Sunday, December 09, 2018

Compressing spoken word audio for podcasts

What a terribly lax blogger I've been over the last few months; part of that was due to a couple fo trips to Saudi to finish building a facility in Riyadh (more about that to come; did you know that protective mains earths are not mandated there?!).
Anyway - I look after a couple of podcasts (just spoken word content) and for the longest time I've been using the Conversations Network Levelator to compress the dynamic range of each clip before I import them into Audacity and then edit/normalise them before exporting as an MP3 for upload. Imagine my horror when after switching to a new (old) laptop that I installed Mojave (OS-X 10.14) onto I could no longer use The Levelator; and it's a thing - lots of folks complaining online about it, but it's abandoware so what are you going to do?

 You upgrade the OS and some software stops working...!

 People listen to podcast in noisy environments; in cars, on the bus in earbuds and in other non-ideal listening environments. So, like talk radio the best thing is to compress the signal until there is almost no dynamic range and then normalise it to less than a dB under 0dBfs. Then it's a loud and punchy as it possibly could be and it'll be usable in bad listening situations. The Levelator was brilliant at doing this, but I thought I should at least roll my sleeves up and see how good the compressor in Audacity is, and blow me down it isn't bad!

After a bit of tinkering around with the ratio and threshold I arrived at these values as being best for audio that is peaking around -10dBfs (I'm a broadcast engineer, after all!) - it produces speech that still sounds OK, but has almost no dynamic range!

In this clip the band starts at around 2'15"

Sticking this .WAV file through the compressor set up (above) produced a very usable result which I then normalised before joining it to the rest of the segments of the podcast.

It looks like there is a lot of noise, but it's the sound of a very large room and on the speakers is sounds OK.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Video Compression Fundamentals; a Tech Breakfast presentation

Part of the ongoing series of Tech Breakfast presentations at Jigsaw24, Golden Square.

My notes are here and I'm available for birthdays, weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why I wouldn't buy a Sony BVM-X300 in 2018 (if it was my money)

For a couple of years the Sony BVM-X300 has been the 4k/HDR monitor of choice for Soho edit and grading suites. It is an OLED monitor and can (with some limits) hit 1,000 Cd/m2 peak white in it's HDR modes (which include HLG, Dolby PQ and SLog3 camera gamma).

It was the first monitor to be widely regarded as good enough for Dolby Vision mastering (and by extension Netflix deliverables). It was around the £20k mark when it launched, but by last year the price had crept up to mid-twenties and with the v2 of the monitor (which brought a second quad-SDi input and an HDMI input) which launched a year ago it now lists at £32k; but we all know nobody ever pays list for Sony...!

In recent months I've really taken to the Eizo CG3145 which (although an IPS/LCD monitor) is broadly similar in spec to the Sony, but; bear in mind the X300 suffers the following;
  1. Noise in the blacks; when I calibrate them I have to do blacks at 5% grey to get a clean reading (and my probe goes down to 0.01 Cd/m2) – the Eizo will read cleanly at 2% grey. Watch this video (hosted on my Twitter feed) - it's an X300 around 3 Cd/m2
  2. Max. 8% peak white before the orange PSU-fault LED comes on and the display starts to dim/de-saturate in HDR modes; at the recent Jigsaw24 I showed the "OLED killer" which you can get here.
  3. Two years in and several Soho X300s are now showing burn-in (particularly where the 3840-pixel UHD and 4096 pixel-4k rasters differ) 

£10k less list price and available now (the X300 is in such short supply that you can't get one in London currently) also add to the Eizo’s advantages. Integration with LightSpaceCMS (pretty much the industry standard for colour management) is very tight whereas the X300 only talks to Sony’s very clunky colour software (no LUT management, six-point calibration only). 

The Eizo easily allows LUT upload; this SLog3 (in slot 8) was imported via LightSpace.
ColorEdge PROMINENCE CG3145 is the first HDR monitor in the world to have its HDR and SDR reproducibility evaluated and awarded by the German Broadcast Technology Institute.

The Eizo has recently been certified as both a Dolby Vision mastering display as well as having Netflix's blessing.

One objection I've heard is that the X300 covers 85% of rec.2020 whereas the CG3145 only covers ~83%. It's the kind of objection that someone with a poor grasp of colourimetry makes. My answer to that is "MacAdam ellipses" - look at the Wikipedia article and tell me anyone can see the (Just Noticable!) differences.

At the recent HDR Summit at Dock10 in Media City, Salford we had more than ten HDR-capable displays.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Electrical Safety in Film & TV + 18th Edition; Tech Breakfast presentation

BS 7671 is the national standard to which all electrical installations should conform.  The 18th Edition IET Wiring Regulations contains important new information for all electrical installers and engineers.
In the next Tech Breakfast I focus on the 18th edition of the The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) regs, which will debut this summer & I review best practice for designing and constructing power distribution in machine rooms and remote data centres for film and TV.

Electrical safety is one thing no broadcast engineer can ignore. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

12G cabling - test results and a video presentation

I presented a recent Tech Breakfast at Jigsaw24, Golden Square. Here I detail the tests we've done across four cable types and how they perform at twelve gigabits/sec (as per SMPTE 2082-1).
We've recently taken on Leader as a manufacturer of test sets and they excel in several areas - namely UHD/4K/HDR and 12G physical layer measurements. 

 all the specs for SMPTE 2082-1

I got through all the details in the video (below and on YouTube) but you can snag my results here - if you go into the 12G folder you can see the screen grabs for all the eye patterns - the filename number related to the test line in the PDF.  The Powerpoint presentation is in there too; but if you watch the video I cut all the slides full-screen as appropriate.

 The cable types are;

SD05 - Belden 1855; otherwise known as "Image 360"
SD10 - Belden 1694
SD50 - Belden 1505; otherwise known as "Image 1000"
SD73 - Belden 7731 - about the most ungainly cable you can crimp a BNC onto!