Working With Fixed Monitor Levels
TVTechnology.com reports that ATSC Recommended Practice (RP) A/85 is usually thought of as a loudness standardization document full of guidelines we must follow to ensure content loudness complies with the CALM Act. In fact, the document goes beyond loudness to try and standardize the process of creating and delivering audio content for television, similar to standards used in audio for cinema. The process of mixing audio for TV has always been a bit freeform, partly because the lead time on most television productions is short and partly because the immediacy of live television makes the entire process chaotic, so successful mix engineers end up developing their own practices and processes.
One of the key areas A/85 seeks to standardize is control room speaker monitoring levels, to help engineers inherently understand their mix levels without staring at meters. To understand how well the process works I’ve been experimenting with, and attempting to hold to, fixed monitoring levels on everything listened to in the studio, whether on speakers or through headphones. This requires volume controls to be fixed in place and not adjusted when audio is too soft or too loud, a habit which has turned out to be hard to break. When the level of any audio source isn’t correct—whether audio from a studio project, music I’m listening to while working on something else, or content from the internet—it gets adjusted at the source.