Klangfreund LUFS Full Meter
Because the “CALM” standards are the LAW!
The CALM Act was established in 2010 and stands for the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act. Like most laws, it came about because some advertisers and broadcasters simply refused to practice common decency and politeness. Basically it states that you can’t broadcast a commercial containing audio louder than the show itself.
So many broadcasters now have a loudness requirement. Rather than base it on decibels (db) which are originally were a measure of how much voltage an electronic audio signal contained, it measures the subjective loudness levels, or what the audience will actually hear by a measuring standard called LUFS (pronounced “Luvs” as in “Luvs Meter”).
Most NLEs and DAWs don’t really have a suitable LUFS or LKFS (both measures are equal since 2012) meter to verify your signal actually is broadcast legal. Or that it meets the standards of a specific broadcast station. Why not, I’m not sure, since this is law now in the US and the EU. But like Closed Captioning, just because we have broadcast legal standards wide can get fined for, software developers seem to overlook it and not care much. Don’t ask me why, no clue. Ask Apple. Apple, are you listening? We have LAWS we have to adhere to! Should be first priority for a new feature! Hello?!
Klangfreund LUFS Meter is the answer! It is a plugin that comes installable as AU, VST, VST 3 and AAX. Thus it will be readable in Apple’s pro apps (FCPX and LPX). It has a lot of very useful functions and can perform a lot of audio mixing tricks besides just showing you jumping audio meters.
It comes in two flavors; the LUFS Full Meter ($49) and the LUFS Discounted Meter ($24). Of course the Discounted Meter is very limited and the Full Meter has all the bells and whistles. And they’re all really useful bells and whistles for real world mixing.
The Learning Curve
I’ve used the LUFS Full Meter in a couple of productions now, and I felt very at home with it very quickly. Within the first few minutes of RTFM and playing with it, I felt very at home using it. But please, READ THE FREAKIN’ MANUAL first. It has a lot of information you won’t discover just pushing buttons. It is a very short document, with some tips for specific apps, including Logic and Final Cut Pro X. If you’re in this business professionally, you’re having to learn new software of one kind or another all the time. If you don’t like to learn new things, I strongly advise you find a new career. Either way this plugin is well documented, easy to use, and has some great features that allow it to be used for so much more than jumpy light bars.
The Klangfreund LUFS Meter is pretty simple to us, as I said. It displays real time levels for: true peak, maximum short term and momentary loudness, integrated loudness, loudness, shot term loudness (3s) and momentary loudness (400ms). Most of these a lot of us won’t use, but some folks will need it all. Glad to have it.
There is a method to let LUFS Meter analyze your audio and then set a peak for it. You can do manual adjustments. You can also enable and disable the Meter plugin, and more. Combined with other plugins like limiters and EQs, you can pull some fancy tricks, which are documented in the user manual. So READ it (and all user manuals)! Please!
Groups Dovetail with Roles FCPX
Bear in mind this is a plugin, not an app. It gets applied to a track in a DAW, but must be applied to individual clips in an NLE. The NLE clip based thing here isn’t a problem, especially in FCPX since we are assigning Audio Roles to our clips. There’s basically three workflows, off the top of my head, of using LUFS Meter inside of FCPX.
The LUFS Meter has a Group function with 32 possible groups. Here’s how that works on a clip-by-clip basis:
1- I assign an audio role of “Dialog-Host” to a set of clips, which are my show-host’s microphone.
2- I place the LUFS Meter on the first clip.
3- Adjust it as needed and assign it a Group number.
4- Copy that clip and use the Paste Attributes to assign it to all the other “Dialogue-Host” clips in my Timeline.
Later if I make a change to the LUFS Meter in any of those specific clips, I can update every instance of the LUFS Meter assigned to that group-number automatically. Very cool, right? Fits right in with the Roles in FCPX!
For example, my host dialogue audio role clips would all get assigned to the LUFS Meter’s group 1. My guest dialogue audio role clips would all be assigned to LUFS Meter group 2. Then my environmental sound (SOT) audio role clips would all be assigned to LUFS Meter’s group 3. And so on with music, sound effects, etc. Each time I assign an FCPX “audio role” to a clip, I’ll have a corresponding LUFS Meter “group number” to match it.
B. Compound Clip Role Lanes
An easier method would be to mix it all with the built-in db meter. Then make it all a Compound Clip. Now you can expand the audio roles, which gives you one audio lane combining all clips assigned to a specific audio role. Each role is a single audio lane. I can assign one single LUFTS Meter plugin to that lane, making things even easier.
C. Compound Clip As A Whole
The best workflow I’ve found is to adjust all audio levels using the normal db meter. When done, Select All and create a Compound Clip. Then add the LUFS Meter to that CC and adjust as needed. Finally you’d output/Share that final CC product.
These are all sort of a clunky way to work, but it’s there, it achieves a vital legal goal, and it doesn’t cost us an extra $500.
Last Is Best
One thing to bear in mind using this plugin, is it must come LAST in your audio effects chain. In fact for most DAWs, you won’t use the volume fader at all, but place a gain filter as the first effect in your chain, and leave your level faders all at 0. This is because most DAWs actually place the volume fader behind the effects chain. Some allow you to assign your effects chain pre or post faders, in which case simply assigning them post fader works.
*In FCPX, I’m still working that out. I’ll update this blog post when I have definitive information where the volume fader is place. My guessis audio effects are pre fader, so don’t touch the Volume slider. Place a gain effect in first, then any limiters or EQs or reverbs you want, and last would come the LUFS Meter. In the Inspector’s audio section, effects are processed from top down.
Since I began working with LUFS Full Meter I’ve been very happy. It took next to no time to read the manual, play with it a bit, and get very comfortable with it. I think it’s worth the $49 since I have broadcast station clients demanding very strict, specific LUFS or LKFS levels and can on guess at those using a standard db meter. I should never have a submitted program or commercial rejected due to audio levels again. I’m a very happy editor now. The only thing that would make me happier, is closed captioning support inside of FCPX, and a LUFS meter built in to FCPX (along with a roles based editor).
Here’s the FCC’s FAQ about the Calm Act;