Elemental Pounces on Feds’ Push to Hush Loud Commercials

1/11/12Follow @curtwoodward

Our long national nightmare of TV commercials that are too loud is finally nearing its end—and Portland, OR-based Elemental Technologies is angling to help its network customers keep their programming audio nice and steady.

Elemental, whose investors include Seattle’s Voyager Capital and Alliance of Angels, is known mainly for its video-processing products. The company, which got its start in 2006, sells a device that uses graphics processing chips and a software application to ensure that video is sent with the right parameters for the best end-user viewing, whether they’re watching on a TV, a laptop, tablet, or other device.

That’s been a nice business for the roughly 55-person company: Elemental has grown to more than 100 customers and tripled its revenues to about $10 million in 2011. The company boasts major customers like ESPN, Comcast, HBO, ABC, and CBS.

Those customers, by the way, are currently preparing for the December 2012 federal deadline for stable audio levels between all kinds of programming—yes, they passed a law about it.

And thus was born a new audio management software service from Elemental, which it says will help customers track, correct, and report on swings in sound. The technology behind the new service was licensed from SRS, an audio software company. It’ll be available commercially at the end of the quarter.

Processing the audio can actually be a standalone service for Elemental, meaning it doesn’t have to be wedded to the appliances that already house its video-processing product, marketing vice president Keith Wymbs says.

“There could be some scenarios at different points in the network architecture where it may make sense to do nothing to video at all, and do only audio,” Wymbs says. “We’ve built it such that it doesn’t have to touch the video.”

Wymbs says the “utopia” for audio-smoothing software is having it in every set-top box, but that’s probably many years away.

“Set-top boxes are really built for minimizing the cost of the hardware, because it is such an expensive thing to put into a home,” he says. “So it’s going to take a number of years for this technology to get to the endpoint where it should be.”

Elemental also sees possibilities for the audio-optimization service as something that could be extended to other devices, just as its video service does today. “We view it as in line with our mission to perfect the media experience,” Wymbs says.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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  • Beauty

    What I don’t understand is why it is taking so long to take affect. December 2012 will we even be here? (Joke). I’m saying that is a long time to be waiting on something to that affect. I’m not waiting any longer especially since DISH released a new DVR called the Hopper that has a feature to level out the sound of commercials. I learned all about it since I’m an employee with DISH and it actually works so I can’t wait to get my own. Be sure to check it out and don’t wait that long for the commercials to go silent.