The North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) and the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) have today unveiled two new technical specifications for the delivery of finished air-ready programs for North America.
Through joint NABA and DPP meetings, nine of the major North American broadcasters – ABC/Disney, Bell Media, CBC/Radio-Canada, Fox, HBO, NBCUniversal, PBS, TimeWarner and Turner – have agreed on a common file format, structure and wrapper based on the AS-11 UK DPP specification implemented in the UK in 2014.
“The key principle for this work was that the agreed specifications must be commonly defined, testable, unambiguous – and produce business value,” says Clyde Smith, Sr. VP, New Technology at Fox and the NABA technical lead. “The agreed common specifications will minimize confusion and expense for program-makers, and avoid the proliferation of different file types and specifications.”
The specifications are based on the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) AS-11 specification, with the following features:
• File format: MXF OP-1A
• Video Encoding: MPEG-2 XDCam or AVC/H.264
• Video Signal Standard: 1080i or 720p
• Colour Sub Sample: 4:2:2 or 4:2:0
• Audio: Supports a common fixed channel assignment and Dynamic assignment of Audio Tracks
• A minimal editorial metadata set
Work with the AMWA to define the rules for these file formats which will be a part of the AS-11 family of specifications is nearly complete. The team will also be working with the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) to support these specifications in BXF (Broadcast Exchange Format).
As the wider conversation turns to adoption and implementation, the DPP will continue to work with NABA to support their activity in this area, including the development of supporting materials and educational seminars planned for New York, Toronto, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
“The announcement of these new specifications represents notice to the industry that will enable production and post-production companies and equipment manufacturers to ready themselves for the transition to common specifications,” says NABA Director-General Michael McEwen.
These specifications are the first output from the strategic partnership formed between NABA and the DPP in April 2015. Work will continue between the two organisations looking at Ultra High Definition for North America and at the development of a Mastering Format. This will help to reach the ultimate goal of the NABA/DPP partnership: to promote the international exchange of content through the definition and implementation of common specifications.
“NABA and the DPP share the same philosophy,” says DPP Managing Director Mark Harrison. “We both recognize that the national and international exchange of media will only increase – and that we need to make this process simpler, easier and cheaper for the whole supply chain if our industry is to thrive.”
The agreement of these new technical specifications won’t bring an immediate move to a common delivery format. However, the transition will begin over the next 12 months with some networks that are in position to take delivery of programs to these specifications on a selective basis.
Production companies wishing to deliver to these new specifications should discuss this at the point of commission, and seek formal agreement with their broadcaster at the outset of production.