The brains behind a no brainer

Thomas Dove TV-Bay Magazine
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by Thomas Dove
Issue 92 - August 2014

It’s perhaps not surprising that a lot of professional video and audio editors don’t fully grasp the minutia of file-based media formats and delivery specifications such as those established by the Digital Production Partnership (DPP). After all, an editor’s job is to is to make compelling content, whether for television, film or online, and that creative skill set is considerably different than the drilldown mind set more common in the likes of, well, me.

The beauty is that one cannot wholly exist, at least to maximum effectiveness, without the other. Creativity is not best served by worrying about nut and bolt details of codecs, long GOPS, bit rates, metadata and audio/video levels¦until errors in those parameters render their creative baby undeliverable, which is where we come in.

It’s the attention to detail by the more technically minded that enables the end results of the creative minds to be seen by the wider, these days much wider, world. There are a great many variances in the relevant broadcast/ distribution delivery specifi cations around the world, which would often stifl e the creative process but is catnip to those charged with ensuring the delivery of creative vision in its best possible form.

Take, for instance, one major online content provider that has a list of broadcast/distribution delivery specifi cations often interrelated that includes more than 20 different combinations of ‘acceptable’ video/ audio HD formats. I use the word ‘acceptable’ as it’s just non-specifi c enough to refl ect the actual state of affairs in current delivery parameters, which are just as often implied ‘guidelines’ as they are hard-limit ‘specifi cations’. One simple example of implied technical parameters is that MPEG-2 PAL long GOP should have a GOP structure of 12, whereas NTSC designates that the GOP structure should be 15. However, many NLEs offer editors who are rendering video fi les a wide range of GOP length choices. Which should they choose? And why should they care?

The UK’s DPP specifi cation is an example of a specifi cation that does make things a lot easier in that it is relatively short and specifi c when compared to others. It designates one format for HD and one for SD, which is about as straightforward as you can get.

At least it is to us engineers. For the creatives? Not so much.

For example, the DPP spec establishes an HD requirement as AVC-I (Intra-only AVC video frames), but that the AVC video must meet the ‘SMPTE2027’ specifi cation. I suspect that most editors aren’t terribly conversant, or interested, in SMPTE-2027. Nor will they be aware that a number of NLEs do not produce video to the SMPTE-2027 specifi cation even if it says ‘AVC-Intra’ on render out, and that there are variations on AVC-I that do not meet DPP specifi cations.

I can hear creative brain cells curdling in the heat already. However, there are those, like me, who revel in these technical issues and are professionally, and often personally, committed to ensuring that the more creative minds have free reign to dream up whatever they can produce, safe in the knowledge that the likes of us will ensure that the end result gets to where it needs to be, unfettered and untarnished.

What we have therefore developed is something that post-production editors genuinely need, i.e., a software technology that does all the required checks automatically to ensure that rendered fi les meet all the technical delivery requirements. This is what automated QC offers. I emphasise ‘automated’ because while there are a great many QC products and processes, most require some degree of manual intervention, which is time-consuming and expensive. Vidcheck’s approach is to make the process as simple as possible¦and it works. If there are issues with a fi le, our Vidchecker product shows where the problems are and describes the problem in a language that an editor can readily understand. It’s almost literally as simple as ‘fi le is good-to-go’ or ‘fi le needs some work, here, here and here’.

My point is this: To remove the painstaking task of checking content against a wide range of delivery specifi cations, the task is best done automatically by tried and tested software that can do it automatically, leaving the creatives to get on with what they do best¦create.

It’s a no brainer.

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Contributing Author Thomas Dove

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