Delivering files to online services like YouTube is, more or less, the wild west in terms of audio levels. Not so, however, if you're delivering to broadcast. Depending on where you live in the world, you may have to deal with one or another of the standards out there, and it isn’t like the old days any more.
Back in the classic Final Cut days, averaging around -12 dB and peaking around -6dB was a “good enough” rule of thumb, unless someone told you otherwise. Today though, average audio levels are much more important than peak levels, and FCP X doesn't ship with the meter you’ll probably need to use. There are a few paid options out there, including one from Klangfreund and another from Waves, but if you only occasionally deliver to broadcast, there’s a free option you can use instead, from Youlean.
The Youlean Loudness Meter, which has version 2 currently in beta, supports all the major standards for delivery in various parts of the world, including the catchily named ITU-R BS.1770-4, EBU R128 and even Australia’s OP-59.
Currently, there’s a bug — but hey, it's a beta. On default settings, every time you press play, the standard resets to EBU R128. There's an easy fix, though: pick your region's local standard, then just save a preset from the menu at the top of the plug-in’s dialog, and it’ll stick forever. No big deal.
It’s easy to use. Once your ad is signed off any ready for final mixing, wrap up your timeline in a compound clip, add a compressor like AUDynamicsProcessor or AUMultibandCompressor, and then Youlean Loudness Meter after any other effects. Let the whole timeline play, and you’ll see a graph appear as the levels change, along with the LUFS or LKFS readout that you need to measure loudness over time.
Importantly, the loudness meter isn’t affected by any on-clip volume controls, so you’ll need to use gain and other controls inside your effects to hit the audio level your standard requires. If needed, dip back into the compound clip to adjust individual clips, and you’ll get there soon enough.
Keep up with the betas as they are released, and consider throwing some money the developer’s way too. Grab it now.
Iain Anderson is an Apple Certified Trainer, videographer, editor, animator, writer, designer and occasional coder based in Brisbane, Australia. http://www.trainingbrisbane.com and @funwithstuff on Twitter.
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- Tags: atsc, audio, bestof, broadcast, cinema, compressor, delivery, dynamic, ebu, itu-r, levels, loudness, meter, op-59, tv