SMPTE, DPP Partner on IMF for Broadcast and Online
Goal is an NAB 2018 debut
July 13, 2017
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. —Two major production technology
organizations are teaming up to brew a new flavor of the Interoperable Master
Format otherwise referred to as “IMF,” in time for next year’s NAB Show.
publication of the IMF specification is expected to take place before the 2018
NAB Show,” stated the announcement distributed by the Society of Motion Picture
and Television Engineers. SMPTE, along with the Digital Production
Partnership, intends to create the new standard.
SMPTE, the North American Broadcasters Association, the European Broadcasting
Union, manufacturers, and end users across the media industry, we plan to
create a specification that brings the benefits of IMF more fully into the
broadcast and online realm,” said Mark Harrison, DPP managing director, in the SMPTE release.
IMF is described in the SMPTE standard ST 2067, (standards documents are housed in
the IEEE Digital Library). In a nutshell, IMF is a method for transmogrifying a
master file into various versions for delivery to many platforms. The current
version is more geared toward studios and less toward broadcasting because of
the codecs it does and does not support. Netflix, for example, uses IMF because
it licenses content from multiple studios. (See, “IMF: A Prescription
for Versionitis,” Netflix Tech Blog,” March 7, 2016 and “IMF: Unleashing the Benefits of File-Based Content,” TV Technology, Feb. 15, 2017.).
The fragmentation of display platforms is driving the initiative
for broadcasting, according Andy Wilson, head of business development for DPP
in a statement from the London-based tech
consortium formed by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
“Broadcasters are looking to target
new audiences and territories and monetize their program assets over a much
longer period of time,” he said. “But while they are doing
that they also need to maintain quality. So the need to keep high-quality files
for re-versioning for new broadcast and online deliveries is more important
SMPTE said this new version will “deliver a technical specification for IMF in broadcast and online
applications as a breakdown of different elements—video and audio packages,
composition playlists, and output profile lists—with references to all relevant
The final draft proposals will proceed “in conjunction
with a series of plugfests and product tests,” SMPTE said. When it’s done, it will be made available to manufacturers for creating compatible readers, writers and analyzers.
DPP said the partnership with SMPTE builds on its own analysis of business
requirements for creating a global IMF standard with input from NABA and EBU in
particular. The partnership is said to be the “first step in a wider move by SMPTE to take a new approach to
standards and specifications, and will initially pilot the delivery of the IMF
SMPTE Executive Director Barbara Lange said the
effort to extend IMF “comes in response to the changing media landscape where
content delivery to multiple territories is increasingly the norm.”
Bruce Devlin is
the SMPTE governor for the U.K. Region as well as “Mr. MXF” for his pioneering co-invention of the Material Exchange
Format, a type of file wrapper that can be used in the IMF architecture. (Refer
again to the Netflix blog.) Devlin said the SMPTE-DPP work will drill down into
“specific television metadata needs—from the inclusion of third-party QC
reports to the metadata for compressed surround audio—of using IMF in TV
Howard Lukk, SMPTE director of Engineering and Standards, said the partnership with
DPP breaks new ground for SMPTE.
will establish a streamlined specification framework that complements our wide
range of other due-process engineering documents such as standards,” he said.