Everything You Never Knew about PPMs
[ This article was first published in the May, 2008, issue of
Larry's Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]
When I was in the UK, I ran into an audio system I’d never heard of — PPM. Apparently, it is all the rage at the BBC and points east. However, Final Cut Pro knows nothing about PPMs.
Thanks to the ever-resourceful Martin Baker (www.digitalheaven.co.uk), I recently got a quick update on this format and want to share it with you.
In a nutshell, the BBC PPM scale is numbered from 1-7. Each number on the BBC PPM scale is an increase of 4dB, tone at -18dB corresponds to PPM4. The maximum allowed peak level for broadcast is PPM6 (i.e. 8dB above than the tone level of -18dB).
[However, all is not lost for Final Cut Pro users, because there's PPMulator from Raw Material Software (http://www.rawmaterialsoftware.com/ppm.php). Their website says: PPMulator+ is a cross-platform VST plug-in meter for digital audio workstations which exactly mimics the look and feel of a professional broadcast Peak Programme Meter (PPM).]
PPMulator is cool because it is available as a standalone app, VST plug-in and Audio Unit plug-in so can be inserted into an output bus in Soundtrack Pro. Sadly because FCP still doesn’t support custom audio plug-in UIs (we still live in hope for that one!) it is not usable directly.
So in FCP you can either run it as a VST plug-in inside Audio Hijack Pro (works fine except the PPMulator window doesn’t float over FCP) or do the Edirol technique (didn’t know that trick) with the standalone version which does have the option to be a floating window.
Apart from the fact that they’re very easy to read at a glance and easier on the eye, the coolest thing about PPMs is that they’ve actually managed to become and remain a true standard for all radio and TV broadcasting in the UK. Imagine that. Audio level utopia!
Larry replies: Thanks, Martin, for the update.
By the way, for those of us you need better audio meters, but don’t need PPM, I’ve recently been using a program called ProLevel, from Katsura Shareware (http://www.katsurashareware.com/pgs/prolevel.html) , for my podcasts. It does a really nice job of measuring external audio source levels prior to recording. However, it can’t be used inside Final Cut Pro.