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Television versioning & translation

3 January 2010
Television versioning & translation

Digitising and transforming new and archived content – and dramatically reducing ingest time. Presentation by Jake Robbins, TVT, supported by Bruce Devlin, CTO, AmberFin.

Opening the session on Television Versioning & Translation’s digital workflow, AmberFin’s Bruce Devlin confirmed the general view that ‘every VoD operator wants a different format’. Each claims that their needs are special, a position often rooted in an almost religious belief in a particular way of doing things – leading to the slightly off-colour label of ‘special needs customers’ by some IT wags. However there seemed little doubt that a dogmatic resistance to change could lead to severe earning difficulties.

“Each time broadcasters change the format or the file wrapper, they add cost or lose quality, or both,” said Devlin, later lamenting that just as the ink was drying on the MXF (Material eXchange Format), manufacturers sought to gain marketing advantage by the addition of opaque sub-formats (early incompatibilities between Sony XDCAM and Panasonic’s DVCPRO P2 cameras being an example).

TVT’s Jake Robbins revealed that since the 15 year old company adopted a digital workflow two years ago, the proportion of tapes sent to clients’ playout providers had shrunk from 100% to less than 1%, as the vast majority – including eight new SD and one HD channel for BBC Worldwide and a new channel for the BBC World Service – have migrated to dedicated fibre, accelerated internet delivery or encrypted hard drives. This represented an annual saving of over £10,000 for one client alone, claimed Robbins.

Where the old system comprised some 27 processing stages on a good day, in other words without any unpleasant surprises, the new regime does it all within just 18, and faster. A key ingredient is the use of single ingest, single-pass encoding, and the simultaneous creation of all browse versions – things that are often mooted but not always adopted in practise, he added.

While file-based workflows offer tremendous advantages, Robbins generously highlighted several traps for the unwary. For one thing, care had to be taken in correctly labelling different release versions in the same format. Also, while 90% of all clients’ archives tend to be on tape, where they are on file this is often in a proprietary format, which needs to be changed to allow clients to change providers.

“What is needed is a standard industry base, such as the work being done with the Advanced Media Workflow Association,” he said. AMWA is perhaps best known for its standardisation with SMPTE of the AAF editing metadata format and MXF. The industry needs nothing short of a standard playout format, declared Robbins, revealing that QT 50i within a .mov wrapper has been adopted throughout TVT’s London facility. – Richard Dean

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