(Editor’s Note: Mr. Smith has
TV Technology with a update on the
effort to create a common program delivery format for North America based on a
successful specification process in the United Kingdom. Some of the questions
were crowd-sourced; others submitted by the editor, including “what
else should we be asking?” Thus, Mr. Smith also has contributed to
the query list here, which the editor greatly appreciates. Also, Mr. Smith will
be giving a presentation, “DPP
for North America - A Common File Format Specification that will Enable
Evolution,” at NAB on Monday, April 18 in Room S227.
: Last year, the North American Broadcasters Association
and the Digital Production Partnership Ltd., announced a strategic partnership
to promote the international exchange of content through common specifications.
The work to date has built on AS-11
, a common specification for file-based program delivery
implemented across all the major U.K. broadcasters Oct. 1, 2014.
The introduction of this universal and
standardized file delivery specification required business and technology
change from all parts of the supply chain–production, post
production, vendors, service providers and broadcasters.
Following their first meeting at the NAB Show in
2015, a weekly NABA/DPP Technical Group—including key DPP contacts
and members from nine of the major NABA broadcasters: ABC/Disney, Bell Media,
CBC/Radio Canada, Fox, HBO, NBC Universal, PBS, Time Warner and
Turner—has worked to the basis of a common delivery specification for
With contributions from across the NABA
broadcasters, industry associations, manufacturers and the DPP on a variety of
topics, the group has been working to the agreed principles that the completed
work must be commonly defined, testable and unambiguous. And crucially that any
produce business value. The outcome being
that the team has now agreed on two common specifications for the delivery of
finished “Air Ready” programs, which will be launched at a
special event on Tuesday, April 19 during the NAB Show.
It’s a fine standard, but so are
many others. Currently, each network has its own standard…
Let’s make it clear, this is not a standard and the network delivery
documents are not standards. This is an effort to create a common
for program delivery.
Today, many major end users produce their own
specifications that stipulate their requirements for program delivery. These
specifications are produced by the end users themselves and not by a
cross-industry team with a broader perspective and, in some areas, a greater depth
of knowledge of the implementation of the specifications that may referenced in
the end-user’s specification.
End-user specifications consist of business
processes, production requirements and technical specifications that reference standards
to specify the technical parameters of the file format, codec, wrapper, audio,
video, caption, timecode, metadata and other structural requirements for the
deliverable program to fulfill the interoperability needs of the end user as
dictated by their infrastructure and processes.
The three elements—business process
requirements, production requirements and technical requirement—are
intermingled to a greater of lesser degree throughout these documents.
The technical specifications may contain issues
of errors such as ambiguity
. Each of these
has a cost, and each effects all of the other portions of the industry from
manufacturing, production, post production, fulfillment, delivery and playout
at the end-user facility as well as repurposing of OTT platforms or other
The following are examples of each and their
specifications can be represented in several ways. One way is the citation of a
standard without the specificity of also citing valid modes and options
contained in the standard. For example, the 700-plus pages of MXF contain
multiple, and perhaps incompatible, methods of including timecode as well as
captioning. Few specifications delineate parameters in such a way as to
absolutely and specifically define the requirements, insuring that proper human
interpretation will achieve interoperability.
specification is another issue. The citation of standards and then adding
additional technical requirements that are not specifically documented in, or
supported by, these standards is also a significant problem.
is represented by
differences that do not produce value in technical interoperability, creative
intent and/or business requirements. This disparity
caused by the “not invented here” or “we have
always done it this way” syndromes.
These are just three areas that commonly cause
problems for manufacturers, the production and fulfillment companies as well as
How does the North American Broadcasters
Association DPP specification address the
is addressed by several methods. First, because
we had a year’s worth of discussions, contributions and review from
very many specialists from the major north American broadcasters,
manufacturers, standards subject matter experts and industry association, we
brought to bear more resources than any one organization could afford to. We
also greatly benefited from knowledge from the DPP U.K. experience and
expertise from other broadcast organizations such as the BBC and the European
Second, we leveraged work being done in other
areas such as the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the
Advanced Media Workflow Association and the EBU.
The AMWA has broken down the technical
requirement of the AS-11 specification into a series of building block. Each
block represents a citation of a requirement as being fulfilled by a standard
and the required and compatible modes or options in that standard and only
those modes and options. A collection of these building blocks produces a
specific and precise foundation and structure.
The NABA DPP Technical Specification for North
America utilizes this block structure to eliminate these errors. These
structures, while relatively new, already define the original DPP U.K.
specification and new ones as well, including those for Nordic Regions,
Australia and New Zealand. The AMWA is in the process of documenting the block
structures required for our MPEG-2 Air Ready Masters and AVC Air Ready Masters
as X-8 and X-9 and these will soon be published through the AMWA’s
Third, one issue has always been interpretation
of the document. Depending on the authors detailed knowledge of standards and
writing ability and well as the reader’s knowledge and capabilities,
the intent may or may not be properly conveyed. We have addressed this by
working with Chris Lennon of MediAnswers and the SMPTE to extend the BXF
metadata model to including an XML representation of the specification. This
will enable direct machine to machine communications, and in the future, will
greatly help to resolve the human factor issues.
What else does it address?
processes, production requirements and technical specifications. The NABA DPP
Technical Specification clearly separates these into the three distinct areas.
The main body of the specification are the commonly agreed to technical
requirements. This area is followed by appendices that permit to broadcaster to
specify their business process and optionally any desired production or
post-production requirement to fulfill their creative intent and business
needs. The simply process for breaking down the interleaving of these
requirements makes the document much more understandable and clear.
Another major achievement and a huge industry
problem we addressed was building a common a common metadata set. There are so
many disparities in the metadata requirements for the end users and how
metadata is represented, and this is one of the biggest problem areas. These
documents produced a constrained and common defined and agreed to set of
metadata requirements of many, but not all, of the frequently used metadata
What has been demonstrated by the DPP in
the United Kingdom?
implementation of the DPP Technical Specifications in the U.K. has been a
brilliant success. It has been a phenomenal achievement that has resulted in
rejection numbers that are infinitesimal, in one major end users experience,
they have had zero
The DPP organization has been very open in
sharing their knowledge and experience, and we have seen the expansion of this
approach into Australia, New Zealand and the Nordic Regions, and now North
America with the release of the Air Ready Master Technical
Next, we have two current activities, the
Library Master and the UHD Master.
The completion of a Library Master specification
is for broadcasters with a unified workflow, where they take in one file of
native format and utilize it for repurposing into all other distribution
The UHD Master is highly desired by broadcaster
making plans for their UHD workflows and do not want the replicate the
compatibility and interoperability issues we have all experienced in the past
with new format specifications.
Both of these formats are based on SMPTE
How will DPP affect production and distribution in the United States?
We will need to start and educational process, but once the mass
customization process has ended and there is a precisely defined specification,
it will greatly improve the efficiency, reduce errors, reduce time-to-air and
permit them to serve multiple customers’ needs with a single
you get all the U.S. broadcasters (or all the North American ones) to agree on
a single standard?
I am not sure that we will ever get all of them and their
adoption rate will vary as they look at capabilities of their existing
infrastructure and their replacement cycles. However, if you take five or six
complex specifications out of the market, it will greatly aid all segments of
the industry from manufacturers to end users. I also think that as other
regions adopt this similar structure around the world the reasons not to adopt
it will become more expensive and less compelling for end users.
The program and ad suppliers will,
I’m sure, be delighted to go along. But we are still in an era of
720p at ABC and Fox and 1080i at CBS and NBC. CBS also insists on
shoot-and-protect for 16:9, while Fox thinks it’s dumb. How do they
reach universal agreement?
examples of areas that produce business or creative value and should be open
for the end users to support in a way that benefits them. What we have achieved
it to review all the requirements, separate them into Business, Creative and
Technical, and then review each for technical integrity and accuracy,
first asking the question, “does this
difference produce value to the business?” I was very pleased to hear
people stating that they saw no value in many of the differences and that they
would make changes to a common specification, not all but many.
And, if they don’t, what does DPP
bring to the table?
Those that do adopt the NABA DPP Technical Specification will
benefit from the efforts of major broadcasters in North America and around the
world to produce a commonly defined, and therefore widely supported format,
that will reduce costs, errors and time to market. It is defined by a set of
testable building blocks and will be documented in BXF to further reduce errors
and enhance accurate automated processing with interoperability.
As organizations face challenges maintaining
technical and operations staff with in-depth technical knowledge to develop and
facilitate the administration of these complex technical specifications, they
now have an alternative that was developed by knowledge resources and their
contributions from across the industry and around the world. Most organizations
simply cannot afford to commit the resources to meet the current demands or the
new and emerging technologies, this is an alternative for them as well as for
the major broadcasters of North America.
April 12, 2016
Meeting Highlights Changing Landscape”
The North American Broadcasters
Association held its Annual General Meeting in Mexico City, March
1–3. Our Mexican members Televisa and TV Azteca hosted the three-day
event at the facilities of Cámara Nacional de la Industria de Radio y
January 29, 2016
Launches UHD Standard”
The Digital Production Partnership
has revealed a new technical standard for the delivery of Ultra High Definition
Frustrated by the array of file and tape formats from outside content providers, a number of broadcasters in the United Kingdom have formed the Digital Production Partnership with the goal of solving interoperability issues and to meet specific content delivery. requirements.