Broadcast file delivery - Man vs Machine, by JP Dash

File-based delivery is the most significant change the industry has seen for a long time. JP Dash, from member company TC Soho, points out that with increasing automation the need for an experienced eye is more important than ever.

Is DPP compliant file delivery actually a daunting prospect? It is if you've seen the quite hilarious Downfall parody on YouTube. Back in the real world, however, I’m not so sure that post production companies are seething in Teutonic rage over the upcoming changes. Even facility companies like ourselves - where broadcast QC and content preparation is what we do all day - have managed to keep our cool. There’s no getting away from it though, it’s a hot topic and certainly the most significant change in the industry we’ve seen in a long time.

Here at TC Soho we’ve been fortunate to get a bit of a head start. Last September, whilst conducting research for the transition from tape to file delivery we were asked to deliver a Channel 5 series to the new DPP specification, AS-11. Some six months later we have delivered almost 60 hours of DPP-compliant material, spanning various genres of programming. Apologies for the undramatic headline here, folks, but it’s all been fine.

So, making an AS-11 file isn't that tricky; if you have the technical ability to meet broadcast standards today you are well on the way. But what are the snags?

Cost of course is the obvious one and capital investment will be required, both in 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 over to the broadcaster in a timely fashion. There are good solutions available for all of these on the market and vendor support is readily available. 

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

To ensure a programme is ‘broadcast ready’ there is no denying that a high level of technical expertise is still 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 whole host of technical/editorial issues that software cannot assess which could still result in a fail at the broadcaster. For example, detection of sync issues, measuring safe areas, and compliance issues all rely on trained and experienced eyes and ears. Now that some Broadcasters have stated that there will be no technical review after delivery surely the need for absolute certainty that content is without fault is a must. 

Our Head of Technical Operations, Daniel New, often jokes about a future where we as a company become lowly security guards for content processing and delivery. He describes a nightmarish dystopia where 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 of the future of broadcast delivery but is there a danger we are heading this way?

The edge that broadcast TV, particularly in the UK, has over other platforms is its relationship with its audience in the promise and guarantee of quality. The extensive technical specifications that we have to meet dictate that there is a bar that we cannot fall below. The people in this industry with a true passion to deliver the best have always been the driving force behind this. As we enter this brave new world and technology continues to advance we have to be cautious that we don’t freely hand the task over 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.