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SnapStream Blog

Loudness Compliance and the CALM Act: What You Need to Know

June 17 2019 by Tina Nazerian

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Pixsooz/Shutterstock

While watching TV, have you ever heard the volume increase when your show jumped to a commercial break?

The volume increase could have been the result of systems that hadn’t normalized the content based on the loudness.

Citing industry officials, the Los Angeles Times reported that due to the switch to digital TV in the United States in 2009, “the higher fidelity sound made the commercials seem even louder.” In 2006, the ITU-R had created a loudness algorithm (referred to as BS.1770-#, which nowadays has five variants) to help make sure commercials were not blaringly louder than the programs they were accompanying.

That algorithm makes “Loudness Units relative to Full Scale” (LUFS), also known as “Loudness, K-weighted, relative to Full Scale” (LKFS). LKFS is technically an amplitude level, but it’s not just the measure of an electrical signal. It’s an attempt to measure how humans perceive the loudness of broadcast audio.

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This graph represents the filter applied to the raw audio input so it can be adjusted to compensate for how humans perceive the loudness of different frequencies. K-weighting is part of the equation used to determine the LKFS value. It has two parts— the first is weighting different frequencies based on how loud they’re perceived. The second is modeled after the “acoustic effect” of the human head.

Here’s an analogy to help you understand LKFS: audio level is to LKFS what temperature is to wind chill temperature (or heat index). Humans don’t perceive low frequencies as sounding as loud as they actually are, but they perceive high pitched sounds to be louder than they actually are. That’s why high pitched sounds have a higher K-weighting.  

The loudness algorithm the ITU-R created was not implemented in the United States until a few years later. In 2010, Congress passed the CALM Act. The law came into effect on December 13, 2012. It stipulates that the audio of TV commercials can’t be higher than the TV program they’re accompanying. The law only applies to television commercials—it does not apply to radio or internet commercials.

For compliance, the law points broadcasters, cable operators, satellite TV providers, and other multichannel video programming distributors to the ATSC A/85 RP.

A/85 RP stipulates the use of ITU-R BS.1770-1 in the United States. It also recommends the adoption of a fixed target loudness of -24 LKFS. Annex I.7 of the ATSC A/85 RP states that there should be a fixed target loudness of -24 LKFS, + or - 2 dB.

A/85 RP also notes requirements other than loudness, one example being dialnorm. Dialnorm means “dialogue normalization.” Dialnorm specifies the average dialogue level for audio in absolute terms. Say you’re going from your main program to a commercial. The main program features soft-spoken people, whereas the commercial features loud people. On playback, the consumer receiver would automatically modulate the low dialogue up, and the loud dialogue down.

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A visual representation of how dialnorm works with a consumer cable box.

Luckily, as Dave Moulton wrote in TV Technology, if you’re using dialnorm, “you don’t need to worry very much about LKFS, because properly implemented dialnorm will pretty much take care of it for you.”

It’s important to stay on the right side of the CALM Act. If viewers complain to the FCC about your organization’s loudness level, and the FCC notices a pattern of complaints, it will start an inquiry or investigation for your organization. If there is an investigation, you’ll have to spend time proving that your equipment, and how you’ve maintained it, is in line with the law. If you don’t show actual or ongoing compliance in response to the inquiry or investigation, you may have to pay a fine.

Having a record of exactly what your programming sounded like when it aired will save you hassle and frustration. You will quickly be able to gather evidence and respond to viewer complaints.

SnapStream recently made a deal with Verizon to take over where Volicon left off to provide TV stations, networks, and other broadcasters solutions for logging and monitoring loudness compliance. To learn more, visit https://www.snapstream.com/broadcast-monitoring-and-compliance.

What’s New in SnapStream 9.2

March 20 2019 by Aaron Thompson

SnapStream 9.2 introduces proxy file generation and playback, automatic transcript generation (beta), video thumbnails in the Library plus many more new features. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Wednesday, March 27th at 2pm CDTCheck out the new additions and improvements we've made:

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A few of the highlights:

  • Proxy File Generation & Playback
  • Automatic Transcript Generation (beta)
  • Video Thumbnails in the Library
  • Closed Caption Display
  • Digital Signage on SnapStream Set-Top Boxes

Proxy File Generation & Playback

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SnapStream 9.2 is capable of generating low bitrate, low-res proxy files for the videos recorded by SnapStream. Watch your recordings using much less bandwidth, while clips and exports occur on the original high bitrate, high-res recordings.

If you’re working from home or on-the-road, then you can much more easily view your SnapStream recordings over slower connections. In addition, it allows a higher number of internal users to watch video concurrently from SnapStream.

Generating proxy files requires additional hardware for the processing involved, so please contact SnapStream Sales to get started.

 

Automatic Transcript Generation & Playback

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SnapStream 9.2 includes a beta version of Transcript Generation.

Are you recording live news conferences with no closed captioning? Recording your school’s morning announcements? No problem.

Select the items in the Library and use the Transcribe action in the More Actions menu. Transcript Generation works great for any TV channel or video stream that has no closed captioning or subtitles.

 

Video Thumbnails in the Library

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The SnapStream Library now includes Video Thumbnails of your recordings. These thumbnails help convey the subject of each video and will make scanning for content much more efficient.

SnapStream 9.2 will automatically generate thumbnails for all of your future recordings.

 

Closed Caption Display

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SnapStream 9.2 adds new ways to view closed captions and subtitles. Now you can view closed captions directly over the video in the Web Player. Not only does this help the hearing impaired, but you can mute the sound and still read what’s being said.

SnapStream TV Set-Top Boxes in lobbies, libraries and other common areas can also display closed captioning.

 

Digital Signage on SnapStream TV Set-Top Boxes

SnapStream TV Set-Top Boxes can now display digital signage. Create a playlist in the Web UI and then select which set-top boxes to play. You can also browse to a specific playlist on the SnapStream TV Set-Top Box itself.

 

More

SnapStream 9.2 has so much more, like custom thumbnails for Tweets, live stream crossposting, quick download link for completed clips, and more. Please read the full release notes.

 

Schedule Upgrade to 9.2

(Usually 1 hour) 
SnapStream’s support team will perform the upgrade via a remote session.

 

Signup for Webinar: SnapStream 9.2

Wednesday, March 27th at 2pm CDT

What’s New in SnapStream 9.1

November 08 2018 by Aaron Thompson

SnapStream 9.1 introduces collaborative clipping using Bookmarks, live streaming to Periscope, Facebook Live and YouTube Live (Beta), plus many more new features. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Wednesday, November 14th at 2pm CDTCheck the new additions and improvements we've made:

SnapStream 9.1

A few of the highlights:

  • Clipping Bookmarks
  • Live Streaming (Beta)
  • Analytics
  • Advanced Folder Permissions
  • Exports
  • SnapStream DVB-T Encoder
  • Avid and Premiere Web Player shortcuts
  • Read more

What’s New in SnapStream 9.0

July 18 2018 by Aaron Thompson

SnapStream graduates to 9.0, bringing along a brand new, redesigned Web Player and a host of other new features. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Wednesday, August 1st at 2pm CDTCheck the new additions and improvements we've made:

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A few of the highlights:

  • New Web Player
  • Amazon S3 Video Folders
  • Single Sign-On including support for Ping and OKTA
  • Read more

What’s New in SnapStream 8.5

March 02 2018 by Aaron Thompson

SnapStream 8.5 adds new frame accurate clipping, HLS and MPEG-DASH recording, automatic export workflow for SnapStream Federation, support for Twitter Monetization and more. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Wednesday, March 7th at 2pm CDTCheck the new additions and improvements we've made:

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A few of the highlights:

  • New Frame Accurate Clipping Engine
  • HLS and MPEG-DASH Recording
  • SnapStream Federation Improvements
  • Display of manual recordings in the Program Guide
  • SnapStream Set-Top Box Improvements
  • Play by Channel and Time
  • More Exports
  • Twitter Monetization

Read more

What’s New in SnapStream 8.4

December 01 2017 by Aaron Thompson

SnapStream 8.4 adds SnapStream Federation, SnapStream Set-Top Box Web controls, social improvements, improved watermarking and more. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Tuesday, December 12th at 2pm CDTCheck the new additions and improvements we've made:

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A few of the highlights:

  • SnapStream Federation
  • SnapStream Set-Top Box Web Controls
  • Social Improvements
  • Improved Watermarking
  • SnapStream Encoder Improvements

Read more

What’s New in SnapStream 8.3

August 31 2017 by Aaron Thompson

SnapStream 8.3 adds RTMP Capture, Faster Searching and Reindexing, Brightcove and Vimeo Export, Improved Watermarking, Video-embedded Timecodes and more. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Wednesday, September 13th at 2pm CDTCheck the new additions and improvements we've made:

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A few of the highlights:

  • RTMP Capture
  • Faster TV Search and Reindex
  • Export To Vimeo and Brightcove
  • Improved Watermarking
  • Timecode Burn-in

Read more

The President Show Press Release

June 13 2017 by Brad Hem

Comedy show entertains audiences by using President Trump’s words and mannerisms against him

HOUSTON, June 13, 2017 – Comedy Central’s new late-night comedy, “The President Show,” has chosen SnapStream’s high-powered TV recording and search technology to find the TV clips needed to lampoon President Donald Trump and other government leaders.

The show, which premiered in April and was just extended for more episodes, features comedian Anthony Atamanuik portraying Trump in a variety of settings – doing White House press briefings, interviewing guests and literally “Screaming at the TV,” a segment in which he reacts angrily to news coverage critical of him personally and politically.

“SnapStream is vital to ‘The President Show’ to source the material we need and to study the president’s mannerisms and words to give our audience the best show possible,” said Lorrie Baranek, the show’s line producer. “Without SnapStream, we’d miss all those great soundbites and gaffes, or we’d have to spend hours watching TV for the right moments.”


Read more

What’s New in SnapStream 8.2

May 30 2017 by Aaron Thompson

SnapStream 8.2 is here with some cool new features including a Zoomable Trackbar, watermarking social posts and new social stats. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Tuesday, June 6th at 2pmCheck the new additions and improvements we've made:

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A few of the highlights:

  • Automatic Channel Changing (SnapStream Encoder)
  • Zoomable Trackbar Delivers More Precise Clipping
  • Near Frame Accurate Clipping of Live TV
  • Watermark Social Posts
  • Facebook and Twitter Improvements
  • More Export Options

Read more

What’s New in SnapStream 8.1

February 03 2017 by Sara Howard

SnapStream 8.1 is here with some awesome new features and serious performance improvements. We'll be walking through the new software during a webinar on Tuesday, February 7th at 2pmCheck the new additions and improvements we've made:

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A few of the highlights:

  • Improved YouTube integration
  • Social admin permissions
  • Performance improvements
  • Live TV is back (and better than ever)
  • SnapStream TV Set-Top Box support

Read more

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