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Jan 27, 2017
Captions or Subtitles: A case of "You say tomahto I say tomayto"?
Did you know the terms "captions" and "subtitles" carry different meanings in the US and Canada but not around the world!

Captions or Subtitles: A case of "You say tomahto

fotolia 35480643Did you know that most of the world does not distinguishbetween the terms “captions” and “subtitles”? Except that is, in the United States and Canada, where these terms do carry different meanings:
 

Subtitles

In North America, "subtitles" are designed to help viewers who can hear but cannot understand the language or accent, or the speech is not entirely clear; "subtitles" only transcribe dialogue and some on-screen text.
 

Captions

"Captions" on the other hand, are designed for to the deaf and hard of hearing and describe all significant audio content —spoken dialogue and non-speech information such as the identity of speakers and, occasionally, their manner of speaking— along with any significant music or sound effects using words or symbols.
 

Same thing?

The United Kingdom, Ireland and many other countries use the term "subtitles" and there is often a single “subtitle” stream that serves the hard of hearing, deaf and foreign language communities. This may largely be due to the fact that in many parts of the world, many different languages are spoken, and content is often created for use across international boundaries. In which case, putting sufficient text on the screen for a foreign speaker to understand, and putting sufficient text on the screen for somebody who's hard of hearing to understand is pretty much the same thing.
 

Open or closed?

Captioning also comes in different flavors. "Open captioning" is typically used to describe something that's going to be “burned into the video” and will thus be on-screen and visible to all viewers. Whereas "closed captioning" is typically used to describe something that's carried as data, and will be put on the screen by the display or decoder at the discretion of the viewer. Closed captioning is also slightly different for TV compared to DVD and cinema.

So whether you say 'tomahto', or 'tomayto', when it comes to handling "captions", and "subtitles" in your file based workflows, the challenges (and solutions) are exactly the same!

 

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A long time ago in a time in a laboratory far, far away, a small team unpacked a shiny new server and ran their media software. Discovering that they could get standard definition video to decode and encode at almost real time, the transcode market was born. Thanks to Moore’s law and a little performance optimization, things progressed rapidly and, for a little over a decade, the bulk of the transcoding market was all about getting the codecs right. The rise of online services The rise of online services, the move from tape delivery to file delivery and an increased focus on efficiency and cost savings has changed the transcode landscape forever. We’ve moved from a focus on codecs to a focus on the industrial manufacture of deliverables to satisfy a media business. So what does that mean in practice, and what is the outlook for the future? As a long time, high quality transcoder manufacturer, we see a change in the way our customers are engaging with us and a change in the way the humble transcoder is viewed within the business. A decade ago, the transcoder was a necessary evil because different companies could not agree on common formats. The transcoder is now seen as a business tool for optimizing the content for different customers to maximize revenue. It is rare to see a “simple” transcode job nowadays. We often see jobs where bumpers are being added to the start and end of material, extra audio channels are being added and / or replaced. Captions are a BIG deal. The insertion / extraction and replacement of captions is increasingly an area where significant cost savings can be made. What mezzanine format should I use? A decade ago, the big decision for a media company was “What mezzanine format should I use?” The choices were limited to variants of MPEG2, DV or JPEG2000. Today that choice is still critical, but in addition to optimizing CPU usage, storage, network bandwidth and I/O loading, there is also the question of optimizing the versioning capability of the mezzanine. With captioning and versioning becoming a critical business function, it is worth considering what caption mezzanine should be used. In my opinion, the only viable choice is a TTML variant and that almost certainly means either an EBU-TT variant or an IMSC1 variant. Caption mezzanine workflows are pretty rare today, but continued downward pressure on pricing makes them inevitable. It’s worth remembering that a good choice of mezzanine can dramatically improve business efficiency and that workflow islands can use different mezzanines if there is no dependency on those mezzanine formats in upstream workflows. Upstream workflows may be tied to editing format mezzanines, but the distribution and archive portions of the business can improve flexibility by considering new formats like IMF as the mezzanine for future transcoding. It is gaining a lot of traction and there are definitely more companies attending “interoperability events” (such as the UK’s DPP events) than a couple of years ago. The future of transcoding If the future of transcoding is becoming more business oriented, then the transcoding engines themselves are migrating to have split personalities. There will always be the high speed calculation engine that optimizes the use of the underlying hardware. Anyone who has tried to encode High Dynamic Range UHDTV 120fps video on a 5-year-old laptop will have an intimate knowledge of a progress bar that moves like an aged tortoise through setting concrete. In addition to that engine will be a workflow controller of some kind where bespoke business logic can be quickly and easily implemented. This is key for the users of the transcoder to move quickly and efficiently and to harness the underlying power of the transcode engine. What is the future of transcoding? I think that it is very healthy and that the media conversion tool will be with us for a long time. The high power processing element of the transcoder will be hidden from view and the business functionality of optimizing media for consumption by businesses and consumers alike will be the way in which the humble transcoder is viewed. If you’re coming to SMPTE’s IMF interoperability event in Amsterdam, then I will see you there between my moderation duties. If not, then keep reading this blog for more news of good stuff from the Dalet Academy. Until next time. Bruce P.S. No tortoises were harmed in the writing of this blog. Go further with the Future Series - The Future of Ingest - The Future of Media Asset Management
An IBC preview that won’t leave you dizzy
When we write these blog entries each week, we normally ensure we have a draft a few days in advance to make sure we have plenty of time to review, edit and make sure that the content is worth publishing. This entry was late, very late. This pre-IBC post has been hugely challenging to write for two reasons: Drone-mounted Moccachino machines are not on the agenda – but Bruce’s post last week definitely has me avoiding marketing “spin.” There are so many things I could talk about, it’s been a struggle to determine what to leave out. Earlier this year, at the NAB Show, we announced the combination of our Workflow Engine, including the Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN) 2.0-compliant workflow designer, and our Dalet AmberFin media processing platform. Now generally available in the AmberFin v11 release, we’ll be demonstrating how customers are using this system to design, automate and monitor their media transcode and QC workflows, in mission-critical multi-platform distribution operations. Talking of multi-platform distribution, our Dalet Galaxy media asset management now has the capability to publish directly to social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, while the new Media Packages feature simplifies the management of complex assets, enabling users to see all of the elements associated with a specific asset, such as different episodes, promos etc., visually mapped out in a clear and simple way. Making things simple is somewhat of a theme for Dalet at IBC this year. Making ingest really easy for Adobe Premiere users, the new Adobe Panel for Dalet Brio enables users to start, stop, monitor, quality check and ingest directly from the Adobe Premiere Pro interface with new recordings brought directly into the edit bin. We’ll also be demonstrating the newly redesigned chat and messaging module in Dalet Galaxy, Dalet WebSpace and the Dalet On-the-Go mobile application. The modern, and familiar, chat interface has support for persistent chats, group chats, messaging offline users and much more. Legislation and consolidation of workflows mean that captioning and subtitling are a common challenge for many facilities. We are directly addressing that challenge with a standards-based, cross-platform strategy for the handling of captioning workflows across Dalet Galaxy, Dalet Brio and Dalet AmberFin. With the ability to read and write standards-constrained TTML, caption and subtitle data is searchable and editable inside the Dalet Galaxy MAM, while Dalet Brio is able to capture caption- and subtitle-containing ancillary data packets to disk and play them back. Dalet AmberFin natively supports the extraction and insertion of subtitle and caption data to and from .SCC and .STL formats respectively, while tight integration with other vendors extends support for other vendors. There are so many other exciting new features I could talk about, but it’s probably best to see them for yourself live in Amsterdam. Of course, if you’re not going to the show, you can always get the latest by subscribing to the blog, or get in touch with your local representative to get more information. There, and I didn’t even mention buzzwords 4K and cloud… …yet!
A Three-Platform Approach: Dalet Galaxy, Dalet Brio and Dalet AmberFin
So far, 2014 has been the year of mergers and acquisitions within the broadcast industry. As previously reported on this blog, not all this M&A activity is driven by the same customer-focused aims. However, in the case of Dalet, our recent strategic acquisition of AmberFin has the customer clearly in mind. The merging of the two companies enables our new enlarged and enriched company to cover significantly more bases within file-based workflow environments. From IBC 2014, Dalet will offer three technology platforms: Dalet Galaxy, Dalet Brio and Dalet AmberFin, leveraging the knowledge and technologies of both companies to deliver a broader and deeper set of solutions. It’s worth looking under the hood and understanding why this is so important. For readers that are new to some parts of the Dalet product family, let me shed a little light on these platforms: Dalet Galaxy is the latest and most advanced version of the Dalet Media Asset Management (MAM) platform and the most recent evolution of Dalet Enterprise Edition. The landmark development initiative leverages more than 10 years of successful MAM development and customer input. Dalet Galaxy is the industry's first business-centric, MAM platform developed to manage media workflows, systems and assets throughout the multimedia production and distribution chain. Dalet Brio is an innovative and cost-effective platform for broadcast customers looking for non-proprietary solutions to digitize and playback their content. Constructed using Dalet Brio servers (IT-based ingest and playout servers for SD and HD content), it also provides a powerful set of user tools and applications to help deliver video workflows. Dalet AmberFin is a high-quality, scalable transcoding platform with fully integrated ingest, mastering, QC and review functionality, enabling facilities to make great pictures in a scalable, reliable and interoperable way. AmberFin software runs on cost-effective, commodity IT hardware that can adapt and grow 
as the needs of your business change. Advanced Integration Capabilities to deliver new workflows As a specialist in MAM-driven workflows, Dalet has been actively looking at delivering end-to-end workflows, and we all know that one of the biggest problems we encounter is making the various workflow components work together efficiently and intelligently. This is the reason we, at Dalet and AmberFin, have always been strong supporters of industry standards as a means to ease integration issues when building workflows. Each of the three Dalet platforms possess powerful integration capabilities, based on standards and APIs, which enable every product built on these platforms to be integrated within overall workflows. Most importantly, we believe that the greatest added value we can bring to our customers comes from tight integration between these three platforms, empowering workflow optimization that previously was unimaginable. This vision goes well beyond what any industry standard or even proprietary API can achieve. Let’s take an example: in today’s modern workflows media will be transcoded at a variety of touch points in the production and distribution process, potentially degrading the source quality over successive generations. At Dalet, we strive within the AmberFin platform to minimize quality degradation at each step of the process, but we recognize this is not enough. In fact we still believe that “the best transcode is no transcode.” This can only be achieved by exploiting key metadata (technical, editorial and rights metadata) stored in the MAM platform in order to make smart decisions on when to transcode or not, and what type of transcode profile to apply. And this is just one of the ideas we have. At IBC this year, we will be showcasing some fantastic new features and facilities that are possible using the new extended and enriched Dalet portfolio of workflow solutions. Check out here our exciting theatre line-up for the next few days. We’re still booking demos, so it’s not too late to book a meeting: http://www.dalet.com/events/ibc-amsterdam-2014. To learn more about Dalet’s strategic acquisition of AmberFin, download the following white paper: http://www.dalet.com/white-paper/dalet-and-amberfin.
Practice your scales to make your enterprise workflow sing
An increasingly common approach now to developing new media infrastructure is the “proof of concept”. This could sound a bit negative, as if we needed to try something first in order to see if it really works. But I really do not think that is the motivation behind it: To meet the multi-platform, multi-format requirements of a media business today, we need complex, largely automated workflows. And it makes sense to try them out first, in one part of the organization. But this achieves more than one goal: First it obviously proves the concept: it shows that you have all the equipment and processes available to do what you need. Second it allows you to develop workflows on the concept system, so you fine-tune them to work precisely the way that you want to work. Some vendors will try to push you towards a big bang approach where the workflows are baked into the architecture, which makes it difficult to make changes when you find you want something slightly different. Third and this is really important, it allows you to get a sub-set of users comfortable with the system, and to take ownership of the workflows. It means you get the processes right, because they are being designed by the people who actually need them, and it means you get a group of super-users who can ease the transition to the main system. Which all sounds good. But it does depend upon something that we all talk about but rarely really understand. The proof of concept stage is only worthwhile if this small system performs in exactly the same way as the final enterprise-wide implementation. Scalability The word “scalable” is often used quite loosely, but this is what it really means. You can start with something small, and then by adding capacity, make it cover the whole operation, without changing any detail of how it works. For me, that means that the enterprise system has to be built the same way as the proof of concept system. If the first iteration consisted of a single workstation performing all the functionality – which in our case might be ingest, transcode, quality control and delivery – then the full system should be a stack of workstations that can perform all the functionality. And it also means that you don’t need to blow the capital budget on a huge number of hardware boxes. That would not be efficient, because at any given time some of the boxes might be idle while others had a queue of processes backed up and delaying the output. Flexible Licensing It's better to ensure you have sufficient licenses for the software processes you require, with a smart licensing system that can switch jobs around. If server A is running a complextranscode on a two-hour movie, then its quality control license could be transferred to server B which can get on with clearing this week’s batch of trailers and commercials. The AmberFin iCR platform is designed on this basis. You can buy one and run all the processes on it sequentially, or you can buy a network to share the load, under the management of an iCR Controller. This manages the queue of tasks, allocating licenses as required from the central pool. As well as making the best use of the hardware, it also collects statistics from each server and each job. Managers can see at a glance if jobs are being delayed, and if this is an overall problem for the business. More than that, they can also see why jobs are delayed. Can it be solved by additional software licenses, or do you need more servers? Scalable systems are definitely the way to go, but only if you can understand how you need to scale them. If you want to find out more about enterprise level file based workflows, check out our newwhite paper. I hope you found this blog post interesting and helpful. If so, why not sign-up to receive notifications of new blog posts as they are published?
4K, HDR, HFR, 3D, Internet - where does the future lie?
In my recent webinar, I outlined where I thought the future was going. I covered quite a lot of the technicalities and a little of the market dynamics. If you missed the webinar then please sign-up to request the recording: It is interesting to me that one of the big drivers for 4k is the consumer electronics industry. Essentially these hi-tech, covetable pieces of furniture are being used to drive the sensor-size of the devices used to make films and TV shows. Compared to a decade ago, I feel the tail is starting to wag the dog quite violently. We're not doomed though. Over the last couple of years, there has been an increasingly vocal group of expert individuals and companies that I respect who have been talking in detail about HFR (High Frame Rate), HDR (High Dynamic Range), 3D (not-quite-dead-yet), OTT (and its business models) and fractional frame rates (aaarrrggghh) in terms of the real problems that we're solving as an industry. In an ideal world, our industry is an entertainment pipe that transfers great ideas from creative people to the consumer. It doesn't matter if the genre be fiction, news, sports or other, but it does matter that the consumer sees value in the pipe. 4k will be wonderful if the compression scheme used gives enough bandwidth to see all the pixels. HFR will give better results for certain genres like sports and some documentaries, but may make other genres less immersive. HDR improves dramatically the signal to noise of the transmission pipe and allow much greater viewing latitude for the furniture (sorry) screen makers. The camera folks at RED have put together a neat page that shows some of the issues. I don't think there is any one-size-fits-all technology that works for every genre all the time. Radio did not kill off the newspapers. Cinema did not kill off Radio. TV killed neither Radio nor Cinema. The internet has, so far, not killed TV. I think we'll see increasing fragmentation on the distribution channel side and thus an increasing demand for "Squeeze this HFR, HDR HD content into that 4k LFR Channel and make it look good" pieces of software. This makes me happy because that's what we set up AmberFin to do - make great video processing software that joins the economic uncertainty of distribution to the technical choices made in production. It would be nice, along the way, to prevent commercial drivers introducing unwanted and unnecessary technical degradation. Fractional frame rates and film-cadence errors are my current bug-bear. We have just released our new adaptive cadence correction software in our v9.7 of iCR. This performs an Inverse telecine function to correct for inappropriate handling of cadence in a TVworkflow. This is important because if you're going to put that content onto the web, or 4k or up-frame-rate to 120fps at some distant time in the future then the visibility of the plague of blended frames and mixed video-filmic degradations will be enhanced. I try not to wear my "sales-hat" in these blog posts, but we do have a pre-NAB special offer ontranscode nodes with this new high quality cadence corrector that has received rave reviews from our beta testers. Why not get in touch with your local sales rep or download the white paper to see why I think this is an important topic for toady and for the future. 'till next time.'
From MPEG 1 to HEVC: the battle of the bitrate bulge continues
Back in the mists of time – well, 40 years ago – people were contemplating the idea of digital video, and they came up against the stumbling block that the resultant files would be huge. Even though we were talking about standard definition back then, giving every pixel on the screen its own value leads to a lot of bits and bytes: So the idea of compression was a no-brainer. The challenge was to find a way to do it without the audience noticing, or not noticing too much. What mathematical process could be applied for visually lossless compression? The first attempts, in the 1980s, used discrete cosine transforms. Ampex – remember them? – they even called their digital recording format DCT. At that time, we already had a good, visually lossless, compression algorithm for pictures. But it had been developed by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, so it only worked on still pictures. While some early digital video equipment used “motion JPEG” this was never a standard, and the lack of predictability in the coding time for JPEG made it all a bit tricky. So the same clever mathematicians were convened in a new conference, the Moving Picture Experts Group. Their task was to find a way of compressing video so it would fit in the data rates of a CD. By the time they published their first standard – unimaginatively called MPEG-1 – it was the late eighties, and the techie world was beginning to buzz with a new concept, the Internet. Oh, and part of the work on MPEG-1 actually led to the death of the CD, not its renewed purpose. Audio coding level 3 was scorned by all the clever people on the MPEG board but it made it into the specification anyway, and some smart marketing people spotted the fact that if they gave MPEG-1 audio coding level 3 a snappier name – MP3, say – it could change the way we listened to music. MPEG-2 was developed, on the same fundamental principles, with the express aim of creating a high quality broadcast system. It succeeded, of course, and it made multi-channel television possible. MPEG-2 is an asymmetric system: it is very processor intensive to encode, because you only do it once, but it is relatively easy to decode, because you want to do it in a chip which is not going to cost much to add to the television or set-top box. But for broadcast you needed a real time encoder, which had to be built on the processing capabilities of the day, so MPEG-2 had a natural limitation because its algorithms were designed for the processors of 1996. Seven years’ worth of Moore’s Law meant that the designers of MPEG-4 had much more processor power to play with, so could adopt some much more complex algorithms. That actually made the project extremely difficult, so in the end MPEG collaborated with the Video Coding Experts Groupfrom the International Telecommunications Union. That is why what we call MPEG-4 for short is strictly speaking MPEG-4 part 10 or the Advanced Video Codec (AVC) if you are an MPEG fan, or H.264 if you prefer the ITU standard number. But it achieved the goal of halving the bitrate on MPEG-2, thus making it practical and affordable to broadcast many HD channels, when it was published in 2003. Another ten years of Moore’s Law and we are ready for another version. The High Efficiency Video Codec or HEVC – or H.265 in ITU-speak – again aims to doubles the compression ratio. When the good mathematicians got their pencils out their motivation was to increase the number of HD channels in each transport stream. Since then, though, other people have tried to steal the initiative, telling us we need 4k video to the home, thereby soaking up all the gains and more (especially if we increase the frame rate too). HEVC has huge potential. It introduces some new concepts, like variable block sizes, so it can allocate less power to uniform areas like the blue sky or the green pitch, giving it more resources to process the movement that we actually want to see. But that will require two or three times the horsepower of an H.264 encoder for the same content. So we are still dependent upon cutting edge hardware running very smart, very fast software to get the best out of the codec. Which is why the AmberFin iCR is so important as a platform, for preparing and processing video to achieve the best possible results. If you want to read more on the topic, check out our HEVC white paper.