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Round-Up: Our November Post Production Workshop

Almost a year to the day since we held our very first DPP Post Production Workshop we held our fifth, on 26th November. Eight weeks on from File Delivery Day, 1st October, it felt like a great opportunity to reflect on how file based delivery is going so far; what’s working well, and what’s not working quite as well as it could be.

Based on the the results of our October Post Production Survey, we invited three facilities at the forefront of file delivery to present their experiences so far, and (rather sensibly, it turned out!) timetabled plenty of time for questions and answers.

Mark Harrison, DPP Chair introduced the session with an update on Broadcaster numbers. At the time of the workshop Channel 4 were delivering 40-50% of all programmes as file, ITV had hit the 600 mark, including high end dramas and some soap series’, and the BBC’s file deliveries would also enter the hundreds early next year.

The story from the three broadcasters is pleasantly one with few problems: any issues were mainly around process, such as metadata and file naming, as opposed to technology or workflow glitches.

This positive picture was reflected in all of the case studies presented on the night, with Paul Wilkes from Halo celebrating the transition from tape to file as a very collaborative process. “File Delivery Day, a line in the sand for when all broadcasters would be accepting deliveries by file, encouraged a commitment to collective troubleshooting”, he said, “with DPP events nurturing a sense of community between formerly disparate and independent sectors of the industry”.

Paul went on to outline the experience so far at Halo Post, where they have found that post-production engagement with DPP early on in the transition from tape to file, helped them to lead, support and inform producers. This led nicely into a discussion around producers’ understanding of file based delivery workflows, eyeball checks and sign off, along with the additional time required to perform these checks.

It was widely acknowledged within the group that posthouses are relied upon to provide support and reassurance for eyeball QC sign off. Closely linked to this was the concern that production companies still expect to work to tape-based timelines, in terms of delivering at a specific moment in time.

Rowan De Pomerai, DPP Production Technology Lead, shared ITV’s learning around this. Currently at ITV discussions between post and production teams happen at the very beginning of production; post teams go through the proposed workflow, highlighting key QC checkpoints and the cost implications of checking and subsequently finding faults later in the timeline. It is being reiterated as clearly and as often as possible that an additional cost is incurred each time a fault is found late in the workflow.

Andy Quested, file-delivery expert from the BBC, was also on hand to advise. He confirmed once again that the sign off – editorial and the quality of a programme – should be factored in at various stages of the timeline with producer QC complete before the file is sent into any rendering or processing. This ensures early opportunities are seized to make any necessary changes. All backend processing should be done once producer sign-off has taken place.

Presenting the view from True North, Carol McKenzie and Andrew Lurcuck agreed with the ITV approach. True North is an indie production company with its own in-house post operation – and that makes it easier to join up the conversation between production and post. Communication, Carol explained, is key: “We have amended our workflows for file delivery to allow a full day after online and dub, which has been communicated to producers along with the message that they must without exception be available to do the eyeball checks”.

Carol and Andrew also emphasised the importance of including producers, production managers and edit assistants in the change conversation, with representatives from varied departments at True North attending DPP Forums and Workshops, to get a feel for file based delivery workflows.

On the question of cost, True North have found that file delivery can sometimes involve an element of guesswork at the budgeting stage, as the amount of time needed for quality control checks and actual preparation of the file is still relatively unknown. The DPP have done a lot of work to establish accurate costs for programmes delivered by tape, but were unable to determine any clear and reliable benchmark – the lack of clarity around tape-based production costs has spilled over into file based delivery. Carol and Andrew agreed that the move to file based delivery has been a smoother transition than originally anticipated, and acknowledged it is an iterative process.

After breaking for a quick glass of wine or two, the discussion continued with Davide Maglio, presenting Loft London’s experiences. Davide was also in agreement that the move to file delivery is a process of various stages. He explained that as File Delivery Day represented a milestone as opposed to a deadline, this fostered a sensible approach from both delivery and receipt sides. While efforts are being made to firmly establish file based delivery workflows, all parties recognise that each player is at a slightly different stage in the game, and this makes for easier communication and more effective collaboration across the industry.

Davide was keen to look to the future, and talked about the work that is needed to transition to a fully file-based world. He gave the example of often being asked at Loft for a Pro-Res format and two HDCAM SRs alongside an AS-11 format, for archiving and international distribution purposes. On these points he asked that the DPP continue to host events like this Workshop and continue the conversation both here in the UK and internationally.

If you were at our IBC forum in Amsterdam in September, you would have heard us talk about and launch our DPP Roadmap for 2015. Amongst our key priorities, which you can read more about here, are International Distribution and a Comprehensive Guide to Digital Storage.We have a lot of work to do in these areas, and will continue to keep the dialogue open on these via our events.

The DPP events calendar for 2015 is currently in development, but you can keep up with announcements for these by following us on Twitter, @UKdpp, joining the conversation on LinkedIn: Digital Production Partnership (DPP) or joining our mailing list.

 This blog post was written by Charlotte.