You may just have started creating your first podcasts, or you may have published many already. But no matter how far you have come on your Podcast journey, chances are that there are a couple of things with regard to loudness that you need to learn more about and pay attention to.
Please Your Audience
If you host and create podcasts, chances are that you will go through an introductory period where you have a limited amount of subscribers. But as your excellent podcast starts to pick up speed, more and more people will discover you and in that case – and from this time forward – a lot of listeners are likely to check out several programs in a row to explore your back catalog.
And when that happens, the last thing you want to happen is to put people off by presenting a string of podcasts with inconsistent sound quality in general and jumping loudness levels in particular. This applies to the internal program material as well as for the series of episodes. You want to avoid that your audience has to turn the volume up and down during an episode, as well as between episodes.
Also, you would want to avoid listeners to miss soft parts of your podcast, or risk causing hearing damages by too loud parts. Therefore, depending on your content you might want to limit the macro-dynamics – also known as the Loudness Range.
Fortunately, there is an elegant solution available. Our CLC – or Continuous Loudness Control – software will help you achieve your sound consistency goal without you even having to think about it once the basics have been set up.
But First Things First
Of course, we would always recommend that you invest in good equipment such as microphones, preamps and audio interfaces. This is where it all begins and you want to ensure that you capture the analog audio source (your voice, location recordings, interviews, etc.) and get it into the digital domain properly.
Once you are ready to mix your podcast, you would likely blend in an opening jingle or other form of sound identity for your show, and you may also have some background music or effects during certain parts of the episodes. Here, you should of course find a workflow where you have ‘standard parts’ – such as an opening jungle – set at a fixed level that suits the rest of the audio. You may also adjust speech levels manually or by applying a compressor.
Streamline Your Podcasts with CLC
Well, back to our Continuous Loudness Control. CLC does two things that come in very handy for any podcaster. First, it analyses and measures your rendered stereo file. Then, it can also process your file to adjust the loudness according to some parameters that you define.
Target Loudness, Maximum LRA and TruePeak
The key parameters to set include Target Loudness, Maximum LRA and TruePeak Limit. Now, while this may sound complicated, it’s not that hard and once you have found your perfect setting, you don’t have to worry about this again.
Target Loudness is the overall loudness level of your podcast episode – from start to end. This parameter is also named Integrated Loudness and is often abbreviated to (and displayed as) I. There are a ton of different standards and recommendations for this, but most apply to television, radio and music streaming services. We have gathered a complete overview of these standards in an this Blog article.
To give you an idea of Loudness Targets, here are some examples. In television broadcast, the loudness target is standardized, but standards vary depending on which country you are based in. In the US for example, it is standardized to –24 LUFS/LKFS, and in other parts of the world it is –23 LUFS.
However, –23/–24 LUFS is rather low, but for television it needs to be low because it has to cover all the various genres a broadcaster airs, and low loudness allows for soundtracks with high dynamics. For streaming music, on the other hand, you will typically find loudness targets around –16 LUFS.
Maximum LRA defines the loudness range – or in a way you can consider this the dynamic range that is allowed. For instance, if you have set the Max. LRA to 12 LU, you audio file will only be processed if the loudness range exceeds 12 LU. Now, a lot of modern music has a quite narrow LRA, which means that the quiet parts in a song is not that much softer then the loudest part. As a contrast, a movie would usually have a very large LRA, leaving room for a gun shot, a car chase and an intimate conversation – maybe even a whisper – along the way.
We are not aware of any fixed standard for podcasts, but since many people enjoy listening to podcasts on the go, either in the car or wearing headphones, we would recommend setting a fairly narrow Max. LRA. In a car you obviously have a noise floor that you’d want your content to cut through, and on headphones, you’d not want to expose your listeners to sudden bursts in sound that may be uncomfortable or – even worse – cause hearing damages.
Depending on how many sound effects, background music and jingles you use in your podcasts, 6 LU would be an appropriate Max LRA in most cases where speech is the central factor.
Remember that the Loudness Target concerns your entire audio file – even if it’s a 90-minute show. However, the Max Momentary and Max Short Term parameters work as sliding windows that measure much shorter sequences of audio, which means they are mostly suited for very short pieces of content such as commercials or jingles, but for podcast material, these settings would in most cases not be necessary or meaningful to engage.
TruePeak Limit, however, is an essential function to include, as it works as a safety belt for your podcast. It prevents overloads and thereby distortion at the final stage, but also limits any sudden bursts that may be problematic to the listeners. Additionally this function guarantees that even low data rate links carry your Podcast to the end user with no additional distortion. A value of –2 dBTP should be sufficient.
Become The Batch Man!
Batch processing. This is where it really becomes a podcasting game changer. Unless you are reading this before publishing your first podcast episode, you probably have a back catalog.
But with the batch job function of CLC, you can now run each and every one of them through your customized preset once and for all. All you have to do is to define a ‘Source Folder’ and an ‘Output Folder’. Now, simply follow these steps:
- Add all of your previous episodes in the Source Folder.
- Select the Batch tab on CLC.
- Create a new Batch Preset.
- Choose your own CLC preset under CLC Preset.
- Adjust the CLC Channel mode according to your episodes.
- Choose your Source Folder.
- Choose your Output Folder.
- Select your preferred audio format(s).
- Hit OK!
There are also options for generating reports on exactly what has been done to the files, but these are probably mostly relevant to broadcasters, who may have to document compliance with certain loudness regulations. For podcasts, this might be handy for evaluation further down the line, but not an absolute necessity.
We hope that CLC will help you deliver even better-sounding and always-consistent content to your audience.
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What is required to run CLC - Continuous Loudness Control?
The CLC is a plug-in and stand-alone application for PC and Mac.
It is available in two versions:
- Full version with support for up to 22.2.
- Price-friendly stereo version
The supported audio channel format is the only difference between the two.
They are both available in our international Web Store right here:
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- Live Audio, DAW Audio, and Audio File modes in multi-channel applications
- Batch processing
- Extended audio format support (e. g. MXF)
- Loudness acc. to all global standards
- Adjustable Target Loudness and Loudness Range (LRA)
- Adjustable TP Limiter
- Mmax and Smax limiting
- Expert mode to process very special audio material
- Optimized presets for e. g. streaming audio
- Graphical routing overview with channel presence and activity indicator
- Loudness reporting (Java Runtime Environment required)
- Dynamic Low Latency Algorithm
- Adaptive Morphing Technology
- Stand-alone and DAW-PlugIn
- Common plug-in formats for Windows® and Mac® OS X
- iLok copy protection