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Jan 27, 2015
Digital Production Partnership (DPP) - A Broadcaster's Perspective
Recently, we staged a webinar at AmberFin in partnership with ATG Broadcast which focussed on the Digital Production Partnership (DPP).

Digital Production Partnership (DPP) - A Broadcast

Recently, we staged a webinar at AmberFin in partnership with ATG Broadcast which focussed on the Digital Production Partnership (DPP).

DPP Broadcasters PerspectiveRecently, we staged a webinar at AmberFin in partnership with ATG Broadcast which focussed on theDigital Production Partnership (DPP) file standards. We had a number of contributors giving the perspectives of a service provider, a media facility and a broadcaster.

The broadcaster’s perspective was provided by Shane Tuckerfrom UK broadcaster, Channel 4. The broadcaster does not produce content itself, however it does commission a great deal of content. Channel 4 is not alone in the UK commissioning market – together with the BBC and ITV, Shane explained how it identified the need for a joined up approach.

DPP - Strength through a unified approach


The UK broadcasters that established DPP have a desire to establish the means for shared learning and best practice with other UK broadcasters. Also, if UK broadcasters are unified in their adoption of digital file-based workflows, they can exert a greater influence outside of the UK. Both of these opinions were confirmed by Shane Tucker in the webinar.

Another key advantage for our industry focuses on production companies. Major production companies supply several UK broadcasters and it will be a big benefit to them if we can standardise on one media interchange standard.

What benefits does DPP bring to Channel 4?


To start with DPP just makes sense. This view was confirmed by Shane Tucker, who said in the Webinar that DPP represents a common file format based on established standards (MXF, SMPTE, EBU) and has been established in conjunction with major UK broadcasters, screen & production companies.

Furthermore, Shane highlighted that DPP offers a common descriptive metadata schema. It offers the ability to access, process and automate metadata within digital file-based workflows is so important. It creates improved efficiency associated with automated workflows between broadcasters and their trusted suppliers. It cuts down on the need for data re-entry and speeds up material transfer and processing from delivery to playout/CDN avoiding unnecessary transcoding.

Automated QC workflows


Another advantage of DPP is the potential to capitalise on automatic QC workflows with the production company or facility. In the webinar, Shane Tucker pointed out that there is a strong likelihood that QC processes will have been performed at numerous stages in the workflow before the media file reaches Channel 4 so any further QC cycles are unnecessary.

Shane concluded his contribution to the webinar by highlighting a number of challenges that remain in the successful adoption of DPP, not least the support needed from equipment vendors. At AmberFin, we recognise this and we’re straining every sinew in our efforts to support this fantastic UK initiative.

To see the webinar in full, please click "Watch the Webinar" button below. 

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#DPPIOD – The Digital Production Partnership Interoperability Day (what, no HEVC?)
This week say another Digital Production PartnershipInteroperability Day. It was bigger and better than all the ones that went before. More importantly it seems that interoperability is going beyond simple video and audio and is including themetadata that is exchanged along with the file: We’re seeing more device types being DPP-native. It’s no longer just transcoders and players – there are ingest devices, servers and QC tools that are all becoming DPP aware. The work that’s going on within the Digital Production Partnership is attracting a room full of people that exceeds the borders of the UK. The topic is important enough for vendors to fly in from Europe and for multi-vendor testing to exercise the whole stack, not just the MXF layer. If you’re a follower of twitter, then a running commentary of the day is online and it makes interesting and very positive reading. Are we in good shape for the October file delivery deadline? Yes, I think so. There is still work to do in the UK though. There was interesting discussion on the nature of the specifications and the fact that bitstream compliance does not 100% guarantee that everything will work. Vendors are forced to provide option switches that control behaviour depending on the context of the operation. AmberFin was willing to share a use case with the group. We made some DPP files. No-one found any errors in the file and they appeared to meet the specification. A layout server was able to play them, but there appeared to be an interesting behaviour when it came to queuing to Timecode and overlaying Timecode. It seems that the playout server was taking Timecode from two different places in the file – one mandatory and one optional. This makes perfect sense for the way in which the server was configured, but the fact that the optional Timecode was not in the file caused an error. Well Bruce, I hear you say, why not put the optional Timecode in the file and make the server happy without having to change its configuration? This is indeed what we did via configuration of ourtranscoder BUT this may potentially be dangerous in a complex workflow. By inserting a frame-by-frame Timecode that is optional, we have now increased the chances of Timecode discontinuities downstream. Someone may edit the file next week, next month or next year. Because the optional Timecode is not looked at by all software devices, the edit may well create a discontinuity in the embedded Timecode that is not picked up until it reaches the playout server in a week, a month or a year. Worse still, the discontinuity may be localised to the end of the file and a 3 spot check would never pick it up. This was a good topic of conversation amongst designers, specification writers and the operational staff who have to cope with these issues. It’s clear that the DPP’s delivery specification is a powerful interoperable tool for UK based file delivery. It’s also clear that as an industry we have to start looking at the behaviour rules of software so that we can make systems that have long term stability. It is not enough to have compliant bitstreams to guarantee system stability. I continue to be proud to work with the DPP and as Andy Quested of the BBC pointed out – it must be working because staff in some of the post houses have enough time to create funny videos. I am sure at NAB there will be lots of talk about future HEVC projects, but for me the real action is tangible changes in our business with files truly replacing tapes and the improved connectivity between business processes using assisted, unified QC to transfer trust between organisations. If you want to know about HEVC, then feel free to download our white paper, but if you prefer to recognise the importance of trust transfer between businesses then our UQC paper might be more interesting. See you at NAB. 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?
Taking MXF Interoperability to the next level
Next week, in a corner of the Bayerischer Rundfunk campus in Munich, Germany, likely without much fanfare, something fairly monumental will take place – the IRT MXF PlugFest. Now in its ninth year, this event brings together vendors in the media and entertainment industry to facilitate MXF interoperability tests. Following each event, the IRT (Institute für Rundfunktechnik) publishes a report on the levels of overall interoperability, standard compliance, decoder robustness, and the common errors and interoperability issues – you can download the previous reports here. All of the previous eight reports make interesting reading (particularly if read in order), but none has been more greatly anticipated than the report due from this ninth PlugFest. What then, you may ask, makes this year’s event so special that we would dedicate a whole blog post to a relatively small, vendor-only event in Bavaria? The UK DPP (Digital Production Partnership) has been closely watched by a number of industry organizations and groups, particularly with regards to the file specification it has published, based on AMWA AS-11 for the delivery and interchange of media files. This specification aims to end the headache of media file interoperability at the point of delivery for broadcasters and media facilities across the UK and Ireland. While the issue of file compatibility is not unique to the UK, unique challenges in the German-speaking media community have dictated a slightly different approach to the creation of a standardized interchange format. The ARD group, the Association of Public Broadcasting Corporations in the Federal Republic of Germany, is made up of 10 member broadcasters, covering regional, national and international distribution, who have the capability to exchange media at almost any point in any workflow including news, production and archive. In July this year, together with ZDF (in English: the Second German Television), with support from other German-language public and private broadcasters, the ARD published two new MXF-based media file-format “profiles.” At this point, you would be forgiven for asking, “Do we really need another specification/standard?” In fact, the two profiles, named HDF01 and HDF02, are not too dissimilar to the AMWA Application Specifications AS-10 and AS-11. What makes the ARD-ZDF MXF-profiles different is that not only do they describe what the output of the MXF encoder should look like, but the tolerances and behavior of MXF decoders. For example, MXF files compliant with the profiles shall not have any ancillary date tracks (commonly used for the carriage of subtitles or transitory audio and aspect ratio metadata), but to ensure interoperability, it is required that decoders are tolerant of ancillary data tracks that may be present. Specifying not only the encoder, but also decoder behavior will have a massive benefit to interoperability, particularly when deploying and testing systems. Many of the properties specified in the profiles are low-level elements that frequently cause interoperability problems that require lengthy discussions between multiple vendors, users and integrators to find resolution. Constrained encoding profiles ensure that “problematic” files can quickly be analyzed and “non-compliant” elements identified, but without specifying additional decoder requirements, applying these constraints can introduce as many challenges as they remove with little or no consideration for legacy assets or flexibility to find quick, short-term resolutions to interoperability issues in workflow. Dalet is proud to have been one of the very first vendors to have a product certified by AMWA for the creation of UK DPP delivery specification compliant files and is equally pleased to be going into the first IRT MXF PlugFest since the publication of the HDF01 and HDF02 ARD-ZDF MXF profiles, as one of the first few to fully support the new profiles. The event next week will set the baseline for a new era in media file interoperability and, while reading the historic MXF PlugFest reports is interesting, I personally cannot wait to see what I expect to be the biggest change yet, between the report for next week’s ninth and 2015’s 10th event.
Are you going to BVE?
So 2014 is showing the same tendency to slip by as previous years and here we are with BVEjust around the corner. Having made the short journey across London to the Excel centre, this year’s event will be important for several reasons: Apart from the annual gathering of the broadcast industry clan, this year is significant in that it marks the Digital Production Partnership’s deadline for the adoption of its specifications. At BVE, on stand N45, we will come together with our UK regional channel partner, broadcast systems integrator, ATG Broadcast, to jointly promote an approach to the adoption of digital file-based workflows that focuses on the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) initiative in the UK. Final BVE before DPP deadline day From its outset, AmberFin has been a strong supporter of the DPP initiative because it promises Open Standards interoperability and this dovetails neatly with the company’s strategic development goals. The DPP’s self-imposed deadline of 1st October 2014, where file-based content delivery becomes the preferred exchange format for almost all major UK broadcasters is less than nine months away and still most facilities and production companies are a long way from finalizing their DPP adoption strategies, so BVE 2014 will be an important event, helping them firm up their implementation plans. The widespread adoption of the DPP specification will be an important event in the UK broadcast industry and many other geographic regions are watching its progress very closely. DPP will be a defining moment when all the hard work that has been put into standards such as MXF come to fruition and we see the many significant benefits that file-based workflowscan bring to broadcast operations of all sizes and scales. Affordable Transcode Farm Controller Another UK first for AmberFin at BVE sees the showcase of our new affordable Transcode Farm Controller which enables the creation of transcode farms that are scalable from one to many nodes whilst providing fault tolerant operation. With our AmberFin iCR platform, media facilities of all sizes, scales and business models can scale up an initial proof of concept to whatever system capacity they require without needing any kind of external orchestration system and in doing so dynamically support their business development strategy with minimum capital expenditure. First introduced at IBC last year, the new iCR Transcode Farm Controller functionality builds on AmberFin’s market leading multi-format transcode capabilities. It significantly increases the flexibility and versatility of a multi-node transcode environment, bringing improved resilience and robustness whilst simultaneously bringing cost savings through more versatile network licensing capabilities. So, as you can see, we have lots to tell and show off at BVE. Assuming that we haven’t all floated away on the floods by then, make sure to call around to stand N45 and have a chat with our team of product and market specialists. If you can’t make it to the Excel, then another good option is to download a selection of our free White Papers which look at many areas of new technology and file-based media operations from DPP to Enterprise-Class transcoders.
Building a business around DPP (Digital Production Partnership)
Much of what has been said and written recently about the Digital Production Partnership (DPP)centres on the enabling technology and the versatility of the standards created by the organisation. Whilst AmberFin is a company with technology implementation at its heart, we never forget that the technology is just a means to and end, rather than an end in itself: The end is the building of enterprise operations around the media transformation process. How can we make the most efficient media factory possible – one that will thrive in today’s dynamic market? When looked at in this way, DPP is so much more then really creative technology and thoughtful standardisation. DPP is a platform around which businesses can expand their enterprise operations, increase operating efficiency and minimise task duplication and resource waste. Make your business exempt to interoperability tax 
If your business were to become an early adopter of DPP, you would be making yourself exempt from an interoperability tax (if such a thing existed). When you look at a single transaction, the extra cost and resources needed if system interoperability is an issue might seem insignificant, but when you multiply this by hundreds of files the cost soon adds up to something really significant. In a standardised DPP world, to achieve true system interoperability across the industry there would be a limited amount of pain and cost felt by everybody but this would be shared equally amongst the organizations involved and it would be a limited cost, which is incurred only once. After this point, our industry has a fantastic common interchange format to help encourage partnerships and build businesses. In a world that has adopted DPP, media and metadata interoperability is not an issue since the format is built on a strong, detailed common interchange specification. In this homogeneous scenario the resources that would have been used in the interoperability engineering process can be used in more creative and productive ways, such as programme making. Let’s exploit DPP’s potential and grow our enterprise operations 
The essence of the problem facing our industry today is the lack of a common interchange format to enable these transactions. DPP is the first open public interchange format that is specifically designed to address this issue. DPP is intended to transform today’s 20 per cent trickle of file-based media transactions between organisations into an 80 per cent flood in the shortest time. Yes, in many ways DPP represents a technological innovation but we must never forget the business driver that underpins all of this activity. Whether you are a public service broadcaster or an independent production facility, DPP offers something new and quite different. Its potential to open up new commercial opportunities and generate new business is tremendous. The hard work has been done by DPP. Now, the challenge is how we adopt it. In this situation, the biggest winners will be the first to recognise the opportunity that DPP presents. If you would like to explore these opportunities with one of the leading supporters of DPP then contact your local AmberFin office.
Gearing up for Broadcast Asia
Next week will see a first forAmberFin when we exhibit in our own right at Broadcast Asia. This is a dynamic, fast growing regional market for our products and services – one that we have prioritised for a number of years. I will travel to Singapore for the exhibition and I’m excited at the prospect of what promises to be a strong event for AmberFin: In all markets, your success is strongly influenced by the strength of the relationships you create. Relationships with customers are key, for sure. But so are the relationships with other companies and organisations that will help establish your reputation in that market. Danmon Asia At Broadcast Asia, we will hit the ground running by announcing a marketing agreement covering Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar with Danmon Asia. The specialist reseller will introduce broadcasters in these territories to AmberFin and its software-based products, focusing on those that are already working in a file-based environment and looking to develop better QC capabilities within their workflows. For these markets we need the right channel partner to help establish ourselves. Danmon Asia is the right company for us because it has an outstanding track record in the design and commissioning of customer focussed file-based workflows. Thanks to our successful partnership in Scandinavia, Danmon already understands our company, our products and our customer driven ethos. Could DPP help Asian broadcasters? 
At Broadcast Asia, we will showcase a number of AmberFin products and solutions that are designed to increase media quality and operator efficiency in file-based workflows across the widest range of enterprise operations. We will demonstrate new competitively priced file-based media ingest, transcode andplayback products that enable the digitization and transformation of new and archived media content. These new product introductions reflect AmberFin’s strategic marketing initiative aimed at addressing the broadest range of media organizations with enterprise level solutions that are designed to meet their specific business needs. One increasingly successful initiative in the UK is the Digital Production Partnership where numerous broadcasters and facilities have come together to create a number of common standards in file-based technology to help the transfer of material between organisations. It will be interesting to discuss this initiative with visitors to Broadcast Asia and see whether a similar approach in their region would be beneficial to our industry. If you would like to know more about the DPP initiative, download our DPP white paper by clicking on the button below.