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Richard Addis | Halo Post
Re-inventing audio loudness monitoring at Halo Post
- Original article first appeared in The Broadcast Bridge
Having just passed its 10-year anniversary, HALO Post is not only one of London’s busiest post houses but also one of the most acclaimed. We draw a diverse array of clientele ranging from TV dramas, entertainment, and documentaries to feature films, commercials, and animation producers. Our team offers a powerful combination of post know-how, creative talent, and the technical excellence required to service all these distinct genres. Our clients count on us as a uniquely adaptable, versatile, and dependable post-production partner, and these qualities have paid off; HALO is a consistent finalist and 2014 winner of the U.K.’s Broadcast Award for Best Post Production House.
Audio loudness has become a critical point of focus for HALO now that broadcast loudness has become standardised throughout Europe and North America. For European television, the EBU R128 recommendation is based on the average loudness across the duration of the program and allows for a maximum peak program level of -1dBTP. The good news for our clients and their viewers is that the R128 recommendation affords more creative freedom with the dynamic range of the sound mix, resulting in audio that is not only compliant, but more pleasing to the ear.
Recently, we needed to tune our audio workflows to accommodate these new loudness requirements, which meant taking a different approach to mixing and measuring audio levels. We sought the most effective tools on the market for loudness metering, measurement, and correction that also could integrate well into HALO’s Avid Pro Tools editing and mixing workflows. After evaluating several products, we have outfitted all eight HALO mixing rooms with NUGEN Audio’s Loudness Toolkit, consisting of the VisLM-H meter, LM-Correct quick-fix tool, and ISL true peak limiter.
We explored many different hardware and software options but all roads kept leading back to the NUGEN Audio tools. Not only are the plug-ins highly flexible, but they are so much more intuitive and easier to use than other options. Plus, the tools’ tight integration with Avid Pro Tools has enabled us to implement loudness monitoring measures that fit with existing workflows.
VisLM is a visual loudness metering plug-in that offers detailed and objective loudness measurement, history, and logging facilities in compliance with ITU, ATSC, and EBU standards. As the primary loudness monitoring plug-in at HALO Post, VisLM provides a visual, at-a-glance reference for audio levels. The logging functions in VisLM are fantastic compared with other solutions. We can log according to many different parameters, and true peak violations are very visible directly from the plug-in or inline in a Pro Tools session. Especially for projects with tight turnaround, VisLM gives us feedback and accurate readings on where a mix is sitting at any given time, and it provides a complete graphical representation of the entire session to quickly reorient our mixers with regards to the programme as a whole. This is especially useful after concentrating on one complex, dynamic section of the mix or at the start of a new day.
HALO Post uses the NUGEN Audio ISL inter-sample true-peak limiter and LM-Correct as a “final check” to ensure that audio has compliant average and peak levels at the end of a mix. ISL gives us one final assurance that the mix is hitting the specifications, and LM Correct is a great tool for making quick adjustments to a very fast turnaround job, such as a program that’s going to be aired that same evening.
At HALO Post, we’re on a constant lookout for tools that can help us enhance the creative process while also saving time and lowering costs. The NUGEN Audio plug-ins not only complement our existing workflows, but the tools just work – and that’s the highest praise you can give. We can set them and forget them, and we have a high level of trust that they will perform as advertised without our having to constantly check on them. They are clearly laid out, intuitive, and very easy to manipulate when working with various international delivery specifications. The plug-ins offer us a final safety net to ensure that we are delivering high-quality, dynamically pleasing audio, every time.
Richard Addis is head of audio operations at HALO Post.
Mix & Mastering