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George Massenburg: A new approach to automatic audio level control

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  • Seminar
When Oct 11, 2011
from 04:30 PM to 06:00 PM
Where A832, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke St. West.
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In February 2009 a bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives by Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).  the bill, called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM) requires the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the audio of TV commercials from being broadcast at louder sound volumes than the TV program material they accompany.  the United States Senate unanimously passed the bill on Thursday, September 30, 2010.
The FCC has until December 15, 2011, to issue a Report and Order (R&O) adopting rules to implement the CALM Act.
Meanwhile, work on loudness practices proceeded in Europe.  The ITU officially published an update to its own Recommendation specifying "Algorithms to measure audio program loudness and true-peak audio level" in April of this year. This specification, casually referred to as 'ITU 1770' forms the basis of the loudness work around the world. 
So begins a new era, which formalizes a process whereby sound is analyzed for loudness and adjustments made as per a broad international agreement.
The performance requirements for such technologies have thus dramatically intensified.
Types of automatic, or programmed, audio level adjustment have existed for some time, at least since needs arose in early broadcast and phonograph recording technologies.
Various automatic level controls, and the underlying detector technology, will be discussed and a new type of signal level detector will be proposed.



As a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, he left in disappointment in university education and has never looked back.  He joined the McGill faculty as an adjunct professor in 1996, and in the fall of 2010 joined the faculty full-time.

He designed, authored and presented the 1972 AES paper on Parametric Equalization and is regularly published in professional journals and trade magazines worldwide.

He was chief engineer of Europa Sonar Studios in Paris, France in 1973 and 1974, and also did freelance record engineering and equipment design in France and England during those years.

Moving to Los Angeles in 1975, he made scores of highly regarded recordings, many of which were hugely successful.

He chartered several electronics companies, most notably GML, INC (now GML, LLC) in 1982 to produce high-performance, high-resolution recording equipment. His notable developments are the parametric equalizer itself (now in its third generation in the digital domain), the third-generation moving fader automation system & other control systems for audio recording consoles, and reference-precision level detectors.  

With Massenburg Design Works, he has developed the industry-standard digital EQ plug-in for Digidesign ProTools HD, the Sony Oxford OXF-R3 digital console, Sonic Solutions HD Mastering System, TC Electronics and the Mackie D8B, among other systems.

He is currently Adjunct Professor of Music Technology at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, and lectures at other colleges and universities, including Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, University of Memphis, in Memphis, Tennessee and Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo.  He is Chairman of the Technical Council on Studio Practices for the Audio Engineering Society.  He is a member of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress and an advisor to the Committee for Library Information Resources.  In 2004 he was made a Fellow in the Audio Engineering Society, and received the Gold Medal from the AES in 2008.

Along with Linda Ronstadt, Smokey Robinson, and Juan Luis Guerro he received and Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music in May, 2009.

He has produced or engineered recordings for, among many others, Linda Ronstadt ,  Aaron Neville, Little Feat, James Taylor, Randy Newman, Lyle Lovett, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Dixie Chicks, Billy Joel, Earth Wind and Fire, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Natalie Merchant, Carly Simon and Michael Ruff. He has been nominated many times for the non-classical engineering Grammy (most recently in 2002 for Mary Chapin Carpenter). His projects have been nominated for Record Of The Year in several years, and has himself won four Grammies, one for Best Engineered Non-Classical in 1990, (for Linda Ronstadt's, “Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind”), for Best Producer (Children’s Record, Linda Ronstadt’s “Dedicated To The One I Love”), and for Best Bluegrass Record ("Mountain Soul II" by Patty Loveless) in 2011; he was awarded the Recording Academy's Technical Grammy for 1997 for numerous contributions to the art and technology of the modern recording studio.  He also won the Academy of Country Music Record Of The Year for 1988 (for “The Trio”), and both the Mix Magazine Producer and Engineer Of The Year Awards for 1989 (for Little Feat), and Engineer Of The Year Award for 1991 (for Linda Ronstadt), and 1992 (for Lyle Lovett). He delivered keynote addresses to the 50th anniversary of the Audio Engineering Society in New York in October 1997, to the 24th Conference on Multichannel Audio in Banff, Alberta in June 2003, and to the Surround Pro 2003 conference in Los Angeles, December 2003.  He guided the acoustical design and construction for Blackbird Studio C, a innovative, post-modern, acoustically-advanced (highly-diffuse) multi-purpose room for recording and mixing.


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