When it comes to AS-ll file delivery, an experienced eye is more important than ever, says JP Dash

There’s no getting away from it: file-based delivery is the most significant change the industry has seen for a long time.

At TC Soho, we’ve been fortunate to get a bit of a head start. Last September, we were asked to deliver a Channel 5 series to the DPP’s AS-11 specification.

Just over eight months later, we have delivered almost 60 hours of AS-ll compliant material, spanning various genres.

Apologies for the lack of drama, but it’s all been fine.

Making an AS-11 file isn’t that tricky, and if you have the technical ability to meet broadcast standards today, you are well on the way.

So what are the snags? Cost is the obvious one, and capital investment will be required for encoding equipment to create files and automated QC software loaded with PSE and R128 analysis tools.

You’ll also need adequate connectivity and secure delivery technology to get the files to the broadcaster in a timely fashion.

There are good solutions for all of these on the market and vendor support is readily available.

But is this equipment enough to be confident you are delivering a programme that is technically and creatively the best it can be?

To ensure a programme is ‘broadcast ready’, a high level of technical expertise is also required.

Not only is a specialist skillset needed to operate the software aiding the review process, but having the experience to understand and interpret what comes out the other end is vital.

In addition, there are a host of technical and editorial issues that software cannot assess.

Things like detection of sync issues, measuring safe areas and compliance all rely on trained and experienced eyes and ears.

Now that some broadcasters have stated there will be no technical review after delivery, absolute certainty that content is without fault is a must.

Our head of technical operations, Daniel New, often jokes about a future in which we become lowly security guards for content processing and delivery.

He describes a nightmarish dystopia in which a handful of staff stand guard as a transcoding-wrapping- QCing mega-computer creates and delivers content to a similarly sparsely populated broadcaster.

This may be a comical exaggeration, but is there a danger we are heading this way?

The edge that broadcast TV has over other platforms is its relationship with the audience by means of a guarantee of quality.

The extensive technical specifications dictate that there is a bar that we cannot fall below, but people with a passion to deliver the best have always been the driving force behind this.

As we enter this brave new world, we have to be cautious we don’t freely hand over the task to automated equipment and turn technical review into a minimum-requirement, box-ticking exercise.

The need for the experienced QC eye is now stronger than ever.

JP Dash is managing director of TC Soho