Ask the experts: The date in 2014 when leading UK broadcasters will ask for programmes to be delivered as AS-11 files is set to be announced by the DPP at IBC. Post facilities share their experiences of adapting their workflows
Andy Briers, head of post-production, Crow TV
What do you deliver in AS-11? We have made a test delivery of BBC1 programme Wheelers, Dealers And Del Boys.
What workflow have you adopted? To compare and contrast our timings and internal workflows we made two parallel tests.
With the existing Avid Online media we transferred the audio mix back to the online suite and exported out DPP AS-11 via Avid v7, which features a DPP export option.
That created the file without any additional processes. We also exported an Avid DNX QuickTime file and transcoded to AS-11 via Telestream’s Episode engine.
We then put that file through a separate DPP metadata app. This was a clunkier process than with the Avid, which has the metadata app built in, but it worked.
Both were put through our existing manual QC and transferred to the BBC by Signiant Media Shuttle.
As an Avid house, upgrading to version 7 would be a natural evolution and as a bonus it comes with the DPP function.
We’re evaluating which automated QC machines to buy: Root6 ContentAgent, Amberfin, Cerify and Baton.
What’s the next stage? To emulate the automated QC checks that the file will pass through at the broadcaster.
It’s not required but we are keen to make sure we are ahead of the curve. Each programme will still be eyeballed but an automated QC will check if the file is error free.
What advice would you give? The idea that your master is on file not tape can cause sleepless nights but it should be embraced.
Also, understand the pitfalls and care that you need to take with file-based material.
Ian Beushaw, head of digital media, Deluxe Media
What do you deliver in AS-11? Material for Sky. ITV and C5 are also starting to request that file delivery is DPP AS-11 compliant.
What workflow have you adopted? We have designed and implemented a number of automated workflows based around an Amberfin ICR transcode farm driven by our asset management system and web-service-based
How did you prepare? The workflows are largely unchanged. The only real differences are the kit and codec used at various stages and the standardisation of incoming file formats from UK suppliers.
The aim is to only receive DPP file-based material from UK suppliers, perhaps as soon as the end of next year.
The challenge comes with suppliers outside of the UK; we expect to continue receiving a wide range of file formats.
What issues arose? Simply installing the new codec into existing kit does not necessarily provide the capability.
For example, real-time capture of HD material from tape to generate AS-11 files requires serious horsepower, so we have had to upgrade the hardware as well.
This is less of an issue for transcoding - for example, when processing ProResHQ to AS-11 - but timelines can become unacceptably long if the existing hardware is not up to the demands placed on it.
Wrangling the metadata required for the DPP MXF wrapper and XML sidecar efficiently within a high-volume workflow is an ongoing project.
What advice would you give? Carefully spec your hardware and software requirements.
Andy Beale, chief engineer, BT Sport
What do you deliver in AS-11? All recorded programming generated from the BT Production Hub, which makes BT Sport the first broadcaster to be fully DPP compliant.
What workflow have you adopted? We’re working with AVC-Intra 100Mb/s files from the camera so it stays in the right format from beginning to end, without the need to transcode.
Content either comes from EVS servers or from Avid after crafting and is exported to Amberfin, which transwraps to AS-11.
We had to do more configuration to tweak profiles and generate the correct metadata than we hoped to get it working, but it’s fine now.
What challenges did you encounter and what’s next? The plan is to be automated. Currently, information such as programme number and audio quality is presented to operators on XML spreadsheets for writing into the
specification and published to Amberfin.
We’re keen to eliminate copy and pasting of metadata entirely. Manual input is where errors creep in.
What advice would you give? Don’t jump into it. Build in time to try your workflow and submit files to make sure everything works.
Understand what metadata you need and how to input it as there are a lot of variables that need to be checked. We are working closely with Red Bee, but implementation may be harder at post houses submitting just one
file a day.
Matt Cleary, head of production, Emmerdale
What do you deliver in AS-11? When Emmerdale made the move to file-based production in 2010, we chose to standardise on the AVC-Intra codec to streamline workflow, which significantly reduced complexity and
improved picture quality.
The move to AS-11 was about standardising the delivery process for file-based content, supported by robust metadata.
What workflow have you adopted? We brought in EMC Isilon storage and Amberfin Unified QC to help us move to an AS-11 workflow.
We also provided training for staff when we moved to file-based production, and that’s something we continue to do.
What challenges did you encounter? Maintaining our high standard of QC procedures did prove to be a challenge. Traditional tape-based QC allows a process of visual inspection at a very late stage and takes place in
real-time, which is something you don’t get with file-based workflows.
We have now broken down our file-based QC into segments to allow us to inspect elements earlier in the process. That way, if there are problems with the content, it is closer to the tools required to repair it.
What advice would you give? The change involves a move away from traditional ways of working and it is important to get all teams across the production process on board.
So it really helps if you have people on your team who are evangelical about the technology.
The DPP file standard
- The Digital Production Partnership is a cross-broadcaster initiative led by the BBC, ITV and C4
- Designed for completed programme delivery
- Based on the MXF file format, AVC Intra compression at 100 Mb/s for HD, and IMX at 50 Mb/s for SD
- Founded on a new AMWA international standard, AS-11
- Includes a minimum set of requirements for programme editorial and technical metadata