Thursday 24 January 2013

On The Subject Of Loudness

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here.  Not because I had nothing interesting to say, it’s just that it’s been incredibly busy.  Every year I seem to say that the last year has been the busiest ever, and then the next one is even busier.  Anyway, busy is good!

Every year, Sony Worldwide Studios runs an internal tech conference alongside the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.  I spoke there a couple of years ago on the problems we as developers, publishers and platform holders had with loudness on our platforms.

At the same conference, the subject of loudness was raised by another couple of speakers, and we decided there and then to form a group to look at the issues.

So in March 2011, the Sony Worldwide Studios Audio Standards Working Group (ASWG) was formed, consisting of Gene Semel & Marc Senasac (SCEA), Keiichi Kitahara (SCEJ) and myself representing SCEE.  The first task we set ourselves was to address our loudness problem.

In the last couple of years we’ve made considerable progress.  Firstly, we studied the state of loudness in current media, measuring the loudness of over 120 games, TV shows, films and adverts.  In November 2012 released our first paper entitled ‘Average loudness and peak levels of audio content on Sony Computer Entertainment platforms’, based on the ITU-R BS.1770 and EBU R128 specs.

Measuring the loudness of interactive content is an inexact science, and we’ve been working with closely with our own First Party Quality Assurance departments on how to effectively measure the loudness of the titles we develop and publish.

Internally, our recommendations have been adopted by all first party studios, worldwide.  They’ve also been received very well by the wider industry, and we’re currently in discussions with a number of industry bodies about wider adoption.

So, I’m doing a number of talks over the next couple of months about the work we’ve been doing, and how we measure loudness in interactive media, both in production and at QA.

On Thursday 7th Feb 2013, I’m speaking at the Audio Engineering Society 49th International Conference on Audio for Games in London with an imaginatively titled talk, ‘Measuring Loudness in Interactive Entertainment’.  I’m also on a panel the same day entitled 'Theoretical,Technical & Practical Frameworks for Interactive Mixing: A Moderated PanelDiscussion', with Tom Colvin, Jon Olive, Xavier Buffoni, Stephan Sch├╝tze and moderated by John Broomhall.

At the end of March, I’m at the 2013 Game Developers Conference at the Moscone Centre, San Francisco hosting the Audio Boot Camp with Scott Selfon from Microsoft.  I’m also on a couple of panels; the first with Mark Yeend (Head of Audio, Microsoft), Gordon Durity (Audio Director, EA) and Adam Boyd (Audio Director, Activision) about loudness standards in the games industry, where we’re at and the progress we’ve made so far. The second is entitled 'How to Mix a Video Game - And Not Die Trying' with Juan Peralta (Skywalker Sound) and Rob Bridgett.

Once this two months of madness is done I'll post up a transcript of my loudness talk here.