Editors, Production Heads Meet with DG To
Review File-based Protocol, CALM Act
In two events in New York last week, SourceEcreative and
parent company DG met with post production pros and
agency heads of production on key technical issues.
By Anthony Vagnoni
In two invitation-only events held at Soho House in New York last week, a team of top executives from DG, the digital technology company that dominates the market for distributing advertising content to stations and networks, met with groups of people from the post production community as well as the agency production side of the business to talk about key issues facing both. The first of the two meetings was billed as "A Meeting of the Minds," and it proved to be just that-a chance for members of the post production community to talk with some of DG's top technical people on issues revolving around the transition to file-based spot delivery.
About two dozen people from post houses in New York as well as outside the city attended, along with Burke Moody, Executive Director of AICE, the Association of Independent Creative Editors. The group included editors, IT directors, EPs and assistant editors. They met with DG's David Unsworth, Senior V.P. for Satellite and Technical Operations, and Mark Paci, Senior V.P. of Regional Operations. The meeting was co-sponsored by SourceEcreative (of which DG is its parent company) and AICE. Also attending was Mike Caprio, Senior V.P., Sales for DG, and Pamela Maythenyi, founder of SourceEcreative.
Unsworth gave a presentation that basically followed the life of a TV spot from time it's submitted to DG to when it's distributed to broadcasters. The presentation focuses on areas like quality control, the resolution of problems with file and the preferred or supported formats for file delivery from post houses.
DG's Paci noted that the company will be introducing a new upload app for companies ingesting ad content that will help speed the process of sending in digital files via the web. Both he and Unsworth also talked at length about DG's willingness to meet with members of the post community to help smooth the process to file-based submission of TV spots, and they pointed out that, despite the tape shortages that have arisen since the tsunami in Japan crippled Sony's ability to manufacture HD-CAM videotape, most of the spots submitted to DG still arrive in a tape format.
Overall, the tone of the meeting was amiable and informative, with questions running the gamut from file specs to how people at post production houses could best connect with people at DG for answers to various questions about submitting client work. Speaking afterwards, AICE's Moody said he felt one of the most important benefits to the meeting was that it opened up a dialogue between the post community, the organization and DG, which is of particular concern now that there's a broader push to move spot submission to a file-based delivery method.
Heads of Production Brought up to Speed on CALM Act
Shortly after the morning meeting with members of the post production community, the same room at SoHo House was the setting for one of SourceEcreative's quarterly meetings with agency heads of production. The topic of this meeting was to bring the assembled department heads up to speed on the impending impact of the CALM Act, the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act, which was signed into law last December.
The act requires the FCC to enforce an audio standard for digital television designed to smooth out sudden spikes in volume caused by the increased dynamic range of digital television systems. Headlining the meeting was Jim Starzynski, Director and Principal Audio Engineer for NBC Universal and chairman of the subcommittee on digital television loudness of ATSC, the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which is the standard-setting organization for digital television transmission in the US, Canada, Mexico and South Korea.
Starzynski has taken a leadership role in working with members of Congress, the FCC, advertisers, AICE and members of the audio post production industry to not only determine workable standards for digital television loudness, but also on how ad agencies and post production houses can best adhere to these standards.
Also making a presentation to the heads of production was DG's Unsworth, who gave them an overview of how DG is dealing with loudness issues for TV spots that it receives on behalf of agencies and advertisers. In attendance were representatives from two New York-based audio post production studios: Sonic Union's Michael Marinelli, Senior Mixer and Partner, and Adam Barone, Managing Director and Partner, and Sound Lounge's Tom Jucarone, Mixer and Partner, and Gloria Pitagorsky, Executive Producer.
Starzynski's presentation was a detailed overview of how the CALM Act came into being and how advertisers and their agencies can make sure that their TV spots are in compliance. The main take away from the presentation was that all TV spots need to be mixed to a digital audio standard that, while voluntary, was selected by ATSC to minimize any potential problems that arise from the broadcast of TV spots. (To view a PDF on the CALM Act and how it will impact audio mixing, click here.)
The adherence to this standard is key, noted DG's Unsworth, since the Fox TV network in the US has already begun rejecting TV spots that are submitted with audio loudness levels that don't meet this standard, even though compliance with CALM Act guidelines on audio levels is not supposed to take effect until later this year.
A number of the production heads asked what impact this would have on the audio choices their creatives would want to be making on the mixes for their TV spots, particularly for commercials where the concepts called for loud events like explosions, crashes, etc. Marinelli and Jucarone responded that most audio houses are keeping their agency clients informed of the pending limitations on their mixes based on CALM Act restrictions, and that few problems are expected, although some always arise.
Other key discussions at the meeting included the use of 5.1 surround sound mixes and the eventual fold-down to two-channel stereo that occurs when the spot is actually broadcast in the viewer's home. 5.1 is the six-channel standard that's used to replicate the cinema viewing experience for home theatre set-ups, and while many spots are mixed to this standard, most broadcast outlets and cable providers collapse the mix down to stereo via set-top boxes before it's played back on your home TV. This can often create issues with the final mix and how the sound comes across when the spot is viewed.
Both Starzynski and Unsworth discussed what happens when spots are submitted for broadcast that exceed the audio limits set by ATSC; the process is called 'audio scaling' and it's essentially a flat lowering of volume across the length of the spot that brings it into compliance. Both noted that the final result of having a spot's audio track lowered in this manner may not be acceptable to advertisers, their agencies or their audio post vendors, so they urged that spots be mixed properly at inception to avoid any issues.
Published 14 June, 2011