Belgian broadcasters switch to EBU R 128 Loudness normalization
22 August 2012
As of this week the programmes of all French-speaking national broadcasters in Belgium (RTBF, RTL-TVI and BeTV) are normalized according to EBU R 128, the world-class Loudness Recommendation created by the EBU PLOUD Group.
Belgium has the peculiarity of being split into three different audio-visual areas: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the North, French-speaking Wallonia in the south and a German-speaking area to the east. The modes of media consumption are different in each of these three areas. The viewers of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation watch a lot of French television broadcasts, such as those shown by the RTBF. These include English language series dubbed in France, and thus already normalized to EBU R128 (France introduced EBU R 128 earlier this year). This meant that the French-speaking Belgian channels had been juggling with two audio standards.
And although this situation differs from the situation in Flanders (where viewers do not watch content from the Netherlands so much), it is expected that the Dutch-speaking Belgian broadcasters (VRT, VTM and SBS) will adopt EBU R 128 soon too, likely early in 2013.
RTBF is a pioneer on the loudness subject and has been closely following the work of the EBU PLOUD group. Early tests with R 128 in mid 2011 had already convinced the broadcaster that viewer complaints could be reduced to zero. So a plan was implemented to introduce the necessary tools at all stages of audio production, from recording to broadcasting, and to make sure the staff was up-to-speed with what loudness measurement and normalization entails exactly. This is actually easier than it may seem, as the R 128 Loudness measurement algorithm fits well with the human perception of loudness. Or in a slight variation on the words of the famous Belgian audio mixer Jacques Clisse: "The best sound [level difference] is the one which is not noticeable".
More to follow
From end of this month the main German and Austrian broadccasters will switch to R 128 too; the launch is planned during the IFA in Berlin.
EBU Loudness Recommendation R 128 was produced by the EBU PLOUD group. It, along with several supporting documents, deals with the way loudness is measured and controlled in broadcast audio. It recommends that audio should be normalized using Loudness meters instead of Peak Meters, which has been the common practise.
The EBU is sponsoring this free session at IBC 2012 on Monday 10 September. Join The Loudness Breakfast to catch on some of the latest audio industry developments around this topic.