Have you ever flipped through channels on a television and decided to watch a commercial? If you have, you probably decided to watch the commercial because something grabbed your attention. The attention grabber was probably the audio level. Sound waves are usually the only attention grabber of commercials. Most commercials do sound louder than television shows. Television sound waves give many interpretations to the brain. As television sound waves contact ear drums, the ear drums move and convert the energy of sound waves into electrical surges that are sent to the brain.
The stronger the sound waves are, the louder it sounds. However, the brain does interpret sounds in different ways. This means that some waves may seem to have a sound louder than others, even if the loud and soft sounds have the same volume (Hislop, 2001). A way to measure loudness of sound is by using the decibel. It is one tenth of a bel (named after Alexander Bell). However, the larger unit, bel, is rarely used. The decibel uses many different scales to measure sound. One scale, the dBFS, uses zero as the highest sound that can be reached. The dB stands for decibel and the FS stands for full scale.
The dBFS uses negatives to describe sound. The farther away a sound from zero in negatives, the lower the sound is. For example, if a sound was hard to hear, it would be somewhere around -25. If a sound was very loud, it would be -0. 2 (Sizes, 2000). Reducing the peak-to-average ratio of audio increases loudness. If the peak-to-average ration is reduced, the average level can be increased. If this process is over-performed it can cause many side effects such as distortion (Orban, 2001). There are many types of audio processing. However, most audio processors use the systems of compression, peak limiting, or peak clipping.
These are all ways to make a sound wave seem louder or to monitor waves so that they do not exceed the limits that are pre-set (Orban, 2001). Compression is used in recording studios and broadcasting stations. It tries to make louder sounds softer, or softer sounds louder (Digital Domain, 1995). Compression reduces the difference in level between quiet and loud sounds. The goal of compression is to increase the volume level of quiet sounds and to reduce dynamic range of the program (Orban, 2001). Peak limiting is an extreme form of compression.
Peak limiting usually limits the peaks of a waveform. Limiting reduces the peak: average ratio of audio. The main purpose of peak limiting is to protect the channel from an overload in the system (Orban, 2001). Audio mechanics use special equipment for these types of audio processing. Peak limiters and peak clippers are used to control the levels of a program (Blackwell, 2001). Compressors and limiters are used in all phases of audio production. They are used to protect equipment such as broadcast transmitters from input that might cause distortion (Professional Audio, 1997-2001).
A peak limiter is a piece of audio equipment that is used in a program to provide a ceiling or upper limit to peak program levels. A peak limiter does this without the risk of bringing distortion into the audio sound of a program. They are employed in motion-picture films, television programs, sound tracks, and anywhere that a peak level needs to maintained (Bluehaze Solutions, 1999). A compressor is an electrical device that prevents an increase of sound volume beyond a determined level of volume. It controls the dynamics of an electric signal.
A compressor is used to control a signal so that it is heard without becoming so loud that it hurts listening ears. It is also used to control a signal of soft sounds so that a sound isn’t so soft that it is hard to distinguish (Professional Audio, 1997-2001). Television programs and television commercials both use types of attraction to make an attempt to grab the attention of viewers. They both try to get the viewer’s attention to either sell their product or their show. In a way, commercials and programs compete to get the attention of the viewers (Drazin, 2001). Television programs have many ways to attract the attention of viewers.
The programs grab the attention with a good blend of script, special effects, humor, sound effects, background music, and voices (Diltz, 2001). The volume of television programs rises and falls. The program usually moves up and down the scale of volume. Programs do this because they are not worried about trying to attract the attention of the viewers with sound volume; they have many other ways to attract attention (Hislop, 2001). A commercial only has between 20 and 50 seconds to tell viewers all about the product they are trying to sell. Therefore, they must use volume techniques as an attention grabber (Blackwell, 2001).