Acquisition

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ACQUISITION Monitoring & test measurement Simon Pegg, Wohler Technologies T he Digital Production Partnership (DPP) was founded in January 2011 by the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, with representation from Sky, Channel 5, S4/C, UKTV, and BT Sport, to help speed the transition to fully digital production and distribution in television. As part of its work, the group has established common delivery standards — based on the AS-11 file format and the UKDPP “shim” — intended to maximize the ease and efficiency of an all digital workflow by providing a tightly constrained medium for file-based content delivery. As the U.K.’s leading broadcasters begin requiring fi le-based content delivery based on DPP specs, the impact of this new specifi cation is being felt by production companies and other content producers delivering media into this market. The need to assure DPP compliance prior to delivery is signifi cantly increasing the processing required across the full digital media supply chain. The fi le-based DPP specifi cations themselves are similar to those developed for tape-based deliverables. They defi ne everything from the structural layout — how content is lined up, idented, and laid out on the timeline within a fi le — to the audio and video codecs that must be used and what metadata is wrapped into MXF fi les. Between those aspects are familiar “baseband” technical compliance requirements such as audio levels (either PPM or R128 LUFS- based, depending on the broadcaster’s requirements for a given deliverable) and video gamut. Within the DPP delivery specifi cation, the AMWA AS-11 specifi cation is used to provide a fairly broad description of how to wrap up a fi le-based program for delivery to a broadcaster. This broad high-level spec includes basic metadata, segmentation (how to indicate which areas of the timeline of the fi le contain actual program content, similar to the start and end timecodes in paper form that accompany most tape based deliveries), and a range of options for audio and video encoding. The UK DPP shim, based on input gathered from broadcasters, is used to refi ne the AS-11 spec by further constraining the AS-11 options, and it also extends the metadata that must be provided with the fi le. Finally, the full DPP delivery specifi cation itself adds specifi c information about audio track layouts, permitted audio levels, gamut processing, and any broadcaster-specifi c delivery guidelines. Typically, the fi rst step in assuring DPP compliance is achieving technical compliance at the baseband level with audio leveling, followed by video gamut legalization to make sure colour is within spec. Next the content producer must wrap the program content in the necessary lineup, ident slates, and padding to create a compliant timeline structure; transcode the content to AVC Intra 100 (HD) or IMX50 (SD); wrap the video and audio essences correctly in an AS-11- compliant MXF fi le; and then write in all required metadata that describes the content being delivered and its technical compliance status. For facilities both large and small, the primary challenge is to perform these tasks properly without signifi cantly increasing demands on personnel and facility resources. The processing can be time-consuming and laborious, with elements such as broadcast color legalization often requiring hardware baseband processing or a lengthy re-rendering process in the NLE environment. The content creator also must take the time to confi rm that codecs, containers, and formats are correct. If these remain manual processes, facilities not only spend a great deal of time on DPP compliance, but also run the risk of introducing error 78 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 86 FEBRUARY 2014 and thereby increasing the possibility that content will need to be reworked to meet delivery criteria. Content producers and other media facilities are responding to this challenge by uniting key processing tasks in a single integrated and automated system. Rather than use multiple discrete components with varying levels of processing capabilities, they are effectively turning DPP-related compliance processing into a back offi ce function. With content being conformed automatically to the correct specifi cations, such companies can maintain their focus on creating compelling content. This capability is vital, as the quality of content is a key competitive differentiator across media platforms. The effi ciency of automated DPP compliance is also valuable as the increasing complexity of delivering content puts added pressure on resources, making it ever more diffi cult to ensure content quality. The fi rst solution to incorporate both loudness and gamut processing, the WohlerDDP solution, powered by the RadiantGrid Intelligent Media Transformation Platform™, automates the DPP compliance workfl ow entirely within the fi le-based domain. In addition to performing broadcast legalization in the color domain and audio loudness legalization, the platform addresses metadata insertion and persistence, video and audio encoding and compression support, QC reporting, and content timeline synthesis with automatic slate insertion, in turn producing compliant media with minimal input and in the shortest possible timeframe. At a time when both human and budget resources are strained, content providers can rely on this sophisticated processing platform to speed and streamline the cost-effective packaging and delivery of DPP-compliant content.