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DPP Post Workshop #2: The Highlights

The DPP’s second Post Production Workshop was held on 7th February way up on the 7th floor in the BBC’s New Broadcasting House, which seemed to be a fresh & exciting experience for many members of the audience (perhaps that’s why so many of you turned up?).  However, being dazzled by your surroundings didn’t stop you thinking up the usual fiendishly difficult questions for our pan-broadcaster panel.

Unsurprisingly the main focus of the morning was on QC once again, but we started with a presentation from one of the DPP’s newest recruits: BT Sport.

BT Sport are working with a fully end-to-end AVCi workflow, and Chief Engineer, Andy Beale, walked us through the process and products they currently use with a snapshot of their plans to keep refining and updating this process over the coming months.  He also revealed that they’re not yet using an automated QC process but that they aim to have this in place by July this year.

Next up was a presentation about Automated QC from Rowan de Pomerai, Senior Technology Manager at ITV, and a key member of the DPP Technical Standards group which has been developing a minimum set of QC tests for use with DPP deliveries.  We’ve already talked at length about QC both here on our website and at the first Post Production Workshop but some points always bear repeating…

There was some interest in the correct AQC workflow but Rowan explained that we’ve found there’s not necessarily one right way to do this.  You can AQC before you eyeball check (why waste human time when a machine can tell you the faults).  You can eyeball in the edit and then do the AQC overnight to save time, or of course you can do both simultaneously, which if you’re up against a deadline can work well.  However, here you do run the risk of having to do both checks again if one fails so really it’s up to you to choose a workflow that works for you as everyone’s requirements will be different.

There were also some questions about whether is it necessary to do a full eyeball & QC check on the finished transcoded file.  It was generally agreed that the eyeball needn’t be done on the delivered file, and that if you’ve got a robust transcode process in place it shouldn’t be a problem and that therefore in the short term it would be best to do a cut down QC on the encoded file just to ensure the structure and integrity of it.  It was also noted that re-wrapping the metadata should not change the integrity of the file.

Another old favourite that came up again was PSE.  The DPP has already issued a list of appropriate PSE devices.  However, it was noted that they can sometimes disagree with one other because the Ofcom guidance is not absolute but that manufacturers are doing their best to interpret the guidelines in this area in order to keep this to a minimum.

It was confirmed that the QC, PSE and other reports can be delivered as PDFs for the time being but that over time broadcasters would hope to receive all of these as XML files once the QC tools enable this.  It was also noted that if the EBU can agree on a standard reporting procedure then it may be possible to send all of these reports as one attached bundle in the future.

Once again we heard that programmes must be tested and have a valid QC report & PSE pass certificate delivered with them, but that they should then not need to be re-tested unless the show requires additional editing.  Several attendees noted that this is really no change to the current process as Productions are already responsible for delivering a compliant file to the broadcaster.

Questions were asked about what checks the broadcasters will then be doing once a file arrives with them.  The plan is that the broadcasters will do file integrity and basic compliance checks, to check that files are readable, playable and include the correct metadata, but will not be doing a full QC on trusted suppliers’ programmes. Broadcasters will carry out spot checks on these to ensure compliance.

A subject we hadn’t previously covered when it comes to QC was Acquisitions.  There was a concern about the transcoding, rewrapping and QCing of acquired content.  Rowan suggested a closer look at the EBU list of tests which includes other tests that relate more closely to archive material that are not mandatory for DPP deliveries but that could be helpful in this area.  The BBC are also looking at this and agreed that it is possible that some previously acquired programmes may playout without being made DPP compliant.

In the end it wasn’t only Automated QC that was discussed during the session.   Another key topic for attendees was the delivery of the final programme files.  A list of preferred delivery methods has been published in the Producer’s Guide to File Based Delivery, where electronic delivery over a network would be the primary choice.  It was noted that there is no one method of electronic delivery that all of the broadcasters prefer and that producers should consult with them about delivery methods on a case-by-case basis.  It was also asked whether there would be licences for transfer software available for production companies to use.  The general advice here was that while broadcasters are endeavouring to make these available where possible each facility will still have to investigate the solutions most appropriate to them.

Along with delivery methods we also examined late delivery.  Again, the message was emphasised that this needn’t be a problem if companies talk to the broadcaster in advance.  Processes will vary between broadcasters and they won’t give permission to use an unproven method of delivery at a late stage but they will be happy to agree in advance with the production company a method that everyone is confident with for any late deliveries.

The last subject area we touched upon was about training throughout the industry.  There was a concern that due to the number of freelance staff in the industry the skill level of editors varies greatly. It was suggested that editors could be certified in some way to prove they have the skills necessary for editing to a sufficient standard.  While training is generally not in scope for the DPP it was agreed to take this notion away and see if we can help to create materials to allow companies to self-certify their editors in the future.

So there’s still a lot to do – especially in terms of educating and informing production about the changes taking place.  But it’s also an opportunity for some of you to help lead the way in establishing best practice.  For the DPP’s part, in addition to these Post Production Workshops we’re also holding DPP Forums aimed at telling production what they need to know.  We’re currently in the process of producing some written guidance for Producers for the DPP website and we’re working together across the broadcasters to make sure they are relaying important messages to each of their supply chains.

This blog post was written by Jayne.