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Another Reason for TiVo

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LAist loves watching TV. Especially on cold winter nights in LA. So we were psyched for the all new episode of Criminal Minds last night. (We taped Lost because this particular writer’s household still hasn’t invested in a TiVo.) But that’s about to change very soon.

We’ve already heard the warnings that iPod usage can damage the hearing. Yeah…yeah…and we accept that because we’ve been cranking it up to 11 since we got our first Sony Walkman years ago. But what really could use a warning label are those pesky commercials that break up your episodes.

How many times do you go through this routine a night? The commercial break comes – sometimes a welcome respite – signaling the chance for you to use the restroom, finish cooking dinner or continue a conversation – when all of a sudden you find yourself high-hurdling the couch and lunging for the remote control so your ears won’t start bleeding.

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The FCC does set maximum volume levels that can be broadcast -- but there's a technical reason for this decibel shift. According to a FOX-TV affiliate in North Carolina:

Television sound is controlled by two factors -- technical limits and artistic decisions. We use precision instrumentation to make certain that the sound we broadcast never exceeds a certain volume level limit, as defined by federal law. However, the producers of programs and commercials are free to use the entire volume range from absolute quiet to the maximum allowable limit to achieve their goals (just as some visual scenes are brightly-lit while others are filmed in dim light). It's not unusual, for example, for a soap opera scene to consist of a quiet "private" conversation -- forcing viewers to listen more carefully or to turn up the volume to hear the spoken words clearly. Suddenly, a commercial blasts you out of your easy chair. While the commercial seems too loud, it really isn't, relative to the loudest noise in the entire soap opera program. However, compared to the quiet scene preceeding the commercial, it may well seem too loud.

But the more accepted theory is that the marketers want you to hear their message loud and clear as you move away from the set. So Mr./Ms. Commercial Creator for once hear us roar: The time you spend cranking the high volume knob on your sound board is in direct proportion to amount of time our finger is on the "volume down" button. So your jingles and 30-second spots are lost on us.

They say silence is golden - but at this rate we'll settle for silver and a whisper while we're watching CSI tonight.

Flickr photo from Drunken Monkey