The loudness question
The raft of regulations that have been implemented around the world has made loudness one of the hottest topics in the broadcast industry. Broadcasters are thinking in an ever more global manner and need their content to be compliant where ever it is transmitted. As such, adherence to international regulations, such as the CALM Act (ATSC A/85) in the US, EBU R128 in Europe and the more global ITU BS.1770-3 has become commonplace.
Indeed, it is compliance to these regulations that formed a central part to the recent upgrade at Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI). Transmitting 12 channels on a local, regional and international basis meant that the broadcaster needed to be very aware of the regulations. And when it was looking to make the upgrade to a 3G-SDI infrastructure it decided to tackle loudness control at the same time.
‘DMI are trying to follow the regulations for loudness standards, especially as they are transmitting 12 channels,’ says Mohamed Hamid, projects sales manager for Dubai-based systems integrator Qvest Media – the company responsible for the installation. ‘To maintain the same sound, they have to use loudness control. For DMI the loudness control is not optional now, it is mandatory for all on-air channels. For all their channels they are now using Orban as their standard product.’
Rather than the SI, it was the broadcaster that selected the Orban Optimod-TV 8685 surround loudness controller as its loudness solution. ‘The selection of the product was advised by one of the customer’s audio experts. He had tested it and was happy with the quality of Orban devices,’ recalls Mr Hamid. ‘It gave him the facility to have audio control in a wide range of parameters, especially in audio colouring techniques. This is why he selected Orban when compared to other competitors.’
While this was a choice from the broadcaster, the installer has also seen the benefits of using the product. ‘At the moment some of DMI’s channels are still running in an SD format and others are in HD because we could not change the format immediately. But for all the channels there is the capability to be SD and HD. This is why we had the product from Orban, it offers really high-end loudness control and processing,’ says Mr Hamid. ‘It gave us the facility for a multi-format input. We could have an SD or an HD signal and the audio processing will happen on any of these signals.
‘This was my first time working with Orban in the region and I found that they give good support,’ continues Mr Hamid. ‘DMI’s workflow is not a standard workflow, and it is not a single format – the signal may change for any of the channels at any time. With the support of Orban we were able to get rid of all of the issues with this very quickly.’
Of course, loudness control was only a small part of a much larger project for Qvest. ‘We upgraded their existing 12 channels into a 3G-SDI system plus we added all the 12 channels to the workflow of their playout and ingest systems. Before, only five of the channels were managed by automation, but now all the channels are under file-based control systems,’ explains the project sales manager. ‘The project also involved an upgrade of DMI’s automation system and an upgrade of the archiving solution.’
With this portion of the project, Qvest has installed a main router from Snell with a backup device from Evertz. Evertz has also provided all the HD and SD processing units as well as the multi-viewers while the production mixers are from EMC. On the automation side, control for all of the channels is from Pebble Beach. Storage has been divided into two sections, the central storage is from Omneon MediaGrid while the archive storage sees a combination of Spectra Logic and Front Porch Diva.
While the selection and installation of the equipment was a simple enough process, the way the new systems were rolled out required the most planning. ‘We were doing a channel every 10 days. There would be a few days preparation before, a few days switching over, we did two or three days monitoring and then moved on to the next channel,’ explains Mr Hamid.
‘The main challenge with this project was the different workflows for each channel and switching over from the old to new system,’ he continues. ‘Each channel has its own workflow and each channel has transmission and scheduling teams, so you have to organise before switching from the old to the new that all these guys are aware, you have to understand how they work and when is the right time for each team to do this switch over.’
Reflecting on what has been an interesting challenging installation, Mr Hamid is clearly satisfied. ‘I am very happy with the end results. The project was successful and went as expected. There were issues during the project, but it achieved the target and the customer is happy. And if the customer gets what it wants and is happy, then I am happy – that’s my goal.’