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Old April 19th, 2010, 10:31 PM   #1
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Commercial for TV

Hello.
I've been working with local talent that has their own tv show. I created a few 30 second commercials using simple graphics and audio. While the graphics look fine, the audio, I was told, was too low. I am a complete neophobe when it comes to broadcast requirements.
How do I go about setting the recommended levels for the audio. I talked to the guy who put the commercial into the show and he told me 10-20 dB. I'm not sure how to set this level.
I am using Sony Vegas.

Can anyone help shed light on what I need to do?

Thanks
Jim Bucciferro
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Old April 19th, 2010, 11:44 PM   #2
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"Too low" compared to what? How was it measured? What was the standard they used? If you can discover the answers to those questions you are on the way to understanding what they are asking for. Note that TV stations generally publish their technical requirements. If you are submitting your production to these outlets, then ask them for their specs.

I would suspect that most commercials, especially local stuff, is probably significantly compressed, and likely also normalized right up to 0dB (full-scale).
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Old April 20th, 2010, 10:13 AM   #3
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Thanks Richard,
The fellow that had been doing the work for this group had told me 10 to 20dB. After doing some research I learned that he probably meant -10 to -20dB. I had sent the segments with the audio set to 0.0 dB which is standard in Vegas. When the video was viewed on TV the audio was barely discernable - every other aspect of the show was fine.

Like I said - I don't know the correct levels to send. If I set the audio to -15dB will that be good enough? Since it is a lower level than 0.0dB won't that lower the volume even more?

I suppose I need to learn about this before continuing - can you or anyone point me in the right direction as to getting training on how to do this?

I appreciate any help.
Thanks
Jim
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Old April 20th, 2010, 10:43 AM   #4
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Jim, it sounds like you are referring to CLIP volumes at 0dB (ie. whatever came out of the camera) and not an output volume of 0dBfs (which is the maximum possible volume a digital sound can have - "fs" standing for "full scale")

I don't use Vegas but does it have VU meters you can view/activate? You will probably find that your audio doesn't even approach -20dBfs on the VU meters if you are being told the audio is too low.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 10:57 AM   #5
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Typical standard definition broadcast specs would have dialog averaging about -18dBFS, with peaks never exceeding -10dBFS, digital and high def would be different. Ask the station for their spec sheet. You can use compression to bring up the average level without going over the maximum allowed peak levels.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 11:11 AM   #6
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'Normally'... (at least in my neck of the woods) a -20dBFS 1kHz reference tone should be included at the head of the piece)
Final audio program peaks should be close to, but never exceed -10dBFS.
'Normally'= You should request the submission specs from the network(s) that will be airing the spot.
Yes, the Master Full Scale (FS) meter in Vegas is accurate enough. And check for mono compatibility, or mix in mono as many commercials are.
DO NOT normalize to 0dBFS. Which is the typical practice for audio CD mastering.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 11:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Reineke View Post
DO NOT normalize to 0dBFS. Which is the normal practice for audio CD mastering.
Yes, of course not. Sorry if I was unclear. Just enjoying my first cup of coffee now. Shouldn't post before that...

I submit a lot of PSAs for broadcast and I've seen specs of -20, -18 and -12dBfs from broadcasters. My "house" standard is -18dBfs if no one has told me any different.

Jim, are you delivering on tape or DVD? For DVD delivery, I end up mastering to -0.1dBfs in my edit program and then delivering a DVD at -31dB (using Dolby AC3). And yes, some broadcasters actually PREFER delivery on DVD-Video these days... <sigh> One of our national broadcasters up here in Canada lists DVD as their PREFERRED delivery format for SD material. I still deliver DVCam.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 12:18 PM   #8
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Wow guys - thank you so much! This information is valuable as I never even knew that this had to be done. I need to take a course or something to learn all this since this client will want more TV type work done and I want to do it right.

For reference I have Adobe Premiere Pro and Soundbooth so if anyone uses these apps that can tell me how to output correctly that will help greatly. I know Vegas is a super audio app so I want to stick with it for now.

I will shoot for -18dB to see if it acceptable and the producer did give me a range to work in.

If there is any other information I need please advise, and also if anyone knows of any reference material on how to edit for broadcast please point me in the right direction.

Thanks again.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 07:11 PM   #9
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Jim just try to get the main body of audio to be bouncing around -12db, with peaks happening at -6db. Usually TV guys will adjust it from there if they need to. I would recommend you put a compressor on your VO so all the words are at the same level give or take. Make sure the music isn't overpowering the VO too.

You should look into the process of "Mastering". That's when you take your final mix, and process the stereo file with usually an EQ to adjust anything like too much bass etc. followed by a Maximizer (boosts the level while limiting the peaks to prevent clipping). Then your final file will sound more consistent the whole way through, and you won't have any clipping. Study your plug-ins to see about a maximizer.
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