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What Really Happened on the DPP World Tour?

The DPP’s first Forums on file-based delivery, held in London, were so successful it made repackaging them to take on the road feel rather like preparing to tour the proverbially difficult second album.

As the Tour Manager for this ever more in-demand act it’s fair to say I had to deal with my fair share of groupies, technical hitches and logistical nightmares throughout the tour – Glasgow: Some of our Banners are Missing, Bristol: Carry on, Follow that Cab and Salford: Holiday Inn – the Sequel (Express version).  However, as always the overall experience was overwhelmingly positive and we’d like to thank all of our colleagues in Glasgow, Bristol and Salford for their incredibly warm welcomes and insightful feedback on our sessions.

I could have written an individual review of each performance by the DPP team but it quickly became clear that there were a number of topics that were important to all of the attendees regardless of where in the UK they’re based. And here they are:

What do we want?  ‘Delivery!’  When do we want it?  ‘Late!’
People’s main concerns here were around topical programmes that will always deliver late and how this would be achieved.  As always, the best advice is to co-ordinate with your broadcaster:  they will let you know what delivery method will be acceptable – depending on how late the programme is due to be delivered.  The aim is that in the long term tape will disappear as an option even for the latest of deliveries; and as the broadcasters processes become faster and AS-11 DPP files can be played out without transcoding, this looks set eventually to become possible, but for now the broadcasters aim to have more resource available to deal with any planned late deliveries – and will put extra effort into making sure that early deliveries don’t become late ones too! 

Just thinking about archiving is really getting my backup!
We had several questions from production companies about how long they should hold a master copy of the file after delivery to the broadcaster, and in what format.  From a contractual point of view nothing changes here.  Indies have never been required to keep a copy of the tape, although of course it’s advisable to do so until after TX, but what you do with that tape subsequently has always been your decision. Broadcasters will continue to keep a copy for the duration of the rights, but what you do with your copy is up to you. In practice of course almost everyone will want to keep a copy. The DPP recognises that file-based archiving will therefore become one of the most important decisions Indies have to make over the coming months – and that’s why we are currently doing lots of work in this area. So watch this space! Some companies are already offering archiving services – and it’s well worth looking into these.

Are we nearly there yet?
There was some discussion about delivery methods but the biggest question that came up again and again was ‘how will we know if you’ve got my file?’  Most accelerator software used for file delivery will have an automatic notification system that will notify you that the broadcaster has received your file and that the file that has been delivered is an exact copy of the file that was sent, with no missing data or additional viruses.  But, just as with tape, a notification from the courier to say it’s been delivered doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been accepted – so you’ll need to keep hold of your file just in case there are any problems.  It’s likely that you won’t hear from the broadcaster again unless there is a problem with the file that needs to be fixed, but how soon you hear from them will depend how close to TX your programme is delivered.

Quest(ed) for Worldwide Domination
Many attendees were starting to think beyond the DPP’s initial UK remit and were asking if distributors such as BBC Worldwide and ITV Studios Global Entertainment, and other international broadcasters would be accepting the AS-11 DPP file format. The BBC’s Andy Quested – their go-to guy at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – was on-hand to respond to the questions. And his answer to this was that it’s not entirely black & white.  Yes, Worldwide will accept these files but they will also need to be accompanied by a QAR report as additional QC checks are still required for global distribution.  If someone then requests a different format from BBC Worldwide they will still provide it, but at an additional cost.  A similar process will exist for ITV Studios Global Entertainment.  With regards to international broadcasters, the DPP have opened up dialogues with many of the big US studios such as Fox & Disney. Agreeing international standards is never going to be easy – but it’s something we’re interested in looking at next.

Time is money
The question of whether file delivery is going to take longer and cost more was also discussed.   Once again this is something that will change over time.  At the moment it may take a little longer so you will want to be cautious with your schedule.  It’s good to spend time talking to your post house about their experience in file delivery: they may well have already fine-tuned their workflows to help make delivery quicker and smoother. With regard to cost, research shows that the process should be more or less cost neutral, and possibly even cheaper over time – although these costs will start to creep up again if you have to recall your file for late changes due to your own errors such as misspellings. So it’s well worth making sure your QC processes get the attention they deserve!

At the end of each session we asked how many people were still worried about file delivery and the numbers were always encouragingly low.  The majority of attendees said they now felt relatively confident about the process.

If you didn’t get a chance to meet us on the tour you can find most of the information that was covered in ‘A Producer’s Guide to File Delivery’ on our dedicated File Delivery Day page.  On that page you’ll also find the BBC Academy’s excellent film on file delivery. The Academy are now running free training sessions too – so check out their File Delivery Made Real events being held near you very soon!

This blog post was written by Jayne.