I've just sat through three locally produced television commercials where the music tracks completely buried the narration on my Dolby tv. Anyone have some guidelines for using Dolby surround for commercials?
I'm delving into it but don't want to produce stuff that can't be heard.
"Anyone have some guidelines for using Dolby surround for commercials?"
Great question. The upcoming enforcement is quite reasonable, as the visionary television ads by Intel have already proven.
Research "ATSC A/85" (latest revision) or "CALM Act" on the internet. It becomes US law this December 10, 2011.
If you are in the EU, the precedent is EBU 128, which is very close, if "a bit" more conservative.
Once these take effect, anyone exceeding the norms past the one-year grace period will be operating illegally. That's not to say it won't happen. The less ethical of ad content producers have been testing the waters these past 10 months (been watching it closely) . . .
I'd have to say i've been blasted away by commercial volumes more in the past month than in the previous few years. I've had to mute the audio a LOT recently to keep from hurting my ears (and i like things LOUD) whereas up until about a month ago i didn't bother. The cynical part of me wants to say it's because the advertisers want to milk the time they have left. The even more cynical part wants to say that their not going to stop.
Either the local producers made a really bad non-conforming mix (possible) or...
1)there may be something wrong with your setup or
2) there has been a mistake made at the station.
1) I assume when you say "I have a Dolby TV" you mean you have a tv attached to a 5.1 speaker setup right? Not a 2 speaker setup with some crazy simulated dolby garbage. If it's the crazy simulated dolby - just turn it off. It's about the same as watching regular tv with red/blue 3d glasses and complaining that there's a red / blue tint.
But if you have true 5.1 surround setup, and the station plays a commercial with surround, your TV will not do anything to the signal, it will just play it in surround.
Typically no music is placed in the centre speaker, it's mainly in the 2 fronts and a little in the rears. Dialogue is pretty much universally standardised to the centre speaker only.
So if the dialogue is missing or extremely low in this 5.1 broadcast and 5.1 play-through situation then it's likely there's something wrong with your centre channel / speaker volume.
if by "local" commercials you mean cheap. Then it's quite likely that they were only mixed in stereo. If the station sends out a stereo signal only... does your TV simulate surround? If it does, then it's your TV that's not conforming to standards. Turn off the up-mixing and it should play in simple stereo and at the correct levels.
2) It's also possible that the local commercials aren't conforming their tracks the same way as other material that is provided to the station.
The stations tell local commercial producers where and how to put the tracks, but they don't tell 20th century fox, columbia etc... how to arrange tracks for your popular movies / tv shows. Typically it's 1,2 Analog Stereo and 3-8 Dolby E as far as I know.
So it's quite possible that the stations are simply giving the wrong information to local producers.
Or maybe the station is auto down mixing commercials to stereo - and the auto mix settings are wrong,
or maybe the meta data embedded for downmix instructions from the local producers is wrong.
@ushere - I love mixing in surround because it's so easy to avoid mud and keep good separation, making my stereo mixing skills weak :) - Keeping the mix intelligible while keeping the energy levels up in the music is a real pain in the ass.
"The station will want a Dolby E encoded file."
Although not Dolby E, I think many stations would accept encoded AC3 5.1 or 6 ch PCM from Vegas for commercials. I think relatively few ads have SAP. Many in-house commercials are still in stereo.
"The cynical part of me wants to say it's because the advertisers want to milk the time they have left. The even more cynical part wants to say that their not going to stop. "
Amen. There's a loophole that gives them another year if conforming this year would cause financial hardship. I guess we'll see how many of the world's top advertisers are in financial distress around Super Bowl time . . . ;?)