CALM Act is now law - is the "loud commercial" problem fixed? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 40 Old 12-16-2012, 12:30 AM - Thread Starter
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The day came and went without much fanfare -- as of Thursday, the CALM Act became law. No more loud commercials, or at least not louder than the program. I am wondering if this will eliminate the loud commercial complaints once and for all? Have the complaints died down in the last year as stations moved towards compliance? As TV viewers, do you think things are better now? If you work for a TV station, are you receiving fewer (or no) complaints?

I wonder who will be the first to get dinged for running a loud spot?
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post #2 of 40 Old 12-16-2012, 09:41 AM
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I'll be curious to see how it plays out. In my personal experience, many cables providers fixed it long ago (I've seen as such on Comcast and Suddenlink). However, OTA channels still had the problem in my local (Austin) market.
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post #3 of 40 Old 12-16-2012, 11:17 AM
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My experience was the opposite. The networks had it worked out but the local insertion commercials were louder on ComCast. They do seem to have CALMed down,
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post #4 of 40 Old 12-16-2012, 03:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Interesting that there are several different issues in play here. First is when watching a single channel -- the commercials should match the program. Second is the matching of levels from channel-to-channel, so you don't have to adjust the volume when switching channels. Third is probably the most difficult to control -- the LOCAL insertion of material by cable/satellite companies. That stuff needs to match the level of the channel into which they are inserting. I've heard plenty of problems with that in the past.

Things seem to be better to be sure, though my big beef about the whole thing is that most entities have taken the easy way out, and started compressing the life out of their audio. TV sounds worse than ever, in my opinion. The levels may match, but it's all equally bad. This isn't how the system was intended to work, but that's the way it ended up. The major networks seem to have done things right, but with the exception of FOX, the audio is going to get mangled (by most stations) before the home viewer gets it. Since the vast majority of people don't seem to care about audio quality (other than matching levels), I guess this isn't a problem.
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post #5 of 40 Old 01-07-2013, 08:34 PM
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I think commercials are even louder now than they were before. Sometimes you can hear the volume level gradually getting louder as the first commercial begins and then softer again when the program starts. They should rewrite the law to be more specific and say that no volume level during a commercial can be louder than the average level of the program.
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post #6 of 40 Old 01-08-2013, 02:56 PM
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That's what the law already says. The perceived level of the commercial must not be louder than the programming just preceding it.
They average the perceived level for a time period before the commercial, to get an average.

Ken English, Sr. Engineer, KSL-TV.
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post #7 of 40 Old 01-08-2013, 03:12 PM
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What I've noticed, at least on the FOX affiliate here, is that some of the commercials that are in 5.1 have REALLY loud side channels. Loud enough that my wife and I looked at each other and said "WTF?". Then the next commercial is fine and seems to be discrete 5.1 and pretty much at the same loudness as the live news. I noticed this mostly around Christmas time and not so much lately but right after CALM was to go into effect, the commercial oddity became very apparent. It was only only on FOX though so maybe their engineers were having some issues.
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post #8 of 40 Old 01-09-2013, 05:46 AM
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Broadcasters are now required to compress the hell out of everything, most are using Evertz intelligain cards, which are brutal! ...dynamic range is about 6dB now.
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post #9 of 40 Old 01-09-2013, 07:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SAM64 View Post

Broadcasters are now required to compress the hell out of everything, most are using Evertz intelligain cards, which are brutal! ...dynamic range is about 6dB now.

Compression is the cheap and easy way to be compliant, but it is not "required". Broadcasters will continue to do it if it stops the complaints, so if you don't like it complain to the offending stations and make a nuisance of yourself. Complaining here will get you nowhere.
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post #10 of 40 Old 01-09-2013, 07:52 PM
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I suspect that's what KPIX(San Francisco-CBS) is doing as their audio has nearly zero dynamic range.
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post #11 of 40 Old 01-10-2013, 04:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spwace View Post

Compression is the cheap and easy way to be compliant, but it is not "required". Broadcasters will continue to do it if it stops the complaints, so if you don't like it complain to the offending stations and make a nuisance of yourself. Complaining here will get you nowhere.

Where did I complain? What's your problem? If compression is not required, how are they to comply with the act? Which broadcast facility do you work for?
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post #12 of 40 Old 01-10-2013, 12:01 PM
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Many (dare I say most) broadcasters don't know the difference between loudness and dynamics. In analog TV they squashed the life out of everything with an automatic gain control. It "kept them legal," just like their FM brothers. Digital TV has always been able to manage loudness without removing dynamics, but many of those same broadcasters just ignored the tools and bought digital versions of their analog squashers. They were told that squashers would stop the phone from ringing, It did, but at what sonic cost?

Once again, processing manufacturers have ruined TV audio.
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post #13 of 40 Old 01-10-2013, 02:32 PM
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post #14 of 40 Old 01-10-2013, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by kenglish View Post

That's what the law already says. The perceived level of the commercial must not be louder than the programming just preceding it.
They average the perceived level for a time period before the commercial, to get an average.

Now if we could just get a fade to black with silence at the preceding part of the programming. THAT would solve the problem! My 98 year old uncle increases the intelligence level of the commercials by hitting the MUTE button.
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post #15 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 08:09 AM
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Unfortunately, the Broadcasters are ignoring this. I phoned in a complaint to the FCC and they sent me a letter telling me that I didn't provide all the needed information(my state being among the information they say was missing.) If this were the case, how did their letter get to me. Additionally, the information for the complaint was taken by a FCC employee. If any infomation was missing it was due to the employee not asking the question or not writing down the info. Now the commercial volumes are back to prelaw levels, if not louder. Just another example of how companies now run this country.
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post #16 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 08:22 AM
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As companies/advertisers(which are just as much to blame as the broadcasters) are ignoring the law and the FCC isn't doing much about it, I have an idea to solve this problem. Take it out on the advertisers. You make a loud commercial, I stop buying your product. When companies start noticing a drop in sales, they will stop making loud commercials, and will tell the broadcasters to lower the volume. Obviously this law is not working, and most likely has loopholes in it anyway. This same strategy can be implemented to get companies to do other things as well. You can't trust a company to do the right thing on their own. You have to force them.

Remember when customer service use to exist at companies? If a customer had problems with the product that they bought, they could call/write the company in question and they would jump through hoops to correct the problem. Now, you are asked to spend your own money to send the product back, sit on a phone for obscene amounts of time, fill out request forms and basically, anything else the company can think of to discourage a person from ever complaining again.

If they do something illegal, tort reform keeps them from paying fines or damages that amount to any sort of deterent to keep them from repeating the same or additional crimes. To me the only recourse we seem to have is to hit them where it hurts; sales! If everyone starts boycotting companies that do unethical things/annoying things we can get the changes that we want.
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post #17 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 09:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sorthious View Post

I have an idea to solve this problem. ..

Me too.. Buy a Tv with a MUTE button on the remote..not only does it get rid of loud commercials, it makes the stupid ones much more tolerable..smile.gif

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post #18 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:02 PM
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It appears that your part of the problem. It's people like you that will let companies walk all over you that are the reason they can and do. And, prey tell, what do I tell the rest of the household after they've been awakened by a commercial that is nearly 2x as loud as what I was watching? Narrow minds are the reason we have problems like these.
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post #19 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:15 PM
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I'm just a practical real-ist. smile.gif

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post #20 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:18 PM
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Stations have had to spend many tens of thousands of dollars each on the CALM Act compliance over the last few months, not to mention the continuing man-hours that it takes. Most of their engineers are working unpaid overtime to make it all work properly. Complaining to the FCC might get the station fined (more likely, it just requires them to do more paperwork, replying to the FCC), but it will just take an engineer away from trying to get the problem fixed.
Call the station's engineers, and talk to them. Let them know what issues you are hearing, including time/date and some details. That's how to get a problem fixed.

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post #21 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hphase View Post

Many (dare I say most) broadcasters don't know the difference between loudness and dynamics. In analog TV they squashed the life out of everything with an automatic gain control. It "kept them legal," just like their FM brothers. Digital TV has always been able to manage loudness without removing dynamics, but many of those same broadcasters just ignored the tools and bought digital versions of their analog squashers. They were told that squashers would stop the phone from ringing, It did, but at what sonic cost?

Once again, processing manufacturers have ruined TV audio.

Excessive audio processing makes as much sense as painting everything on the set (including the talent) the same color (to put it in "visual" terms).
wink.gif

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post #22 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenglish View Post

Stations have had to spend many tens of thousands of dollars each on the CALM Act compliance over the last few months, not to mention the continuing man-hours that it takes. Most of their engineers are working unpaid overtime to make it all work properly. Complaining to the FCC might get the station fined (more likely, it just requires them to do more paperwork, replying to the FCC), but it will just take an engineer away from trying to get the problem fixed.
Call the station's engineers, and talk to them. Let them know what issues you are hearing, including time/date and some details. That's how to get a problem fixed.

Well said Ken. The problem we have is the viewer usually can't tell us the exact channel, time, date, commercial and or program.

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post #23 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:51 PM
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Thats the problem, it's not isolated to one particular channel or provider. I have DirectTV and it started out in Compliance. Now they are louder than they were before the law went into effect. I have friends who have Comcast and same problem. I don't expect the decibel level to be EXACTLY the same as the program without any variation in dynamics. But, I do expect to be able to watch TV without waking the entire household! I am, after all, the Consumer and not the other way around.

These companies had 2 years to come into compliance, there is no excuse for having to tweak it now. If I can control every aspect of my audio on my home system, why is it so difficult for a broadcaster to do the same? I'm not blaming the employees, they just do what their jobs entail. I blame the companies as wholes. Glib solutions like "Use the Mute Button" does nothing but put the issue on the backs of the consumer and basically, tells them to 'deal with it.'

Many 10's of Thousands over the last few months? Sounds like they procrastinated on fixing the issue. Again, been more than 2years since the law was passed. There are very few companies out there that can't afford to fix the problem. You could even specify audio levels that the advertisers have to adhere to as part of the terms of playing them. It's not as complicated as people want to make it.
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post #24 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sorthious View Post

Thats the problem, it's not isolated to one particular channel or provider. I have DirectTV and it started out in Compliance. Now they are louder than they were before the law went into effect. I have friends who have Comcast and same problem. I don't expect the decibel level to be EXACTLY the same as the program without any variation in dynamics. But, I do expect to be able to watch TV without waking the entire household! I am, after all, the Consumer and not the other way around.
Actually, you're not the consumer, you're the product. It's the advertisers that are the real consumers in this, they buy airtime to get your eyeballs, the TV show is the medium that makes that happen. While the viewer is an important part of the scheme, it's the advertisers that pay the station's bills, not you.
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post #25 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 12:58 PM
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[quote name="Sorthious" url="/t/1445611/calm-act-is-now-law-is-the-loud-commercial-problem-fixed#post_23044276" It's not as complicated as people want to make it.[/quote]

Then why does the problem still exist if " It's not as complicated as people want to make it" ?

I agree with you on DirecTv..their PPV Promo inserts in "The FOX Report" daily @ 7pm are way off.

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post #26 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 01:00 PM
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Call the station's engineers, and talk to them. Let them know what issues you are hearing, including time/date and some details. That's how to get a problem fixed.

This, again, is what I'm talking about. Trying to place the onus on the consumer. People get discouraged when they call to complain and spend hours on a phone, are hung up on, are told they didn't provide all the proper information,etc. I tried complaining to the FCC and again, incompetence prevails.

As I stated before, the problem was "FIXED" on DirectTV right after the law went into effect. Then, as the weeks went by the volume started getting jacked back up. This is not an issue of tweaking, or tracking some ghost in the machine. This is not an issue with one or two particular channels. If you refuse to acknowledge the problem, how can you fix it?
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post #27 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 01:02 PM
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Oh, I wasn't aware that I wasn't paying for the service...thank you for clearing that up....I will just cancel it and go to online TV, where I know how to block the commercials outright! (^8
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post #28 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 01:08 PM
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Maybe, it's done willfully? Say, for instance, advertiser X says, you play my commercial loud and I'll pay whatever fines you receive. DirectTV being the owner of the system takes the 'risk' of being fined on their own. The fines are so low, in light of the amounts that advertisers will pay for commercial time, that there is nothing to deter them from playing loud commercials.
Quote:
Then why does the problem still exist if " It's not as complicated as people want to make it" ?

Well, as I stated previously, the problem DID NOT exist after the law went into effect. As this is your field, I'm willing to listen to plausible explanations as to why the volume went back up.
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post #29 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 01:18 PM
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As far as the station is concerned, they are "in compliance", so they need feedback from the viewer to track down any problems.
If you can call the FCC, you can call the station and talk to someone who is knowledgeable about the situation, and is in a position to give you answers , or fix the problem.
Not every station has it, but the major ones have logging systems that allow the engineers to go back and analyze the program, so they can look at specific instances.

As for "time".....the manufacturers are still making initial deliveries of the equipment to stations, Cable companies, and satellite operators. There was not a lot of lead time on all this. After the law was finalized, the equipment had to be designed, tested, manufactured and installed. It's also possible that DirecTV (and others) have increased their overall levels as part of putting thing in compliance with the law......we are all supposed to match in average levels. That's not to say that every show will have the exact same volume as all others, but the averages of all the shows should be in the same range.
BTW, the averages are across the whole show, not just a scene or a segment. A show that has lots of dynamic range will still average at a certain level, and the commercials will average similarly....."Loud show, loud commercials". They figure, you have set your TV to a comfortable level with the program, the commercials can be at the same average level, too.

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post #30 of 40 Old 03-05-2013, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
It's not as complicated as people want to make it.

Clearly you don't understand the process.



Do you really think sattelite distributers and cable companies have a right to make changes to someone elses signal?

the issue with 'loud commercials' is perceived loudness due to compression...compression introduced by the commercial producer, not the broadcaster.
The actual levels are below the level that results in overmodulation.
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