Saturday, July 11, 2009

Commercials That Are Louder Than TV Shows

Commercials that are louder than the TV shows they are aired during really piss me off. Very few things are as annoying as when you are sitting around watching whatever, and all of a sudden it cuts to a commercial, and some absurdly abrasive voice is screaming at you to buy some useless product, and in all likelihood blowing out your eardrums.

How can the companies get away with this? Shouldn't somebody do something about it... at least put in some sort of regulations? A little research and my question was answered. As it turns out, there are regulations put in place by the FCC, and advertisers get to use a nifty little loophole to make their obnoxious commercials.

There are rules about the maximum volume of television broadcasts. And the commercials can be as loud as the loudest part of the show they are broadcast during. So... if the show you are watching has one, extremely brief, gunshot or explosion, advertisers can make a commercial with 30 seconds of the same ear-splitting volume. And while the gunshot or explosion will probably have the desired effect of shock or excitement, the most likely effects of the commercial will be deafness and ruptured eardrums.

The problem is the relative volume. TV shows need to be nuanced and subtle, the differences in volume levels really can make or break a show. Commercials want to be anything but subtle, they want to be loud and get your attention. So TV shows will generally be well below the maximum allowable volume, using the peak volume for dramatic effect. Commercials use 30 seconds straight of the peak volume to make their product memorable. When the TV is transitioning from, say, a quiet, dramatic courtroom scene, to, say, a commercial for "Discount Eddie's Fourth of July Used Car Blowout Spectacular," you are most certainly going to notice the difference.

So next time you see a ridiculously loud commercial, it is not any sort of mistake. Nobody in the control room pressed the wrong button. The advertisers know exactly what they are doing. And if you ever happen to witness an abrasively loud commercial for hearing aids, well, know they really are doing their best to deafen you.

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