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HPA 2016: Smith, Harrison Talk File Delivery Formats

INDIAN WELLS, CALIF.—Mark Harrison said in 2010 it was clear there was problem.

End-to-end digital workflows were not coming together. The BBC ITV and Channel 4 created and funded the Digital Production Partnership, of which Harrison is now managing director. He said the DPP defined a common delivery format, AS-11 UK DPP, that was implemented in March of 2011 at BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Channel 5 and BT Sport and S4C.

At BBC, they have so far put 8,000 AS-11 DPP programs to air “with no problems,” he said.

“At the very least, we’ve taken tape out of the equation,” Harrison said.

The when production companies began to move into a file-based world, and they needed help, he said.

Thus, DPP relaunched as a commercial endeavor to provide the technology beyond the British broadcasters. DPP most recently released an UHD delivery spec, and published a UHD production workflow guide.

In sum, DPP isn’t a standards body, but an organization “that helps get standards implemented,” he said.

DPP’s vetting process never goes beyond 12 months, he said, even though the organization consists of half a dozen people.

Clyde Smith, of Fox stood in for the North American Broadcasters Association. He laid out the laid out the “North American situation.”

Each major network had its own unique technical spec for program delivery, ranging from five pages to 28, he said. Many were incomplete or at least fraught with ambiguity. Some were simple citations of a standard such as SMPTE- 377m-2004—the MXF spec.

“Citing this alone is insufficient as there are many options to specify, as well; so it is incomplete and ambiguous to do so without citing the options,” Smith said later.

The result is costly to manufacturers, creates delays and adds inaccuracies in business processes, he said. Every year, there are new specs and everything starts again.

DPP and NABA formed a strategic partnership last April to help fix that. They’ve had more than 100 document contributions and presentations from across the U.S. and Canada.

The results will consider two workflows: A library master suitable for re-creation of many deliverables, using the original finished program frame rate and a high-quality codec such as J2K or XAVC; and a second air-ready master.

The library master will be released in a few weeks, initially as a common tech spec document, and eventually in XML.

Meanwhile, Smith said the Advanced Media Workflow Association is taking AS-11, the file delivery format developed by the DPP, and breaking it down into a series of rules that he likened to a set of interoperable Lego blocks. The same is happening in Australia, New Zealand and Nordic territories.

There will be two major sections covering network- and broadcaster-specific instructions, and common technical specs. For contractual reasons, broadcasters can specify their production limitations and requirements—which cameras and perhaps graphics and text to be used. These can be part of broadcaster-specific instructions.

The common technical specs will cover video, audio, captions, time code, codecs, file formats and metadata. SMPTE has taken this on with Bruce Devlin leading the group (377-M), while Chris Lennon is working on the XML metadata model.

Finally, Smith mentioned a growing preference from people who want to do high definition with high-dynamic range and wider color gamut, but not necessarily 4K.

The DPP/NABA technical group will bring its work to the Joint Task Force on File Formats and Media Interoperability, which Smith chairs. The JTFFFMI is jointly sponsored by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, AMWA, the Association of National Advertisers, The European Broadcasting Union, the International Association of Broadcast Manufacturers, NABA; and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers—pretty much everyone who touches media files for television.