Audio@WorldCup Q&A: HBS’ Christian Gobbel on implementing R128

In the first of two audio-specific interviews, HBS’ senior engineering manager Christian Gobbel discusses the inaugural implementation at the World Cup of EBU Loudness Recommendation R128, which informs broadcasters how to measure and normalise audio using loudness meters instead of peak meters, as had previously been standard practice.

Essentially recommending the normalisation of audio at -23 LUFS ±0.5 LU (±1 LU for live programmes), measured with a relative gate at -10 LU, EBU R128 was published in August 2010 and has since been widely adopted by broadcasters worldwide. There was little question, then, that World Cup host broadcaster HBS would also seek to implement it at the 2014 tournament.

The process started with a pair of two-day workshops in which we “invited all senior guarantee engineers and audio mixers from audio teams [involved with the World Cup] to come along and find out how we think R128 should be implemented. After all, even the name says it is a recommendation and that implies there are various interpretations, and some of those might be wrong interpretations… right from the beginning, we knew it was vital to get the right guidelines in place.

“The overall emphasis was on engineers creating their mixes within certain comfort zones, so that if an audience is getting excited it should get a little louder. But if gets it louder for a long time, and we move out of the comfort zone, the engineer starts reducing elements we have defined as being related to the comfort zone.

“The basic message to mixers, then, was that we want a lively mix but that momentary loudness within the comfort zone [is preferred], although without the listener at home having to increase or decrease the volume of their speakers. For engineers, delivering these great mixes also requires them to set their speakers right [at the start] and not mix against their own ears.

“The result is that we have done away with all this brick-wall limiting and so on, and instead encouraged engineers to trust their ears. As a consequence, I believe that we are in the process of delivering a fantastic-sounding World Cup.”

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