, I've made my choice and that's to pirate music. But now the fucking industry is coming after me! So I'm all for regulating the industry to hell. Make them suffer and play their stupid music at zero volume.

first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448059)

post?

Horrible use of laws (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448073)

This is the perfect example of what is wrong with the US system. This does not belong as a law. There is no harm to people. It tramples on free speech.

But someone found it annoying. And now we have another law. More costs. Less freedom. And no real gain.

Re:Horrible use of laws (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448145)

This is the perfect example of what is wrong with the US system. This does not belong as a law. There is no harm to people. It tramples on free speech.

But someone found it annoying. And now we have another law. More costs. Less freedom. And no real gain.

The public's airwaves, the public's rules.
Don't like it? Don't use public resources to distribute your speech.

Re:Horrible use of laws (2)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448253)

The public's airwaves, the public's rules. Don't like it? Don't use public resources to distribute your speech.

This exact same line of reasoning has been used to support the notion that there are certain words you can never say on television.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448361)

This exact same line of reasoning has been used to support the notion that there are certain words you can never say on television.

Yep and those laws are pretty well established.

I'd prefer a system that didn't reserve airwaves for big spenders making the airwaves more democratic, but until that happens, here we are.

Re:Horrible use of laws (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448535)

Those laws are for stupid defective fucks such as yourselves. Kill yourself already.

Re:Horrible use of laws (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448661)

This exact same line of reasoning has been used to support the notion that there are certain words you can never say on television.

The FCC exists because 100+ years ago, assclowns with radios were making false distress calls, cursing at people on the airwaves, and faking naval messages.
In 1912, power to regulate the airwaves was given to the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor
In 1927 it was handed over to the newly created Federal Radio Commission and
in 1934 it was handed over to the newly created Federal Communications Commission

/Early regulation of the airwaves is a textbook example of regulatory capture.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448899)

You seem confused as to the definition of regulatory capture. Nothing that you have posted shows that FCC regulations are made to favor incumbent interests. Simple expansion of laws to cover new circumstances is not "regulatory capture" it is, at worst, scope creep.

Re:Horrible use of laws (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448331)

I don't like liberal ads or ones supporting Obama. I'm part of the public. Should we ban those as well?

Oh, I see, censorship you agree with is ok, censorship you don't is wrong. That makes you a wannabe dictator.

Re:Horrible use of laws (4, Insightful)

Yosho-sama (800703) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448385)

If you had read the article or the title, or summary, you'd have read that the article is about the volume of commercials, not the content or material being sold.

If you want to turn this into a free speech issue, you have the right to speak about whatever you want, but you don't have the right to grab someone by the ear and then scream into it.

Re:Horrible use of laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448491)

The public's airwaves, the public's rules.
Don't like it? Don't use public resources to distribute your speech.

You think the airwaves are public? Try opening your own neighborhood radio or TV station, and you'll quickly find out how public they are!

Re:Horrible use of laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448657)

I'm not sure you understand what the word "public" means. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons

Re:Horrible use of laws (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448793)

Maybe the AC is not aware that the Supreme Court has only ever recognized limited constitutional protection for commercial speech.
I wonder if AC is signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry [donotcall.gov] .

Re:Horrible use of laws (5, Informative)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448909)

> And no real gain.

Except pre-recorded music that doesn't sound like shit on quality stereo gear.

This is actually an example of *good* legislation. The whole reason the "loudness war" happened in the first place was pressure from upper management on recording engineers (who, by and large, knew why doing it was bad, and who were mostly forced to go along with it if they wanted to remain employed) to make their next CD a little louder than everybody else's, until we got to the point where a 2004 pop CD was quantized to levels once exclusively the realm of a Telarc *DIGITAL CANON* in a recording of 1812 Overture whose main purpose was to show off your kilowatt-RMS amp and array of subwoofers. What the government did in this case was let the engineers off the hook. When management asks them to "pump up the volume", they can say, "Sure, I can do that. But no radio station in the country will play it, and all the money we're spending to promote the artist will be for naught. Do you still want me to do it, or would you like me to master a recording that sounds good and that radio stations will be able to play?"

I want immersive, clipping-free digital audio back like we had when I was in college. If it literally takes an act of Congress to ensure that 95% of the audio on a 16-bit CD quantizes to an absolute value of 0x3FFF or less, so be it. Now get off my lawn, or I'll have to remind your parents what digital canons sound like when you have a kilowatt (RMS) amp and a pair of 18-inch JL Audio subs in the trunk...

Re:Horrible use of laws (5, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448185)

And no real gain.

Less gain is the whole point.

The law was passed because too many audio sources had excessive gain.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

Tore S B (711705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448421)

Less gain is the whole point.

The law was passed because too many audio sources had excessive gain.

Gain is a meaningless term in the context you're using it - gain specifies a signal amplitude relative to a reference. In amplifying circuits, gain relative to the source signal - and when used to measure amplitude, the gain is relative to either a set voltage (dBm or dBu) or in the digital world, relative to full amplitude (dBFS).

The problem is amplitude. At what stages any gain was applied is not the issue.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448547)

If less gain was applied, less amplitude would result.

Re:Horrible use of laws (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448609)

Gain is a meaningless term in the context you're using it

Not in the chosen context: a humorous bad pun.

But if you want to be a stereotypical humorless pedantic nerd, I also happen to be an electrical engineer. I'll define the reference as the output level of the musicians' microphones. The overall signal gain of the music industry system between the musicians' microphones and the consumers' DACs has been set too high.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448919)

I bet you're a hit at parties.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

Tore S B (711705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448953)

I'm sorry. It was 6AM here at work and when I read the comment it had not yet been moderated as funny. I simply didn't perceive it as being intended humorously.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

Yosho-sama (800703) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448259)

I have a right to speech. I do not have the right to scream in your ear at the top of my lungs in order to get my spittle on your face and make sure I'm the only one you can listen to.

Hearing damage has a cost, increased stress levels has a cost, annoyance has a cost.

Telemarketers have free speech too, you know. I don't hear you complaining about us passing laws saying that they can't call us. Cause they're fucking annoying.

Re:Horrible use of laws (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448263)

free speech? what are you smoking?

i'm sure police will arrest anyone who takes a marshall stack out on the street, maxes it out, and exercises "free speech" through a microphone...

the act simply says you have free speech, not free shout.

Re:Horrible use of laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448291)

Running a mic through a Marshall stack?

You deserve to be arrested!

why is that needed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448097)

For ads, just stop buying stuff made by those companies, problem solved. or stop watching commercials at all, i guess what most people do now.

For music, what's the problem at all? If people like that kinda music, compressed to shit, let them listen. Doesn't hurt me any, it's just top-40 crap anyway. I'll just listen to good music that isn't compressed thats better music anyway not some talent free crap.

Do we really need more more more more laws to tell us what we supposed to like and what not? I can decide by myself what to like thank you!!

Re:why is that needed? (2)

Anaerin (905998) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448213)

If you want music, you're pretty much restricted to getting it from one of three big companies. All three companies have already demonstrated a concerted "need" to make their music louder than everyone else's, even if it's not "top-40 crap". And there's little point saying "Get it in CD form, rather than a DRM'd MP3 download, then", because they're using brick-wall filters on CDs too ("Metallica - Death Magnetic", anyone?)

The Loudness war, in both music and TV/Radio ads, has been brought up before. The consensus then seemed to be "If you don't buy the compressed crap and they'll stop compressing it". That hasn't worked at all, which means it's time to legislate. Remember, they had to legislate to get seatbelts and airbags in cars.

Re:why is that needed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448339)

If you want music, you're pretty much restricted to getting it from one of three big companies

Ok, this calls for one huge WTF? The big labels are the LAST place to go for good music. They are there for the clueless masses. You're a slashdot reader, so probably smarter than the average clueless Joe - you deserve better! I can't tell you what you like, but there's a whole WORLD of music out there that never touched RIAA hands. Explore it. Most actually good music does not come from the big labels. Stop listening to what you're told to. Start thinking with your own mind.

That hasn't worked at all, which means it's time to legislate

If it hasn't worked at all, then most people don't mind it, and legislating uncompressed music is the wrong thing. Let the masses have their compressed RIAA shit, and move on - never mind what the media tells you to listen to. If you don't like compressed music (I don't either) then do what I did: stop listening to it. You'll find much better music, made by real artists not "produced acts" with autotune and the like.

Re:why is that needed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448451)

Ok, this calls for one huge WTF? The big labels are the LAST place to go for good music. They are there for the clueless masses. You're a slashdot reader, so probably smarter than the average clueless Joe - you deserve better! I can't tell you what you like, but there's a whole WORLD of music out there that never touched RIAA hands. Explore it. Most actually good music does not come from the big labels. Stop listening to what you're told to. Start thinking with your own mind.

That sounds pretty hipster, doesn't it? Imagine for a moment that I'm listening to Pandora... and I hear a new song or artist that I've never heard before. But I'm intrigued. I really get a kick out of it. I like it so much, I go buy the album in iTunes. Not once did I say, "Waittaminute, are they produced by an independent label? NEVERMIND. I've decided I don't like that music after all."

I suppose my argument "flaws" are the other commercial products here, Pandora and iTunes. Still pretty snobby of you to generalize all of "big label" music as crap, isn't it, though?

Re:why is that needed? (2)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448469)

^^^Agreed. Some of my favorite bands are big label bands. Other favorites are indie label bands...

Why limit your musical taste based on the frickin record label? Seems retarded if you ask me...

Re:why is that needed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448539)

Still pretty snobby of you to generalize all of "big label" music as crap, isn't it, though?

Ok, yeah, agreed. You have a good point. But still, given the huge range of indie music out there, and the fact that you can support it with good conscience and know you're not supporting that evil thats RIAA, and also the fact that it doesn't generally have the compression problem, and there's so much you'll never run out.... why go through the big labels at all?

If you support indie artists directly, ones you like, you'll get MORE of what you like. You can influence the music landscape that way - good luck doing so with Sony or BMG.

Not likely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448173)

"Now the ITU has agreed on a new "loudness unit:" the LU. You can measure short- and longer-term loudness over a whole song."

This already exists, it's called RMS (Root mean square). Stop inventing meaningless terms like VU and LU. And honestly, these standards will probably just be ignored just the same as 80% of the other standards that no one follows with television sound already.

"But Shepherd theorizes the measurement standards will be applied to the production of music."

Ha! The labels control the industry and the labels will NEVER apply these standards to music production.

Re:Not likely. (3, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448559)

The issue is that human hearing is more sensitive at certain frequencies, and a mechanical sum of loud doesn't properly represent the perception of loud.

Re:Not likely. (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449011)

> This already exists, it's called RMS (Root mean square).

The problem is, a given amount of power doesn't produce the same perceived loudness across the entire audio spectrum. The LU calculation deprives the music industry of its former ability to game the system by focusing the most energy on the narrow band of frequencies that are perceived as being the loudest.

RMS is a nice, simple concept that works well for measuring amplifier power of a 1KHz sine wave at a given max percentage THD, but it's too easy to game when using it to predict loudness. Unless you want popular music to devolve to little more than powerchords striving to emulate the "The Deep Note" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtIOhYqrr00) and throwing everything they have at the range of human hearing that gives them the most loudness per watt, we need something a little better than RMS.

Who Watches Broadcast TV Anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448189)

I get most of my entertainment from the Internet.
You Tube
Netflix ...
profit

WhatMeWorry!

The what? (4, Funny)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448215)

"By the end of 2012, broadcast televisionâ¦"

Broadcast what?

Oh, I think I've heard of this. It's like YouTube if you could only choose one of 6 videos to watch, someone else decided when to hit "play" and they made you watch 3 minutes of ads for every 7 minutes of video.

Re:The what? (3, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448431)

Oh ho ho, aren't you clever? Some of us still like watching sports, or the first runs of shows that we can enjoy with friends. Getting high def on a big screen without needing half a dozen different solutions to pipe it over from the PC is also quite nice. "It just works", you know? No need to worry about blockiness or buffering or the audio being out of sync.

Seriously though, what point are you trying to make? That the law is unnecessary because "nobody" watches TV? If so, I posit that you don't know very many people.

Re:The what? (3, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448989)

He's right. TV is really just for the old and the dull, now. I mean, really... paying out the ass to be force fed advertisements? I know that's seen as "normal", and has been for a long time, but objectively, that's insane.

Re:The what? (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448723)

Oh, I think I've heard of this. It's like YouTube if you could only choose one of 6 videos to watch, someone else decided when to hit "play" and they made you watch 3 minutes of ads for every 7 minutes of video.

Don't worry, YouTube are working on that last one.

Loudness, Compression, Dynamic Range, oh, My! (3, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448345)

The summary is conflating so many issues.

Yes, loud commercials are obnoxious.

Yes, overly compressed music diminishes it. In a good listening environment a nice dynamic range is good.

But compression isn't inherently bad. Large dynamic range stinks in my car, which is loud (I need to do something about the gasket by the driver's window). It stinks on the crappy speakers on my netbook and the built-in speakers on this display I'm using now.

It can help (with a limiter) in having to keep going to the volume bar too, or for watching a movie at night when you don't want to wake the kids.

If anybody wants some automatic control for PulseAudio I hacked up a workable solution [youtube.com] last summer, just 'cause I got annoyed one day. PA makes it a bitch to install these things, but I've got an SRPM at least for the library. Need to write a short doc and send the patches upstream still, but drop me a line if you want it anyway.

Re:Loudness, Compression, Dynamic Range, oh, My! (2)

Tore S B (711705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448443)

Yeah, but the point is that the signal should arrive at your playback system in a neutral fashion, and then you can set your car stereo to compress the signal (nearly all stereos made after about 1995 will have a loudness option).

Re:Loudness, Compression, Dynamic Range, oh, My! (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449029)

and then you can set your car stereo to compress the signal (nearly all stereos made after about 1995 will have a loudness option).

The "loudness" control on all the stereos I have has nothing to do with compression, it deals with changing the eq so that the volume of each frequency band is increased proportionately to the human ear's interpretation of "loud". I don't recall the specifics, but it has to do with low frequencies either being emphasized or deemphasized as the "loudness" goes up.

One of them has both a volume and loudness control. You change the loudness when you want to make the sound louder and properly reproduced and don't touch the volume. It manages the volume and bass and treble settings all in one knob. Of course, that one was designed by a professional audio engineer and not intended for use by Joe "Turn it up to 11" Sixpack.

Re:Loudness, Compression, Dynamic Range, oh, My! (1)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449235)

For more information, look up equal-loudness contours [wikipedia.org] (often called Fletcher-Munson curves, after the original researchers).

Re:Loudness, Compression, Dynamic Range, oh, My! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448961)

AC3 audio has dynamic range control to handle the issue of different listening environments. It works along with the loudness level (dialnorm) to handle loudness in general.

The European Broadcast Union already did it. (5, Informative)

Tore S B (711705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448371)

I'm a broadcast tech at a license-funded TV station in Norway, so we don't have to deal with advertising volume jumps, but in general, we aim to follow the already-established EBU recommendation 128, which specifies loudness.

Indeed, the spec is publically available: http://tech.ebu.ch/docs/r/r128.pdf [tech.ebu.ch]

Underage loudness wars (2)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448387)

Great. Now what are they gonna do about the loudness wars being waged every day by the children in my neighborhood? I finally got the brats off my lawn, now can they get 'em to STFU? It's like living in the Amazon basin next to a colony of howler monkeys.

Harley Davidson Company Next Please (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448845)

And if they could force those aholes who crave attention on their bike toys by making so much noise it rattles you in your own home to reduce it to reasonable levels I'd really appreciate it. You can ride a bike without being a bone rattling prick.

Compression vs Compression (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448481)

Lets not forget we are NOT talking about file compression here but audio Compression that adjusts the gain on an audio analogue input.

Leaving out the discussion of Ad loudness, I always marvel at the many different ways that compression can be used in audio production. It's so easy to get it wrong and I always give it a lot of attention when I produce audio. There is aart in it :-) and the thing about using compression right is not to crush the transients that give music dynamic range. It terms of an emotive response this is the difference between turning music up (because it's exciting to listen too) or down (because it's a compressed moosh of noise).

Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense" and Tool's "Anima" are great examples of compression used properly but even these recordings can be butchered by a crappy psychoacoustic file compression. I think the differences are what produce many differences of opinion on this subject. Waveforms such as crash cymbals and ambient sounds are generally ruined by this processing especially when it is close to a more significant transient sound. I do listen to a lot of music so I may be more sensitised to it than most but the lossy way mp3 (and other formats) makes me wonder when we will start to have a conversation about the quality of this form of compression.

It would be great to be able to start talking about the music again instead of the media.

DON'T TREAD ON ME! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448525)

Give me compression or give me death!

Measuring loudness isn't easy?! wtf? Replaygain. (2)

_Shorty-dammit (555739) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448561)

Everything should just be produced/engineered/mastered with the Replaygain 89 dB target in mind. All albums should come out needing zero correction to meet that, leaving all the more dynamic range intact. All TV soundtracks should be that loud, too. Movies used to follow a similar standard, and should again.

Re:Measuring loudness isn't easy?! wtf? Replaygain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448763)

All I know is that God damned rap coming from the car beside me at the stop light is too fucking loud.

Re:Measuring loudness isn't easy?! wtf? Replaygain (1)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449245)

RMS and loudness aren't the same thing.

Re:Measuring loudness isn't easy?! wtf? Replaygain (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40449293)

Movies have started to improve with THX certification. Over compressed crud doesn't pass muster. Now if we can get THX certified CD recordings to match.

An explosion sounds impressive in the movies due to the dynamic range. An explosion on McGuyver does not rattle anything because it is compressed so talking is loud enough. If TV didn't compress programs, the commercials would be at explosion levels.

/. a quiet victory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40448597)

Is it a quiet victory to have your proposal announced on /. which has so many readers that simple links to source articles have been responsible for bringing entire websites down???

This could be a real gain.. (1)

codeToDiscovery (2597559) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448669)

for audio sensitive individuals everywhere! wink wink nod nod

Compression is good in some cases (3, Interesting)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 2 years ago | (#40448717)

Music is compressed because it's played in crappy environments: low end players, cars, etc. These days, cars come with compression features in their sound systems so that you can listen to something more high-end such as classical without breaking your ear drums in the loud sections in order to hear the quiet sections at all. Back in the day there was an astute observation that rock should sound great on a crappy radio.

So can the customer fix it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40449153)

Since we can't count on the music companies to fix the problem, what can the customer do to fix it himself? Is there some reasonable algorithm that could be implemented to take overly compressed music files and transform them to a reasonable approximation of their original uncompressed state? For example, if you have a clipped peak, one might expect that the width at the top, where the peak is clipped, and the slope on each side of the clipped section could be used to reconstruct the peak.

This seems like a great open source project.

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