Archive for October, 2009

Are TV Commercials Too Loud?

loud Why is the volume of TV commercials so much greater than the program? I get this question all the time.  Would you be surprised if I said there is no difference, they are the same volume.  With audio there is a difference between loudness and volume.  Although the volume is the same, the apparent loudness is not the same. How and why?

Broadcasters have specifications that set the volume limit to a value below digital zero, below the digital maximum (-10db below 0). Volume is measurable and it is the same because broadcasters and cable channels require the peak audio volume of both commercials and programs not to exceed this level. In a commercials the volume is near the limit more often than during the program material. Commercials stay close to the maximum volume from beginning to end.  This is done with audio processors that maintain a higher average volume level – so it sounds louder than the movie or TV show.  So what can you do about it?

7848t Here is a device that regulates the apparent loudness – a TV volume regulator to the rescue. The problem is caused by technology – so why not defeat it with technology! I have not tried the device, but I am willing to try it if they send me one. Personally I’m not buying one.  I make commercials and marketers want consumers to pay attention when the commercials come on. Besides the intermission reminds me to stretch.




October 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

Black Friday Now?


Black Friday is a popular label attached to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the US. This day marks the beginning of the busy shopping season during which most consumers typically start their Christmas/holiday shopping. 

While the word "black" often has a negative connotation, the use of black in this case alludes to profitability, which is traditionally noted in black ink (losses are noted in red). Traditionally, brick-and-mortar retailers see a surge in retail sales on this day as a result of the holiday shopping, putting their books "in the black".

Every year it seem like the Christmas decorations go up earlier.  I remember what mom taught me – don’t put up your Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving.  Wasn’t mom always right? I think that works in a normal economy.  Retailers are pushing Black Friday because they need sales.

I understand the yin and yang of the issue.  Conservatives want Christmas to be less commercial, see this page on the Advent Conspiracy. The Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.Sounds great!  Our society is one of excess consumerism.

If I put on my marketing hat, early retail sales info like Black Friday deals may help me as a consumer. The retailer gets the word out during a very competitive flat economy.  Check out this web site on Black Friday deals and coupons. I love the countdown timer and blog.


My guess is that most Americans will spend less this Christmas but at what store?  Choose wisely, and make your dollar work for you.  The Black Friday site is a good start if you are thinking coupons and sale prices.



October 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm Leave a comment

Bluetooth goes Green

solar-voice-908-1 If you spend enough time outdoors the new i.Tech solar powered Bluetooth headset will outrun your phone.   I predict we will see this on cell phones as new solar technology gets mated with new batteries. Samsung came out with triumph_solar_bra the first solar powered headset but the SolarVoice 908 has advanced noise reduction!

You can always charge the device with USB but the battery on a full charge has 140 hours of standby time and 5 hours of talk time. Of course if you need to talk longer put on your sunscreen and head into the sunshine. This is a great step toward greening bluetooth and I think it will catch on, however the sloar powered lingerie concept still needs work.


October 22, 2009 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

Trash to Clean Energy


Did you know that TRASH can be turned into ELECTRICITY with absolutely no CO2 into the atmosphere?…and with a PROFIT!

trash2energy Yes! Waste to energy technology in the USA and Mexico, actually creates electricity from waste without having to separate the trash letting our machines do the job.It also separates the recyclable materials or commodities (iron, aluminum, plastics) for profit, to then send the rest to a digester that creates energy with no CO2 or any toxic emissions into the atmosphere! The local electricity grid then buys our electricity production. From the trash that is left, only 10%, can also be used together with nuclear waste from hospitals and construction waste and turned into electricity and ashes for the asphalt industry!

This is reality today, not Sci-Fi. Waste and recyclable materials are economically viable, financially sustainable, and environmentally sensitive. Visit for more information.



October 21, 2009 at 7:53 pm Leave a comment

Chaos in Surround Sound

The following email exchange is real – The names have been changed …
(my responses are in blue italics)


Untitled-1 Hola,
We may change the date scheduled for  3pm Houston time?

I only have 3pm to 4pm available. Another session starts at 4pm. If we can get your session done in 1 Hour, then no problem. But we cannot go past 4pm.

Ok. We take. The talent meet at 3:15pm to 4pm. I hope is possible finish today, if not, we can found another early day.

Do you mean TODAY? I thought you meant changing the time for your session TOMORROW!

Yes, I thought TODAY at 3pm beguins..

I cannot do TODAY! We were booked for Wed, Jan 14th at 11:30CT and I moved to 3pm same day, not today.

You think we can do today? in your afternoon?

We cannot do today – Sorry.

Sorry for the stress. Really is for TOMORROW. And then we confirm the meet for the talent; Tomorrow Wednesday 14th at 3pm to 4 pm. Ok?

No worries – that schedule change has been made – Session is Wed 1/14/09 at 3pm CT.


PhoneCallSmall We all know media production is a stressful activity. It’s the perfect storm: the clash of left brain/right brain; the stereotypical art versus commerce conflict; entertaining, creative ideas collide with motivated, monetary goals. Our blessing/curse is that no one day is the same as the previous…

But meanwhile back at the farm… the music’s playing so loud I can’t hear myself think, the phone’s ringing constantly and I can’t remember who I just spoke to 5 minutes ago! Oh, yeah – It was our banker who gave me a different story about how to receive payments from overseas clients than the bank’s customer service rep did yesterday. Now I’ve got to decide who’s right & who’s wrong. And no amount of email can get the client in Barcelona to try the PayPal account again after I made changes to our credit card profile…

Sound familiar? Just another day in paradise for those who coordinate production activities with little or no timeline. But somewhere there’s levity. Can we really be serious all the time without going completely bonkers? Comedy is all around you with the right perspective.



October 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

Is It Live or Is It… Just Music?

ampexI’ve recently returned to teaching audio at Houston Community College after a not-so-brief hiatus of some 20+ years. As I was preparing a lesson plan about microphones, I outlined in the lecture that recording and microphone techniques could be historically divided into two major categories: old-school & new-school. And inevitably, there was a crossover period where old school techniques co-existed with the beginnings of a new-school approach. And these disciplines coincided over a period well-known for memorable music productions known as the SIXTIES (in reality, 1955 to 1968 +/- a year or so).

Prior to the sixties, the goal of music recording was to CAPTURE a performance. Both theaters and music studios were meticulously-designed in regard to natural sound and acoustics. Levels and volumes were adjusted by the musicians themselves or by physical placement on the “stage” of the performance. The recordist’s goals were to embrace the sound as if the listener were present at the performance.


Paul with his Les Paulverizer, another one of his inventions that amplified and multiplied sound to simulate a full orchestra, delighted 1950s America as a star of vinyl, radio, and television. His inventiveness in the recording process enriched electronics company Ampex using his designs to become the standard in professional recording throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

With the introduction of multi-track recording and large-format mixing consoles in the late 60’s, the new-school era of recording began. The process was conceived and developed by guitarist Les Paul in the 1940s with the  financial and inspirational assistance of Bing Crosby and the Ampex Corporation,Each musical part of an overall performance could be recorded until it was “perfect”. If a “group performance” was good, but the bass player hit a bad note on the 32nd measure, you could now go back and “punch-in” the correct note from the bassist. Isolation of all instruments became ultra important as each part became a “performance” unto itself. Each “track” had its own level & tone control as well as acoustic environment. Now, the recording process BECAME  the “performance.” This phenomenon has grown even more isolated, surgical and non-human in the present-day environment of digital workstations and virtual instruments.

In the SIXTIES… The first multi-track recorders (notwithstanding Les Paul’s research) appeared in 2-track & 3-track formats. Coming from a history of “capturing the performance”, the Rhythm Section of a song still followed the old-school guidelines in either mono or stereo (1 or 2 tracks respectively). That would leave one or two tracks open for a separate, isolated performance of vocals, string sections or horn sections – perhaps even a solo instrument. But the energy and synergy of capturing people playing together as a musical group was kept intact. In the extreme case of Phil Spector’s famous “wall of sound”, there would be two of every instrument – Two drummers, two piano players, two bass players, at least two guitar players & on & on – All playing simultaneously! The results were huge backing tracks full of energy, excitement, tone and acoustic space! And THAT is the magic inherent in the music of the period (and why recordings from that period continue to gain appreciative listeners, year after year, generation after generation).


Bob Dylan

Now I’m not revealing any startling new hypothesis here, nor am I addressing a subject that hasn’t already been reviewed or discussed by many before me. Presently, even music-as-a-career is currently in the middle of a old-school/new-school transition. But it’s always worthy to take a look in the rear-view mirror every now & then, especially in a discipline such as music where the career path to future success is so ill-defined.  We’re all in search of the magic energy of a hit song. And in a world that’s become increasingly virtual and synthesized, maybe some answers lie in mixing modern music methods with the true beauty of human group interaction. Is it live? or is it… just music.


October 7, 2009 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment


empire Five years after Comcast fails in its bid for the Walt Disney Company, Brian L. Roberts again looks to fulfill his long-sought dream to turn his cable company into a major media conglomerate. According to sources with knowledge of the negotiations who request anonymity because talks continue, Comcast negotiates with General Electric to create a separate company that merges Comcast’s programming assets with NBC Universal. With those assets plus cash estimates of $6 billion to $7 billion, Comcast ends up with 51% control of NBC Universal, which G.E. and Vivendi now owns.

If this deal works out Comcast, which already is the biggest owner of cable systems in America, can hold the most significant collection of cable television assets in the entire world that includes popular and profitable channels like USA, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC. To add pudding to the pie, Comcast also receives the NBC broadcast network. Craig Moffett, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, predicts, If Comcast had control over the NBC portfolio, they would be calling the shots for a significant portion of American viewing hours. Frederick W. Moran, a Benchmark Company analyst, estimates that a combination of Comcast and NBC’s properties will blanket the marketplace. To many of us observers this creates quite a radio monopoly.

(from our friend Jim Rose @


October 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment


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