I’m sitting on the couch watching a movie.  It was getting pretty intense, you know when you’re eating your popcorn staring at the TV and can’t take your eyes off it, when all of the sudden the volume shot up as a commercial came on.  It scared the bejeebers out of me and when I jerked my popcorn went everywhere.  Needless to say I was a little agitated and it also got me wondering why commercials are so darn loud!

I got looking on the net for the reason and apparently, the commercials aren’t louder, they just sound louder.  Huh?  Isn’t that the same thing?  Apparently not.  It seems the FCC does not regulate how loud television shows or commercials can be, but instead regulates the peak power they can use to send out audio and video signals.  A TV program has a mix of audio levels. There are loud parts and soft parts. Nuance is used to build the dramatic effect.  Commercials do not want Nuance so there are no soft parts.  They want to grab your attention. To do that, the audio track is electronically processed to make every part of it as loud as possible within legal limits.  “Spencer Critchley, writing in Digital Audio, explained it this way: “The peak levels of commercials are no higher than the peak levels of program content. But the average level is way, way higher, and that’s the level your ears care about. If someone sets off a camera flash every now and then it’s one thing; if they aim a steady spot light into your eyes it’s another, even if the peak brightness is no higher.”

There are televisions that automatically adjust the volume so the commercials do not seem louder.  Unfortunatley, I don’t have one of those.  Anyway, that is apparently why commercials “seem” louder.