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Radio Broadcast Levels?
Old 9th September 2011
  #1
Gear Nut
 
MrTinkle's Avatar
 

Radio Broadcast Levels?

I've been asked to do some audio production for radio adverts. Doe's anybody know what the standard levels are?

I'm thinking, if they're going to be using compressors / limiters for levelling audio streams then would it be sensible to master everything around -4db?
Old 9th September 2011
  #2
Gear Head
 

- 6 db (if no mistake)
Old 9th September 2011
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

I don't know the real answer to this question, but my thought on this is that your spots are going to be played next to CDs which are mastered to 0 dB and compressed to death, so it would make sense to mix it pretty hot. I could be way off the mark though, so I'd appreciate a definitive answer too.

-Richard
Old 9th September 2011
  #4
In the US I always hit 0db or just below for a radio Ad. But I know mixers who hit -10 and they sound the same as mine on air, which would mean something goes on before they go on air. Normalization may be .... anyone?

My advice would be hit -1db.
Old 9th September 2011
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
Dallas Taylor's Avatar
 

My background is heavy network TV, so when I started to do radio I was really concerned with the levels/specs/deliverables. After asking around to many trusted radio professionals, I came to the conclusion that there is no spec. You can mix at 0, -6, -8, -10 or whatever, and it's going to get normalized at some point. Personally, when I do national radio advertising I mix at full scale. I haven't had any problems at all. Also, I provide both mp3 & wav for the agency, but I'm pretty sure that the agency just sends the mp3s to traffic. I'd love to hear what everyone else out there is doing!
Old 9th September 2011
  #6
Gear Addict
 

I'm with Dallas on this one, with a heavy Network TV BG as well. Haven't done a national radio spot in a year or so, but in the past, I mixed them all like a CD up to -1dBFS and it was fine. They will do their best to make it sound like garbage regardless. Such is the nature of radio (which no one listens to anymore anyway, so who cares?)
Old 9th September 2011
  #7
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dallas Taylor View Post
My background is heavy network TV, so when I started to do radio I was really concerned with the levels/specs/deliverables. After asking around to many trusted radio professionals, I came to the conclusion that there is no spec. You can mix at 0, -6, -8, -10 or whatever, and it's going to get normalized at some point. Personally, when I do national radio advertising I mix at full scale. I haven't had any problems at all. Also, I provide both mp3 & wav for the agency, but I'm pretty sure that the agency just sends the mp3s to traffic. I'd love to hear what everyone else out there is doing!


same here! i usually mix to -2 or -1, as far as I know they have some software that contains all the music, current adverts and their own cues, that plays everything out for them, this software also normalizes the content.
Old 9th September 2011
  #8
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The Listener's Avatar
I mix quite a lot of radio jingles and commercials - the same rules as for music mix apply. You can end up at 0, or I prefer between -1 and -3dB.

One thing I check thoroughly is mono compatibility and the color quality of the sound in mono - until it's not punchy and clear in mono, even with some "enhancing" FX - widening, exciters, etc. I don't switch to stereo.

And another thing - even if you make it peak at 0 it might not be problematic, but be aware of sibilance, and too strong high-end. When it sounds clear in mono, but not sibilant and harsh overall - it will play back well even after the excessive use of broadcasting processors such as Omnia, Orban etc.

Here they import wavs into broadcasting software that works mostly with MP2 or even use mp3s. I send out PCM wave, though. Even email can digest those 10 to 20 sec clips.
Old 9th September 2011
  #9
Lives for gear
 

You can deliver at 45mph in a driving rain on a mono cassette tossed in the general direction of the station and it will air. Anything delivered will be ingested/converted into the station playout system/spec, then subjected to a brutal thrashing - see attached....

IMO, about the only favor you can do to your mixes is to use VU ballistics, and keep everything bright, hot, and contained to OVU - and don't waste energy on extreme HF & LF that'll never see the transmitter.

FWIW...0VU=+4/-0.1 ceiling/44.1/16/constant256kbps/joint stereo/mp3 has worked well for me.
Old 9th September 2011
  #10
Gear Addict
 
audiobob's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ripple_fx1 View Post
You can deliver at 45mph in a driving rain on a mono cassette tossed in the general direction of the station and it will air.
Now THAT'S funny...uh and pretty much true.

-2/256 mp3 is what they get from me..never a complaint.
Old 9th September 2011
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Stations use different chains, but virtually all of them use an Optimod or something similar that will make the average levels about the same no matter what. Bob Katz's book includes a section on this, which also quotes the referenced article. Based on all that, it would seem the safest method (i.e., the one that is likely to do the least damage) is to mix with the RMS levels down a bit to avoid hypercompression at either the mixing or broadcast stage, but it's okay to allow peaks to hit near full scale. I use K-12 for all broadcast mixes now, and try to keep the average levels in the upper yellow as much as possible.
Old 9th September 2011
  #12
Gear Nut
 
MrTinkle's Avatar
 

Wow, lots of info

I was worried that if I mixed everything to -0db and they limited the hell out of it after it would sound crumby. I think the play-out software stations use is called Myriad? Not too sue though...

Anyway, cheers for the responses fellas. I'll just set the bar to -2db just to be on the safe side, if they don't moan then I'm happy
Old 10th September 2011
  #13
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huub's Avatar
For a live TV show, I was given a mix minus feed from national radio (an on-location radio studio, pre-processing) There was an enormous 20dB difference between the loudest and quietest bit....
On air, after the optimod, everything was the same level (and horribly clipped and bright and super aggressive)
Old 10th September 2011
  #14
Lives for gear
 

huub, you say that like it's a bad thing....
if i could just get the plug-in, i wouldn't have to worry about all that pesky mixing - heck, i could put my monitors on e-bay and use the space for a toaster-oven and mini-fridge. clients could finally get the hard work of downloading stolen music and updating their facebook stati while chatting on their smart phones done in peace. Q. how's the mix? A. the green light is flashing - looks great!
Old 10th September 2011
  #15
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huub's Avatar
heh
Old 10th September 2011
  #16
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

If there's any appreciable distortion, it will actually cause an Optimod or Omnia processor turn the volume lower than it would otherwise be! Comparing contemporary music videos with those from twenty years ago on the same TV channel can be very instructive!

From: Orban Support ~ Tech Topics

http://www.orban.com/support/orban/t..._Truth_1.3.pdf
Old 13th September 2011
  #17
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
If there's any appreciable distortion, it will actually cause an Optimod or Omnia processor turn the volume lower than it would otherwise be! Comparing contemporary music videos with those from twenty years ago on the same TV channel can be very instructive!

From: Orban Support ~ Tech Topics

http://www.orban.com/support/orban/t..._Truth_1.3.pdf
True! Let Optimod do some work otherwise your commercial mix sound quieter than the other ads in the break. I used to smash my stuff with the L2, but not now. Leave some dynamic range there for the station's process chain to get to work on. It will sound louder than if you leather it yourself trust me.
Old 22nd September 2011
  #18
Here for the gear
 

i mix for tv and radio. I use izotope and set it to minus 4 and sounds good (like the rest) on air. Well, at least most of the time...
Old 2nd October 2011
  #19
Bump... Very interesting, especially what the Orban does. I knew there was multi-band limiting going on but wow, a lot more.

I mix promos for TV and of course there are broadcast limiters. Anyone know what limiters and levels are generally used? We send -10.
Old 3rd October 2011
  #20
Most of the stuff we do for national spots is set a -6bBFS for peaks. We have not had any complaints and when I hear it on air it sounds good. I think if you "overdue" it and smash it then it will sound worse once it hits the station's Optimod setup. FWIW and YMMV
Old 3rd October 2011
  #21
Lives for gear
 

The few times I've mixed radio spots, i've always asked for a spec, and the only reply I've received is......."WAVs please"

As a result I've sent mixes at -10, -6 and -0.1 to see if I could get one rejected and they've always sounded just as good/bad as the spots around it and always been accepted just fine.
Old 6th October 2011
  #22
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Airon's Avatar
 

To show you the amount of normalization an Orban or similar devices achieve, here's a little story.

Over 15 years ago the station engineer of a major station here in Berlin showed me just how much the broadcast processor(Orban) actually mattered.

He pulled down the master station fader, the one that goes to the processor at the broadcast tower miles away, by 20-30 db. We were monitoring the broadcast signal and nothing changed during that slow pull back.

Then he shot the fader back up and you heard a brief small swell of loudness, but a second later it was back to normal.

So aside from how it sounds, and thanks for the information there gentlemen, it almost doesn't matter a dingos kidney at what level your spot delivered at.
Old 6th October 2011
  #23
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

A friend of mine in California recorded some radio spots with a very very famous actor. As is common, they recorded and edited a "donut" track and then local details for each station to be spliced in.

A few weeks later he got a frantic phone call. The sponsor needed a few additional cities to splice in and the actor had been recorded in New York because of his other commitments. It seems the lines that had been recorded in New York were playing back at a much lower volume over the the air than the donut track that had been recorded in California in spite of everything sounding properly balanced in the studio.

To make a long story short, my friend had recorded the actor with a boom mike and absolutely no limiting or compression. The New York engineer had miked him a bit closer and applied several dB. of limiting. The very subtle high frequency distortion caused by the limiting was causing the broadcast processor to turn those lines down several dB!
Old 7th October 2011
  #24
Gear Guru
 
UnderTow's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
A friend of mine in California recorded some radio spots with a very very famous actor. As is common, they recorded and edited a "donut" track and then local details for each station to be spliced in.

A few weeks later he got a frantic phone call. The sponsor needed a few additional cities to splice in and the actor had been recorded in New York because of his other commitments. It seems the lines that had been recorded in New York were playing back at a much lower volume over the the air than the donut track that had been recorded in California in spite of everything sounding properly balanced in the studio.
Never mind radio processing, how did the client remember exactly how loud the spot sounded on-air in each city and how did he/she even determine this? That is an much neater trick! ;-)

Alistair
Old 7th October 2011
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by UnderTow View Post
Never mind radio processing, how did the client remember exactly how loud the spot sounded on-air in each city and how did he/she even determine this? That is an much neater trick! ;-)

Alistair
Some people have "calibrated ears". I worked with a blind audio engineer while at college. He would ask me to set the console up for a VU/100%modulation and then he would run the show never going over 0 VU. It did not seem to matter to him if it were stereo or mono he just was that good. I have seen others do the same thing.
Old 7th October 2011
  #26
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by UnderTow View Post
how did the client remember exactly how loud the spot sounded on-air in each city ...
The inserted lines were pushed to a lower enough volume level by the Orban for them to sound like an edit when they hadn't at the studio or in the client's reference file.
Old 7th October 2011
  #27
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundfx View Post
I'm with Dallas on this one, with a heavy Network TV BG as well. Haven't done a national radio spot in a year or so, but in the past, I mixed them all like a CD up to -1dBFS and it was fine. They will do their best to make it sound like garbage regardless. Such is the nature of radio (which no one listens to anymore anyway, so who cares?)
i read a paper that said the stations using eg orban compressor
will make everything the same level no matter what

the hot mixes sound worse
normal mixes get boosted to be as loud but sound good

conclusion
for radio it makes no sense to try to squash the ceiling trying to be louder - you lose when they play it
Old 7th October 2011
  #28
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Airon View Post
To show you the amount of normalization an Orban or similar devices achieve, here's a little story.

Over 15 years ago the station engineer of a major station here in Berlin showed me just how much the broadcast processor(Orban) actually mattered.

He pulled down the master station fader, the one that goes to the processor at the broadcast tower miles away, by 20-30 db. We were monitoring the broadcast signal and nothing changed during that slow pull back.

Then he shot the fader back up and you heard a brief small swell of loudness, but a second later it was back to normal.

So aside from how it sounds, and thanks for the information there gentlemen, it almost doesn't matter a dingos kidney at what level your spot delivered at.
its worse than that
hot mixes get distorted by the stations processing
normal mixes get made louder

they all sound as loud when played
but normal mixes sound good
hot mixes are hideous when aired
Old 7th October 2011
  #29
Gear Guru
 
UnderTow's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
The inserted lines were pushed to a lower enough volume level by the Orban for them to sound like an edit when they hadn't at the studio or in the client's reference file.
I'm guessing that might be the work of the phase rotators but I could be wrong...

Alistair
Old 9th October 2011
  #30
I mix promos for tv. From what I've heard there is some limiting to make sure things don't spike and are below highest spec. But please tell me they don't use these multiband radio-type processors for broadcast? We hit things pretty hard, otherwise they are rejected...
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