—Frustrated by the array
of file and tape formats from outside content providers, a
number of broadcasters in the United Kingdom formed the Digital Production
Partnership with the goal of solving interoperability issues and to meet specific content delivery
requirements. That program, which many technologies now comply with, is based
on the AS-11 specification, published by the U.S.-based Advanced Media Workflow
a compliance test that products would need to meet to be
as "DPP compliant."
Last week, AMWA announced it had completed its work and created an official
"AS-11 DPP Compliance Program" that all involved can use as a roadmap
for designing and installing technology that works together seamlessly. The
group has devised a compliance test that products would need to meet to be
considered as "DPP Compliant," in order to improve file-based
experience and communication between U.K. broadcasters and manufacturers.
This same U.K. broadcaster initiative would appear to have value for
U.S. broadcasters and content creators, according to Brad Gilmer, executive director of the AMWA, who said that U.S. broadcasters could decide to mandate
the use of AS-11. However, it would have to include a U.S. “shim”
(basically, operating points) which would further define the AS-11 format for
use specifically in the United States.
“At this time, there is a Joint Task Force looking into the
feasibility of such an activity in the U.S.,” Gilmer said, “but it is
far from clear that the task force would ever recommend the use of
The AS-11 spec defines two shims that meet the U.K. broadcasters’
requirements for SD and HD file delivery of finished programs.
“There has been great interest from U.S. manufacturers who supply
U.K. broadcasters, in terms of adding specific support in their products,“
said Phil Tudor, a principal engineer at BBC Research & Development, in
London. “Production companies internationally, who supply the U.K.
broadcasters, would also use the format, where required.”
The idea, Tudor explained, is that “certified” products
would make it easier for production companies and broadcasters to buy equipment
that will work satisfactorily with the AS-11 DPP format, reducing the
possibility of playback or other problems when the broadcaster plays the
content out for broadcast.
He said the DPP compliance program is not involved in
operations (e.g., testing specific programs at a specific production company or
on receipt by a broadcaster. Also, the compliance refers to the format, not the
content (pictures and sound). Those typically would be checked operationally,
and are the responsibility of individual production companies and broadcasters.
The AS-11 DPP certificate applies to a piece of production equipment or
software and tells you that it has been tested and is capable of writing or
reading a valid format DPP file.
One such broadcast equipment manufacturer that is now developed its
news production and asset management products to be DPP compliant is Dalet,
based in Paris, France.
“Dalet is proud to be part of The Digital Production Partnership’s
achievement in making the AS-11 DPP Compliance Program a reality,” said
Bruce Devlin, chief media scientist at the company. “We feel that this is a
much-needed industry initiative to encourage vendors like Dalet to meet the
formalized needs of the customers defined in the DPP delivery specification.”
Devlin said the essence of the Compliance Program is that it will
reduce interoperability issues when creating and using AS-11 DPP files, and it
will provide industry assurance by enabling “a consistent expectation of
quality and reliability with AS-11 DPP products.
The DPP Compliance Program was developed as an extension of the
current DPP Interoperability
Days and Technical
Standards work within AMWA, and was officially launched in March of
“It’s all about creating a level playing field,” said Devlin in a
statement. The DPP specification is derived from the original MXF specification,
which Devlin helped develop. “Vendors build generic products to service markets
that are bigger than the DPP scope. Against this background, how do we ensure
that the constraints that are placed on those generic products fall within the
DPP delivery specification limits and meet the operational needs of the end
The goal of the DPP, and of the Compliance Program, is to make sure
that broadcasters and facilities always create files that are compliant, even
after upgrades of underlying codecs. The partnership is also striving to ensure
that equipment inter-operates, even when the specification does not cover every
possible interpretation of creating a bitstream.
an official “AS-11 DPP Compliance Program” that all
can use as a roadmap for designing and installing technology
works together seamlessly.
Gilmer said that the real goal of the DPP (and the Compliance Program) is to
ensure that broadcasters and facilities always create files that are compliant,
even after upgrades of underlying codecs. He added that the partnership also
wants to ensure that equipment inter-operates, even when the specification does
not cover every possible interpretation of creating a bitstream.
“Ten or 15 years ago, manufacturers would have laughed at me if I
suggested that interoperability on this scale was possible,” Devlin said, “but
now—thanks to the incredible work of the DPP and the ability of
vendors to see the bigger picture—we have achieved it.”
Devlin, who has been involved with DPP since its inception, said he
believes that the program might have more far-reaching implications. More
generally, how do we ensure decoders behave consistently when faced with a
broad range of inputs? And also, how do we ensure encoders create the narrowest
range of variations in encoded file parameters to make life easy for the
decoders under all operational circumstances?
If the DPP is to meet its self-imposed October deadline, Devlin said,
then important decisions such as the Compliance Program need to be made.
“Those manufacturers that have signed up to the Compliance Agreement
have gone a long way toward achieving the original goals and objectives of the
DPP, which were agreed almost three years ago,” Devlin said. “The U.K.’s ability
to agree to these principles puts it out in front of other regions. Could we
see a blueprint here that could be adopted elsewhere—for the sake of
our global industry, I hope so.”
The Digital Production Partnership was founded in May 2010 to
help speed the transition to fully digital production and distribution in
television. It is a not-for-profit partnership funded and led by the BBC, ITV
and Channel 4; with representation from Sky, Channel 5, S4/C, UKTV and BT