SMPTE®, the organisation whose standards work has supported a century of advances in entertainment technology and whose membership spans the globe, is collaborating with the Institut für Rundfunktechnik (IRT) to conduct a face-to-face Interoperable Master Format (IMF) plugfest that tests the ability of vendors to create and play interoperable IMF packages. IRT is the research institute of the public broadcasters of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Scheduled for 29 May at the IRT in Munich, the event will be held as a meeting of the SMPTE Media Packaging and Interchange Technology Committee (TC-35PM) Plugfest Drafting Group. A second face-to-face IMF plugfest, also organised by SMPTE, will take place 18-19 October in the Los Angeles area. To facilitate broad industry participation, SMPTE has scheduled the event before the SMPTE 2018 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition (SMPTE 2018), which will be held 22-25 October at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles.
While SMPTE has organised several IMF plugfests in recent years, and various industry groups have organised their own IMF plugfests, this event will be the first collaborative IMF plugfest. The SMPTE-IRT plugfest also will be significant in that it will bring together a wide variety of international content providers, distributors, broadcasters, and vendors.
“As a robust standard for the interchange of movie and broadcast content, IMF is being taken seriously by broadcasters, content providers, and distributors as a format for file-based distribution and exchange,” said SMPTE Director of Standards Development Thomas Bause Mason. “While IMF has clearly demonstrated its value as a format for the mastering and distribution of content between business entities, further testing is critical to the format’s broad adoption by the broadcast community and to its future success as an industry standard. The participation of the IRT — and the consortium of broadcasters behind the institute — indicates the global industry’s embrace of IMF as a flexible yet stable framework for the interchange of file-based content, and we’re pleased to be working with the institute to move IMF forward.”
First standardised by SMPTE in 2013, IMF provides the media and entertainment industry with one interchangeable master format with a defined structure for the distribution of content between businesses around the world. Based on the SMPTE MXF standards suite, the format specifies how video, audio, and data essence — plus dynamic metadata — can be wrapped in MXF and synchronised using an XML-based composition playlist (CPL) to create a media program, such as a movie or a television episode, in multiple versions and languages. In turn, the IMF can be fed into a transcoder to create a wide variety of deliverables. In April of this year, the UK-based Digital Production Partnership (DPP) proposed an IMF profile as part of its delivery specification for broadcast and online.
During the SMPTE-IRT plugfest, IMF packages will be created by multiple vendors’ devices using agreed-upon test vectors and supplied source material spanning several IMF applications. A package created by one specific device will be tested by all other participating devices to verify whether or not the packages can be processed correctly and produce the same results. In the process, issues will be noted and solutions proposed that can be used to inform IMF users, as well as clarify or update the existing SMPTE standards.
Ahead of the SMPTE-IRT plugfest, a “virtual plugfest” will be conducted to allow vendors the opportunity to work with the source material ahead of time in their labs. More than 16 organisations have registered to participate in the face-to-face plugfest in Munich. SMPTE-IRT Plugfest results will be anonymised before being shared with SMPTE TC-35PM members. Individual results of a participant may be provided to IRT members at the sole discretion of each participant.
Brian Vessa of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is the SMPTE IMF Plugfest committee chair, with David Deelo, also of SPE, as co-chair. During the Munich event, SMPTE Standards Vice President Bruce Devlin, TC-35PM Chair Pierre Lemieux, and other SMPTE subject matter experts will discuss the nature of IMF and the format’s relevance to industry workflows and business models.
“Both the IRT and SMPTE have worked to grow IMF as a format and to sponsor plugfests that both inform document updates and empower industry users to build equipment that can create, play, and transcode IMF,” said IRT Project Engineer Rico Zimmermann. “Together, we are continuing the important tradition of format testing and refinement. With the SMPTE-IRT plugfest in Munich later this month, we’re providing European broadcasters with a convenient opportunity to take part in this vital process.”
Registration for the event is required at www.irt.de/register-imf-plugfest-2018. Participation requires SMPTE membership and standards participation; more information is available at smpte.org/join.
Further information about SMPTE and its standards work is available at smpte.org. Additional details about IRT are available at irt.de.