Evolving the industry audio monitoring systems


Don Bird TV-Bay Magazine
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With respect to monitoring, particularly for multiplatform content delivery, how can our facility straddle the divide between baseband and file-based signals?
The media industry as a whole is moving toward multiplatform content delivery. This shift includes and affects not only traditional broadcasters and new media outlets, but the content creators as well. It is an upheaval rivaling the widespread transition from analog to digital and the subsequent HD upgrade made by much of the global broadcast industry.
The industry’s new approach to the business of content delivery is disrupting areas ranging from workflows to the infrastructure, technology, and tools required for daily operations. The rise of IT-centric technologies and the move to multiplatform content distribution models together have served to blur or even erase the boundaries between three previously distinct areas: the broadcast engineers responsible for baseband infrastructure, the IT department responsible for the network, and the digital media staff responsible for getting content re-purposed for the rapidly expanding universe of alternate playout devices and delivery services.
Production and delivery workflows at many facilities must now support both baseband and file-based content. The monitoring work once performed independently by different departments is increasingly becoming the task of a single department, which must guarantee not only quality, but compliance as well: ideally, prior to transmission. These tasks in many cases are managed across a variety of formats utilizing different software and associated “boxes”. There is a compelling need to streamline the quality assurance and compliance certification process for faster turnaround. That need is driving a move toward solutions that can more simply and cost-effectively address a variety of signal types on the same platform.
Monitoring products supporting today’s content delivery paths must address a broader range of formats and standards. Our DVM video monitoring line is a prime example, as it enables monitoring of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 signals via BNC or Ethernet inputs and provides capability to browse PID data while also supporting monitoring of 3G/HD/SD-SDI and HDMI® feeds. The format flexibility in our DVM Series monitoring systems served as the inspiration for our award-winning iON solution, which addresses the baseband/file-based divide on a larger scale. The consolidation of signal management and confidence monitoring on a single software platform not only enables practical, highly efficient monitoring of both baseband and file-based signals, but also gives users the compelling option of reviewing monitored content anywhere, anytime, on a broad range of platforms and devices.
Content prepared in one domain — baseband or file-based — must be deemed compliant in the other if it is to be distributed in a multiplatform model. Monitoring solutions that address both these areas give users the straightforward tools they need to verify that all of the content they provide has been created, formatted, and ultimately, delivered correctly.
How can file-based processing be leveraged to simplify monitoring?
Wohler’s experience with file-based processing is exemplified in our RadiantGrid Intelligent Media Transformation Platform™. Although many people didn’t understand our rationale at the time, we recognized in our acquisition of the company and its technologies, the clear need for a mature, proven file-based processing technology that could simplify the process of preparing content for multi-platform distribution and delivery. Beyond that, we saw that the proliferation of delivery channels was going to create a demand for solutions that could effectively bridge baseband and file-based infrastructures. Wohler’s long experience in managing signals in the baseband arena, coupled with RadiantGrid’s facility in the file-based domain, gives us a unique ability to assist our customers in crossing that bridge.
RadiantGrid’s faster-than-real-time content transformation capability enables efficient transcoding, standards conversion, and audio processing in applications including loudness correction, quality control, and distribution of media. Supporting media preparation and distribution, the platform serves as a powerful engine for evaluating content and ensuring compliance. While high-volume loudness and QC are two of the most obvious areas that benefit from fast parallel processing, the ongoing evolution of the RadiantGrid platform brings users an expanding array of monitoring and correction tools, including full broadcast-gamut color legalization, as part of the transcoding workflow. The ability to legalize gamut for broadcast within the NTSC and PAL domains in a file-based workflow ensures quality that allows broadcasters to take advantage of transcoding automation — and gives them confidence it will meet on-air quality requirements.
Any file-based processing system used in a multiplatform media delivery model must be equipped not only to handle files for OTT services, but also the requirements of delivering compliant audio and video content for baseband transmission. To this end, the RadiantGrid platform includes tools that address time-consuming issues common in transmission and distribution as well as features, such as high-bit-depth support, that will facilitate 4K production further up the processing pipeline.
How can we best ensure that our complete store of content, both new and archived, is compliant with current loudness regulations?
Loudness compliance is a huge issue for broadcasters, who want to make sure that, no matter where they deliver content, they will not run up against a regulatory fine. Fortunately, file-based inspection and correction software gives facilities the means to analyze and normalize files for compliance before delivery to transmission or alternate distribution platforms.
We’ve seen customers with thousands — and even hundreds of thousands — of archived program files that must be made compliant. We’ve also seen that, with a turnkey appliance for file-based loudness correction, these customers can handle loudness correction quickly and easily. In fact, in the space of just two weeks, our WohlerLoudness solution processed a WAV archive of more than 600,000 files, assuring their compliance with the appropriate global loudness standards. Both speed and quality are important factors in audio loudness processing. We have solved this problem by combining the acclaimed Linear Acoustic® AERO.file® audio processor and loudness manager with the powerful processing capabilities of our RadiantGrid™ technology.
Given the increase in loudness regulation around the world, loudness monitoring and correction are becoming a standard part of many day-to-day broadcast workflows. While there was an early rush to provide dedicated systems that met a narrow set of immediate loudness monitoring requirements, we think the industry is moving past that point. We believe that, going forward, flexible loudness technology that is compatible with global standards will be an important and necessary addition for all conventional monitoring product platforms, both file-based and baseband.
What is the simplest and most practical approach for ensuring proper captioning across all delivery platforms?
Emerging legislation is increasingly mandating captioned/subtitled content be provided across multiple delivery platforms. The challenge of ensuring delivery of ancillary data in the appropriate formats grows even more daunting as broadcasters and other content providers deliver higher volumes of media over a greater variety of platforms.
However, with the ability to extract closed captioning from media sources and insert closed captioning back into the transcoded output file, broadcasters and service providers alike can easily and cost-effectively update content for compliance prior to delivery. When mainstream video containers are used, products like our WohlerCaption system can handle this process efficiently, without requiring transcoding of the video essence.
We designed our WohlerCaption product as a turnkey appliance that can either handle the insertion of SCC or other aligned caption data files into the VANC or VBI space, or produce new ancillary outgoing files such as SMPTE-TT or SAMI. Whatever the ancillary data management system being considered, users should look for products that support a variety of captioning formats, including EIA-608, EIA-708, SCTE-20, SMPTE 328M, SMPTE 360M, VBI Line 21, SMPTE 334M, SMPTE 436M, XDS/Bar Data, CGMS-A, AFD, SMPTE-TT, SAMI, HCC, SCC, DFXP, and CaptionXML™.
How do we assure that as the industry continues to evolve, our monitoring systems will keep pace?
Though many in the media and entertainment industry still think of Wohler as an audio company, the fact is that we’ve developed and acquired a deep and broad portfolio of technologies that support today’s baseband and file-based monitoring applications, along with evolving standards for captioning, loudness, and other aspects of content metadata, legalization and compliance. Based on our experience and the feedback we receive from customers worldwide, we see that the key to future-proof monitoring systems lies in their ability to accept a wide range of signals and in their standard inclusion of capabilities and features previously available only in specialized dedicated boxes.
As leading media facilities worldwide move to streamline their operations and extend their capacity for efficient multiplatform content creation and delivery, they are assuring the ongoing utility and versatility of their monitoring systems by consolidating signal management and confidence monitoring on a single software platform. We developed our next-generation iON monitoring system along this philosophy and engineered it to make our proven technologies remotely accessible from Web-enabled PC, Mac®, smartphone, and tablet devices, with video and audio content streamed in real time. Using this monitoring model, media companies can establish more adaptable, streamlined, and cost-effective infrastructures in support of quality multiplatform media delivery.

Tags: iss077 | audio monitoring | industry | workflow | wohler | wohler technologies | monitoring | loudness | multiplatform media delivery | Don Bird
Contributing Author Don Bird

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