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TECHNOLOGY CLASS: Standards, Speciﬁcations, QC & the future... Bruce Devlin Mr MXF thinks... is it time to rethink standards in the media world? Why do we Monitor and QC content? It’s actually a more difﬁcult question than you think. When I ask the majority of engineers this question, I will get a technical answer. It will be something like “to be sure we meet the speciﬁcation” or “to be sure we don’t put bad signals on air” or “so that I don’t get ﬁred for getting loudness wrong” A speciﬁcation is often created by an entity that may be a public body, but does not necessarily have an approved due process. These speciﬁcations might be international in scope e.g. speciﬁcations from the AMWA or VSF, national in scope e.g. DPP or NABA, or even de-facto from a speciﬁc organisation. The speciﬁcations will also, very commonly reference other standards and speciﬁcations. The reality of course is that monitoring and QC generate data to allow a person or a system to make a decision and that decision has business value. If content fails QC or monitoring shows a fault, then the decision is often to do more work or to take some action. This costs money and has implications. A well deﬁned speciﬁcation and standards ecosystem will allow producers freedom to choose the cameras they want without impacting the delivery on ﬁnished content to distribution channels. Great standards and speciﬁcations remove other speciﬁcations from the ecosystem and make the world potentially simpler. QC and Monitoring are therefore a sort of technical insurance that allows business decisions to made, ensuring the continued smooth and proﬁtable running of the organisation. To my mind this is a key factor because often the Monitoring and QC data are referenced to a speciﬁcation or a standard which implies that those speciﬁcations and standards are also key to the continued smooth and proﬁtable running of the organisation. So, what is the difference between a speciﬁcation and a standard? No this isn’t a joke, it’s key to understanding how much money to spend on monitoring and QC activities in an organisation. Broadly, a standard is created by a due-process organisation such as SMPTE, ITU, ISO and the like. The process is very important because it allows scrutiny of how the standard came into being and ensures fair play. 36 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 119 NOVEMBER 2016 In today’s complex software world, I think we’re ready for a change. The days of writing standards and speciﬁcations as long Word documents for human consumption was ok in the 1980s when we were ﬁghting physics. Today we are struggling with complex IP and ﬁle interoperability where the machines and software need to be able to unambiguously follow the rules. Some great work has been done at the DPP to express complex speciﬁcations as a set of modular rules to ease the machine implementation of the ecosystem. This work is critically important if we are to deﬁne a relevant monitoring and QC environment at reasonable cost in the future (i.e. 2017). If this work interests you, then why not join SMPTE and the DPP to take part – or just drop me and email to chat about it. The writing is on the wall for paper media standards and that should make life easier for everyone.