-From October the uptake of a common file format for HD and SD delivery among UK
broadcasters, first agreed in principle over two and half years ago, looks set
to become a reality. The date is being dubbed as “DPP D-Day” — named after a coalition
of UK broadcasters, the Digital Production Partnership, which has been working
tirelessly towards achieving take-up of the AS-11 standard.
self-imposed deadline means that UK broadcasters now require all content to be
delivered by UK program makers digitally, using the AS-11 standard, a subset
of AVCi100 AS-1, the internationally-recognized standard from the Advanced
Media Workflow Association.
suppliers still delivering content on tape this autumn, however, are unlikely
to be shown the door, according to Kevin Burrows, DPP’s Technical Standards
Lead, who is also CTO for broadcast and distribution at UK terrestrial
broadcaster Channel 4.
not going not to be a cut-off date as such, but it will depend on what the
suppliers’ contract cycle is with the broadcaster. But the rules will apply to
all new TV shows,” he explains.
last update to the main spec (Version 4) was announced in October, and
according to Burrows, while there is still some fine tuning to be achieved in
relation to the QC
process, the UK TV industry is “pretty much there” in terms of nailing the
DPP Developments in 2014
13, 2014: TG4 joins the DPP. The Irish Language broadcaster joins ITV, BBC and
Channel 4, Channel Five, Sky, UKTV, S4C and BT Sport.
31, 2014: Quality Control Guidelines are issued by DPP to help producers carry
out the necessary QC checks to ensure they deliver broadcast quality files,
which meet the necessary standards. The DPP has taken the EBU definitions and
created a minimum set of tests and tolerance levels required for UK broadcasters.
Included in the new guidelines are AS-11 file compliance checks, and Automated
Quality Control tests for Video and Audio. Examples are loudness levels, and
3, 2014: The DPP agrees on an industry document format standard for the
exchange of subtitles for the hard of hearing and audio description, aligned
with the EBU’s new subtitle document format (EBU-TT). The format is a flavour
of XML whose format can be validated using off the shelf tools and extended to
meet specific requirements while still being interchangeable
the meantime, Burrows has been working with manufacturers on a compliance
program, defining the minimum criteria by which vendors can label their kit as
lot of production companies have been asking us: “What can we buy that can help
us?’ There are lots of products out there that are capable of creating files,
but they might not necessarily be in the right format, so we are working on the
compliance now and looking at an AMWA certification process.”
adds that while the DPP has a metadata app that can create digital files in the
correct format, there are some manufacturers out there — such as Avid and Apple
— which have already integrated this functionality into their latest releases
of Media Composer and Final Cut Pro.
there was reluctance from some of the manufacturers and playout service
providers to engage with AS-11, particularly among those based outside the UK,
but Burrows adds that because the standard has gained such a broad following,
“they are taking it very seriously.”
with any standard, there are inevitably areas that will need to be clarified.
Bruce Devlin, CTO of workflow software vendor Amberfin and a recently appointed
membership director of the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers
is a keen supporter of the standard. This did not prevent him however, from
publically highlighting interoperability dilemmas.
you take all the combinations of wrappers, video codecs, audio codecs, track
layouts, time code options and other ancillary data and complete a ‘minimal’
in/out test matrix then you end up with a test plan that will take at least
1,800 years to complete,” he warned in a statement issued late last year.
sanguine response to this however, is that this is true of any standard ever
tested. “If you tested every possible function on Windows software then it
would take the same amount of time. We’ve tried to keep it simple. There is an
HD standard and an SD standard. In terms of metadata what we’ve tried to do is
constrain it greatly — yes, language can be misinterpreted, but we are aiming
to make the process and the standard
as bombproof as possible to minimize errors.”
also highlights the importance of planning DPP deployments well in advance of
the looming deadlines and allowing for ‘dress rehearsal’ runs as early as
This off-the-shelve solution uses its RadiantGrid Intelligent Media
Transformation Platform to automate and accelerate repackaging and delivery of
file-based content in the AMWA AS-11 file format according to UK DPP shim specifications.
QC from Digimetrics, distributed by Boxer Systems, claims to provide ‘a fast
and efficient method’ to test files for AS-11 compliance.
has developed DPP-specific media ingest workstations and file transcoders:
designated iCR-100-DPP (transcoder), iCR-300-DPP
ingest workstation) and iCR-500-DPP (media ingest, transcode, playback,
metadata entry and QC review), available through ATG Broadcast in the UK
this end, Burrows adds that many companies have been trialing out workflows for
at least two years, and the DPP already has a test bed set up at the BBC’s
R&D facility at Centre House in West London. Another pan-UK broadcaster
initiative is being managed by a test manager seconded from ITV.
DPP has also held a number of seminars this year to equip content producers
with all the knowledge they need to know about AS-11 file delivery – the
sessions were sell outs and all the information has subsequently been uploaded
on the DPP’s website.
what if some companies just aren’t ready by ‘DPP-Day’?
will just have to manage that process,” says Burrows. “Broadcasters are ramping
up and what we are trying to focus on is October. At this point in time there
is no reason to suspect that this won’t happen. The ￼kit is out there to
convert files into the right formats.”
far the signs are encouraging — even broadcasters from much further afield are
keeping a close eye on the activities of the DPP. According to Burrows there
has been lot of interest from the U.S. and the partnership is in conversation
with two of the big networks about the AS-11 file format.
broadcaster NRK has also based its working practices on the DPP Technical
Standards “It has adopted the SD standard – it will be interesting to see where
they are going with that,” Burrows adds.
to the future, Burrows says the DPP may look at archive standards, but right
now the focus in on compliance ahead of ‘DPP-Day.’