The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Channel 5, S4C and UKTV have agreed the UK’s first common file format, structure and wrapper for the file-based delivery of programmes.
It is hoped that the pan-industry technical standards, created by cross-broadcaster initiative Digital Production Partnership, will end confusion and reduce expense for programme-makers as the industry shifts away from tape.
Helen Stevens, ITV director of strategic projects and business delivery, and chair of the DPP, described the document as a milestone in the move towards a truly file-based end-to-end workflow.
“It’s very difficult to get any kind of uniformity across suppliers,” she said.
“This is the first step towards a consistent ability to deliver on file.”
The BBC, ITV and C4 have committed to begin taking delivery of programmes on file on a selective basis this year.
After a period of pilots, file-based delivery will be the preferred delivery format for the broadcasters by 2014.
“2012 is the year to really make some progress,” Stevens added.
The common technical and metadata standards are a subset of the US-based Advanced Media Workflow Association’s (AMWA) recently released AS-11 specification.
The DPP said it also worked closely with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), mapping its metadata to existing EBU-Core and TV-Anytime metadata sets.
C4 chief technology officer for broadcast and distribution and DPP technical standards chair Kevin Burrows outlined some of the key differences between the DPP’s standard and AS-11.
He said: “[The DPP standards] have a shim that can constrain some parameters for different uses; we don’t support Dolby E in the UK, although the [AMWA] standard allows it.
“Another difference is the format - 720 is not something we’d want as we’re standardising on 1080i. US timecode is different, and audio tracks are referenced as an EBU standard.”
Metadata specifics include series title, programme title, synopsis, audio parameters, programme part numbers, durations, access services and a check sum.
A metadata app to help productions comply with the requirements is due to be released by the end of March. Once made available, broadcasters will start to enforce the guidelines.
For the full specification visit www.digitalproductionpartnership.co.uk.