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Updates from the DPP’s latest Post Workshop

Who says we never give you anything?  For Easter, instead of yet another chocolate egg, we decided to give you something much more useful – the gift of knowledge in the form of the DPP’s third Post Production Workshop.

As the sun streamed in through the windows of ITV’s South Bank building we packed an awful lot in to the morning.  We asked 3sixtymedia to give us a sneaky look at their file delivery workflow and talk us through how they’re handling the file delivery process, we got the classic Andy Quested and Rowan de Pomerai band back together to explain exactly what they were thinking when selecting the DPP QC parameters, we heard everything you ever wanted to know about the DPP’s new Compliance Programme and our patient pan-broadcaster panel answered your questions about what AS-11 DPP file delivery really means for post production providers.

Taig McNab, 3sixtymedia’s Technical Manager shared some of the processes, timings and tools they’re using, along with noting some of the interesting challenges they’ve faced so far.  Their workflow looks a little something like this (N.B. other workflows / kit are available!):

3sixyslide

This presentation threw up some really good questions around their experience of producer involvement in the process and where the final sign off needs to occur.

So the production process is relatively straightforward, but it’s after this when I struggle with the workflow process; at what point / how often does a producer get involved with any changes which are needed to achieve a compliant file?

3sixty say they haven’t observed any big problems with this so far.  The person doing the eyeball check is QC qualified, and if they need to go back into their edit and change something which would affect the editorial content, it would only be this part that is reviewed again.  Technical changes wouldn’t always be reviewed – this is the same process as tape QC.

The DPP perceives that there are 2 main changes here: a technical change and a cultural / editorial change, and that the latter is especially important. Producers will have to get into the habit of checking and reviewing their programmes earlier in the process. Getting this discipline back into production will be a positive step; with producers viewing programmes at appropriate times, getting credits and captions right the first time, and making changes sooner.

When it actually comes to signing off a file as compliant, is there an actual contract drawn up? Do we ‘see the ink?’ Is it worth drawing up a contract to ‘cover’ post?

Broadcasters expect to see that a responsible person has verified that the programme is of a suitable quality at the bottom of the QC report, i.e. a producer name but no actual signature. Broadcasters’ can’t suggest a contract is needed as this would be something to be dealt with separately between production and post companies.

Broadcaster communication to Indies is obviously going to be a very important factor.  What has been put in place to try and get the message out about producer roles?

The DPP has held Forums specifically targeted at the production community, where we have explained how they can be involved – it’s an education process and transition. Now that the deadline is closer, people have to think about it, and they want to learn and understand.

We’ve also planned another ‘DPP World Tour’ (!) to Bristol, Salford and Glasgow in the summer to help extend the message. Individual broadcasters will also be putting out their own communications.

Next up, Andy Quested (Head of Technology, HD & UHD, BBC) and Rowan de Pomerai (Senior Technical Manager, ITV) delved into the magical world of file-based QC.

First of all Andy gave us the lowdown on the EBU’s wider strategic programme on QC and encouraged everyone to join up in order to access the outputs.

Then Rowan explained how the list of QC tests recently published by the DPP was drawn up.  Broadly, the audio AQC is looking for signal related errors (Compliance to EBU R128, digital audio faults – clipping, dropout & phase issues) and can also be used to flag ‘eyeball’ issues – silence, missing channels and low audio levels.  Similarly, the video AQC is looking for waveform and format related errors (video levels – gamut, dropout & black frames, video formats – scanning & field order, image issues – freeze frames & short shots) and can again be used to flag ‘eyeball’ issues such as blanking, blocking and video noise.

Rowan explained why each of these errors was selected and how it is categorised as either a ‘mandatory’ test or a ‘technical’ or ‘editorial’ warning.  Warnings that cannot be fixed must be flagged to the broadcaster in the XML or PDF report from the AQC tool.

There was also some focus on the selection of AQC kit.   The advice was that you can use any tool that includes the DPP tests, meeting the EBU standards.  You must set your device up as per the DPP requirements, which a number of products on the market will meet.  Other factors such as throughput, scalability, resilience, user interface will also need to affect your decision about which kit to purchase.  It was noted that the DPP will not publish a list of AQC devices (with the exception of those specifically used for PSE testing as his is a legal requirement – you must choose a device from the DPP list to test for PSE errors).

Inevitably this led on to more questions….

We know that we’ll be delivering AQC reports as a PDF / XML  – do you require the eyeball check to be electronic as well?

The EBU are looking at standardising QC reports, but at the moment the broadcasters don’t mind.  They expect a digital report, which may be in the same format as those used for physical tape QC.  Some tools may be able to combine the AQC, PSE and eyeball reports in one document, or these can all be sent separately.

The creation of files is relatively straightforward, but when it leaves the facility and goes to the broadcaster, communication could become lost. How do we know when the intake department has looked at a file and if it’s passed the QC?

This process will vary for each broadcaster, but the BBC, ITV and Channel 5 all confirmed that they would issue some kind of receipt to indicate that the file has been accepted. This may be integrated with the delivery tool or issued as a separate email or XML file, for example.

After AQC it was on to Paul Drewett, the DPP’s Test Manager for our recently launched Compliance Programme.  Paul explained the what and the why, which you can find out more about here.  He then went into some more detail about the aims of the Programme.  For example, once the test elements have been devised Paul will be mapping device types to them.  Depending on the device classification, ‘DPP Compliance’ will be assessed based on the appropriate tests for that device.  E.g: A software player, or playout server, would be a ‘reader’ and have to properly read “DPP test files” to be compliant; A transcode device would be both a ‘reader’ and a ‘writer’, and so additionally have to pass “DPP tests” on the files it creates; An AQC device would be a ‘reader’, ‘analyser’, and also a writer if it produced a new file, so all three test elements would be required to be passed for it to be compliant.

The next steps for the Compliance Programme are to sign up more manufacturers, arrange the loan of any equipment / licenses from them, complete the definition of the Phase 1 compliance criteria, and commence testing, starting with the analysis & test tools.

Final questions included:

Although the deadline isn’t until 1st 0ctober we need to make purchasing decisions before this. Product manufacturers all seem to be chasing the deadline and competing with one another. How do we choose between them?

It’s a reasonable assumption to make, if people have signed up to the DPP Compliance Programme, that their products either already are or aim to be compliant by the 1st October (a list of member manufacturers is due to be published on the DPP website once contracts are signed). They are actively involved, and because we’ve given a deadline it’s in their interests to meet this. If their product fits into your workflow and does what you need effectively, you can be pretty sure about it.

If the manufacturers aren’t allowed to say they are supplying DPP compliant products, are we, as a post production house, allowed to say that we are producing ‘DPP compliant files?’

We’d prefer if language such as ‘we’ve successfully delivered DPP files for broadcasters’ is used. It would be better to steer clear of the word ‘compliant’ for now for various legal reasons.

That’s all folks! Thanks again for an insightful session.  We hope to welcome many of you back again for the next event.

This blog post was written by Jayne.

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