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EBU/SMPTE task force to issue report

A joint EBU and SMPTE Task Force is finalising a set of recommendations to help update synchronising and time labelling standards for moving-picture, broadcast, and related content.

A joint EBU and SMPTE Task Force is finalising a set of recommendations to help update synchronising and time labelling standards for moving-picture, broadcast, and related content.

Current synchronisation and time-labelling methods for today’s television, audio, and other moving-picture signals have been in place for more than 30 years and were based on the requirements of analogue-only systems and video tape standards dating back to the 1970s. While still reliable, these methods are becoming increasingly inappropriate to support the requirements of a digital age, such as multiformat facilities, file-based workflows, and sophisticated acquisition and post production technologies.

“While what we have today is still viable, it has a lot of limitations – limitations we no longer need to accept because, for the most part, we’re no longer reliant upon video tape, and the rollout of HD in Europe requires new ways of producing media in IT-based and networked environments” said Dr Hans Hoffmann of the EBU Technical Department.

Chaired jointly by Hoffmann and Peter Symes, SMPTE Director of Standards & Engineering, the EBU/SMPTE task force examined global, user-defined requirements for the digital age, concluding their work with a comprehensive report. The report and related work statements will be presented to two special SMPTE standards committees in September for their consideration as the committees create new synchronisation and time labelling standards.

“This report describes detailed standardisation needs and suggests practical, cost-effective timing and synchronisation approaches in media creation and broadcast technologies that will be useful for the coming decades,” said Hoffmann.

The Request for Standardization report will be available online just before IBC and available for purchase at the show.

“The EBU and SMPTE have had a long history of successful collaboration. The Task Force Report will provide a starting point for the decisions to be made in standardisation; we expect that it will be studied carefully by those who have not yet provided input, and trigger wider participation in the decision process,” said Hoffmann.

The EBU/SMPTE task force report leverages nearly two years of focused industry research and substantive user input to provide a comprehensive set of recommendations for simplifying and codifying synchronisation systems and time-related labelling in the digital era. It features input from broadcast, post production, movie studio, and cable professionals, as well as broadcast and network equipment manufacturers.

“The demand is there for better timing information to accompany pictures and sound – and a robust system for tracking timing throughout the systems. What we are endeavouring to do is come up with a synchronisation system that works by distributing an accurate time value that can also be used for the time label,” said Symes.

The motion picture and television businesses today rely heavily on equipment and technologies developed by the IT industry. The recommendations of the Task Force seek to further leverage these benefits and to avoid the complex and expensive video-style infrastructures required by current synchronisation techniques.

Specifically, the report recommends innovative, user-defined approaches – such as evolving a single synchronisation standard that can address all formats and leverages today’s widely-installed Ethernet devices and infrastructures to minimise the need for dedicated interfaces and networks. New proposals could prevent expensive, wholesale equipment replacements; avoid multiformat workflow inefficiencies; and, overcome audio/video mismatches in fast-paced production environments.