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Jun 30, 2015
Life before and after DPP (Digital Production Partnership)

Life before and after DPP (Digital Production Part

Life before and after DPPPeople that know me will be aware that file-based workflows are a passion of mine. Ten years ago I was co-author of the MXF (Media Exchange Format) specification and ever since I have been engaged in taking this neatSMPTE standard and using it to create a business platform for media enterprises of every size and scale. This is why I’m so excited by the Digital Production Partnership (DPP): 

it represents the first ratified national Application Specification of the MXF standard and is set to revolutionize the way that media facilities and broadcasters work.To explain what I mean, let’s compare life with a DPP ecosystem to life without. 

Less pain to feel the gain

In a standardized DPP world, 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 an unstandardized world, where different facilities have decided to use different tools and variants of MXF or other formats, the major cost becomes the lack of third-party interoperability. Each time content is exchanged between different facilities, a media transcode or rewrap in that format is required.

This means that all vendors in all the facilities will ultimately support all the file formats andmetadata. The engineering required to implement and test takes time and costs money on an on-going basis. 

Interoperable metadata helps the content creator

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. 

Programme making is a process where most broadcasters utilise external resources. In a world without DPP, whenever a broadcaster or production facility receives a new file from an external facility, such as a Post House, the question must be asked whether this file meets the requirements of their in-house standard. That evaluation process can lead to extra QC costs in addition to possible media ingest, transcoding, conformance and metadata re-keying costs that need to be taken into account.

Building a business platform

This heterogeneous environment is an issue not just for interaction with external facilities: often different departments within the same major broadcaster will adopt slightly different file standards and metadata making interoperability a big issue to them. As a result, today only about 70 per cent of transactions within companies are file-based – the remainder employ tape. However, this is much higher than where external agencies are involved – here, only 10 – 15 per cent of transactions are file-based.

The essence of the problem 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 into an 80 per cent flood in the shortest time.

To find out more about DPP and how it can transform the way your operation works and also your effectiveness working with other organizations read AmberFin’s White Paper on DPP.


DPP White Paper Download

What is HDR, WCG and Dolby Vision and why does it matter?
Alphabet soup starring HDR and WCG "Hey Guys, let's re-invent the entire TV and Cinema chains from Camera to Screen!" said no high-ranking executive in any board meeting ever. The whole concept sounds like crazy talk when you say it out loud, but in reality that's what the High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) revolution have done over the recent years. We've moved on from glowing goop The cinema world, shooting on film, has always had a little more freedom that the TV world when it comes to controlling brightness, color and contrast between the camera and the screen. There were limitations in physics and chemistry, of course. You could make the projector brighter assuming you didn't melt the film and you could make the film more sensitive provided you liked that grainy look on the screen. The TV world, however had a fixed and inflexible transmission infrastructure that was stabilized in the 1950s. The relationship between the photons going into a camera and the photons coming out of most of today's TV are still based on the response characteristics of the glowing goop you find inside CRTs (Cathode Ray Tubes) of that early era. So in comes HDR. "Hey guys the eye can capture about 14 stops of brightness so let’s transmit that." is the fundamental idea behind HDR. In a basic MPEG system, the brightness of most pixels is represented by a number between 0 and 255. This gives you the ability to represent 8 stops (28 values) whereas we would like to represent 214 values in our HDR chain i.e. the brightness of each pixel is represented by a number between 0 and 16383. Sounds simple really. But, what is Dolby Vision HDR? Let's redesign the entire Cinema and Broadcast Value chain The complexity comes with making sure that each and every device in the value chain from camera through switcher and ingest and transcode understands what these new numerical values actually mean. In an ideal world we would replace all the old kit with brand new kit, but that's not really practical so the HDR systems that were created have compatibility modes to allow these new bright, colorful pixels to travel across traditional SDI, H.264 and IP transmission paths with good integrity to appear at the final display to show wondrous pictures. Now, what is Dolby Vision HDR? Dolby Vision is one of the HDR systems that requires metadata to work. Its trick is identifying that in any typical scene you only use a portion of the total available dynamic range. A dark shadowy scene in a cave will need more bits allocated in the small numerical pixel value ranges. A bright seaside scene on a sunny day will need more bits allocated in the large numerical pixel value range. This scene by scene adaption is enabled with metadata that tells each device how to behave for that scene. The Dalet AmberFin team is really proud that it's the first software only transcoder and workflow engine to have full support for the Dolby Vision system. It can do this in a wide range of different codecs in parallel with the usual array of high quality video processing functions from scaling to Standards Conversion. The Dolby Vision metadata itself might be carried in a sidecar XML file or embedded within the media file as a data track. Whichever mechanism is used, it's vitally important to retain the synchronization between the metadata and the images to get the best results particularly when aligning metadata changes to hard cuts in the video. This becomes doubly important when frame rate converting because blended frames and mis-timing of metadata combined are highly visible, highly annoying and consume a lot of bitrate in the final encoding. A transcoder like the Dalet AmberFin platform gets all of those complex factors right first time, resulting in high efficiency, low bitrate, outstanding picture. In today's era, the consumer often lead the professionals So, what is Dolby Vision HDR and why is it important? HDR is important because the consumers of media get to see HDR on the content they make on their mobile devices. If the paid-for entertainment content they see on other platforms looks washed out and old-fashioned by comparison, then this will be a factor in what media gets consumed. If anyone has a spare crystal ball to help predict what this future might look like, then I would be very grateful to borrow it for a while!
"Dalet: the art of data" - a FEED Magazine article
We all know media companies are gathering lots of data about their audiences. This can induce some anxiety in viewers, especially when they realise content providers sometimes know more about their behaviour than they know themselves. But the final goal of audience data collection is – or if it isn’t, you should really rethink your business priorities – to provide better, more useful services and, as a result, to increase revenue...Read more Read the full article
Dalet Brio Provides a Clear Path to IP with SMPTE ST 2110
Dalet, a leading provider of solutions and services for broadcasters and content professionals, is providing media organizations a clear path and controlled transition to IP with support for SMPTE ST 2110 in the latest release of its Dalet Brio I/O platform. Supporting both SMPTE ST 2110 and SDI standard workflows, the high-density ingest and playout platform allows media facilities to invest in their future IP infrastructure without disrupting their current operation. The cornerstone of advanced, IP-ready media operations, Dalet Brio adapts to new production and distribution environments with advanced capabilities that manage ingest, transfers, and playout to and from a wide range of systems and devices. Its extensive IP support enables users to process a wide range of parallel streams including SMPTE ST 2110, ST 2022-2 and NDI for linear channels, and RTMP for digital platforms like Facebook Live, YouTube and Twitter. "With the latest version of the Dalet Brio product, our customers will be able to easily mix SDI and SMPTE ST 2110 workflows, transitioning to full IP with confidence and more importantly, at their own pace,” states Matthieu Fasani, Director of Product Marketing, Dalet. “Media professionals know that IP is the future, yet for most operations, it is not an overnight transformation. Unless you are re-architecting your entire media supply chain, a controlled transition to IP is the best strategy.” Fasani adds, "Ingest and playout solutions are key to the media operation and therefore need careful consideration when upgrading. Dalet Brio meets the needs of the new generation IP workflows. Its performance and support for SMPTE ST 2110 workflows are backed by trusted interoperability tests led by the Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM) in April 2019, ensuring that you are implementing a solution that is going to be compatible with the industry standard. Dalet Brio is an investment that will take your media operation into the future.” Bruce Devlin, Dalet Chief Media Scientist and SMPTE Standards Vice President comments on the importance of IP workflows and SMPTE standards like ST 2110. “The migration to IP transport for professional media is a key enabler for new live workflows. IP transport and ST 2110, in particular, can give more flexibility and more utilisation of studio infrastructure than SDI is able to provide. Regular interoperability testing and industry collaboration sees an ever-increasing ecosystem of ST 2110 equipment that is able to be put together to create working systems. The IP future is being delivered now and ST 2110 equipment is at the heart of it.” About Dalet Brio Built on an IT-based input and output video platform, Dalet Brio is an integral part of fast-paced professional media workflows, whether as part of a Dalet Galaxy five enterprise-wide solution, integrated with third-party platforms, or as a standalone product. Dalet Brio suite of applications – Ingest Scheduler, Multicam Manager, Media Logger and Media Navigator – are purpose-built tools that allow broadcasters to expand the capabilities to include multi-camera control, comprehensive logging, and studio production ingest and playout. Dalet customers who have put Dalet Brio at the core of their media foundation range from enterprise broadcasters Euronews, France TV, Fox Networks Group Europe and Mediacorp, to iconic sports teams like San Jose Sharks, to leading post-production and digital distribution facility VDM. For more information on Dalet Brio and other Dalet solutions, please visit About Dalet Digital Media Systems Dalet solutions and services enable media organisations to create, manage and distribute content faster and more efficiently, fully maximising the value of assets. Based on an agile foundation, Dalet offers rich collaborative tools empowering end-to-end workflows for news, sports, program preparation, post-production, archives and enterprise content management, radio, education, governments and institutions. Dalet platforms are scalable and modular. They offer targeted applications with key capabilities to address critical functions of small to large media operations - such as planning, workflow orchestration, ingest, cataloguing, editing, chat & notifications, transcoding, play out automation, multi-platform distribution and analytics. Dalet solutions and services are used around the world at hundreds of content producers and distributors, including public broadcasters (BBC, CBC, France TV, RAI, RFI, Russia Today, RT Malaysia, SBS Australia, VOA), commercial networks and operators (Canal+, FOX, MBC Dubai, Mediacorp, Mediaset, Orange, Charter Spectrum, Warner Bros, Sirius XM Radio) and government organisations (UK Parliament, NATO, United Nations, Veterans Affairs, NASA). Dalet is traded on the NYSE-EURONEXT stock exchange (Eurolist C): ISIN: FR0011026749, Bloomberg DLT:FP, Reuters: DALE.PA. Dalet® is a registered trademark of Dalet Digital Media Systems. All other products and trademarks mentioned herein belong to their respective owners.
Metadata is “The New Gold”!
Plain and simple. Some might categorize the above statement as an exaggeration, nevertheless, we persist! A number of technology trends got the lion’s share of buzz and display at IBC’s 50th edition: cloud and smart hybrid infrastructure, video over IP, workflow orchestration and automation, and last but not least big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). As game-changing as they can be, we believe that these are in fact enablers of a much bigger trend: better serving and engaging with audiences. Content discovery for consumers It is well documented that the success of online video relies, in part, on metadata. Metadata-centric workflows give viewers the freedom to become more engaged. They can discover and explore more content, navigating directly to the most interesting scenes (including the intent of the scene, e.g. serene, suspense, etc.). Publishers can fully monetize viewer habits and experiences in the most effective way possible with a Media Asset Management (MAM) & Orchestration platform that allows end-to-end authoring and managing asset metadata in their production workflow. For on-demand video consumption, accurate description of content is key to help narrow recommendation engines to more relevant suggestions. For ad-based or product placement models, metadata helps define the optimal in-stream video insertion points, allowing publishers greater control and flexibility with their advertising strategies. Scene metadata such as character name, player name, topic, keyword, etc. become key. The more accurate and rich the description of these insertion points, the better the advertisers can pick the slots that fit both their target audience and the brand experience they look to create. Metadata-driven operations & workflows Today, metadata is also at the heart of the orchestration of workflows and automation of processes, both of which become increasingly important to streamline and scale production and distribution operations. Any process and/or action in the chain of operations can be triggered by any change or fulfillment of a condition on any of the fields of the data model. These configurable metadata-driven workflows are extremely powerful. While the industry has moved away from the simplicity of "one profile per customer", we can today create an environment where a single workflow can produce all the desired outputs just by changing the metadata that initiates a particular process. Managing complex media objects Metadata is core to structure and manage complex media objects and their relations, to enable operations like versioning and packaging of track stacks or compositions. To enable better collaboration and flawless content transformation and curation, organizations need to disintermediate the supply chain. One of the key concepts is to avoid the confirmation of a project or a composition until it actually needs to be packaged for an output. To enable this, media management platforms need to handle complex objects seamlessly so that users can work directly with the elementary components of a media package or project. This gives them the ability to manipulate, transform, share and repurpose content in a very efficient and agile way - a concept called transclusion. The Dalet Galaxy platform’s user tools, data model, and workflow engine offer a robust and configurable framework to power these types of operations. They support all the industry latest standards like IMF, DPP and many others. Augmenting media tagging & operations with AI Video is a complex medium that requires both human-authored metadata, which is flexible and traditionally more accurate, and automatically-created metadata, which is quickly growing thanks to AI-powered services. AI is indeed a key next step for the media industry. Dalet has recently showcased, at IBC 2017, some first prototypes connecting a selection of AI engines to the Dalet Galaxy platform in order to build new services that range from simple, automated content indexing and metadata generation, all the way to smart assistants that augment user operations. Deployable on-premises or in the cloud, these services produce time-correlated, multi-dimensional metadata from audio and video data, unlocking new insights. Coupling these services with the Dalet Galaxy platform provides broadcasters and media organizations with an end-to-end solution that will serve as an enabler to capture tomorrow's business opportunities and generate new benefits.
The Future of Transcode
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
The Power of the Dalet Search
In today’s multi-platform world, simply put, finding stuff is becoming more complex. In the past, a mere browse through the shelves would suffice. But the digital era brings forth the "hoarding" syndrome. Just think, for example, of your own collection of home pictures – I know mine are in an unmanaged mess. But before we get into searching, we first need to address quantifying things. This is where a MAM's role is to be the record keeper of your valuable content and its associated information. More importantly, having a metadata model extensible enough to address the multiple levels and hierarchy of data is key to the success of your search power. As the amount of content owned, archived and distributed by broadcasters is rapidly growing, it is also evolving, resulting in an exponential expansion of files that must be managed. What was once a one-to-one relationship between the "record" and the media, has evolved into a model where a complex collection of elements (audio, video, text, captions, etc.) forms a record relationship. And don’t even get me started on versioning. To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s look at the example of the TV Series “24,” starring Keifer Sutherland. You could annotate an episode with the actor’s name, the actor’s character’s name, the actor’s birthday, and so on ... and for each element of that collection (let’s say the source master, the poster, the caption). Having the ability to define a taxonomy and ontology so that when I specify that “24” ALWAYS has Jack Bauer in all the episodes and that the character Jack Bauer is played by actor Keifer Sutherland, we can then have a way to inherit that information down the tree for any element that is part of that tree: Series/Season/Episode. Then for the users, only saying that “this” video is actually 24/season2/ep7 will automatically inherit/apply all it's “parent” associated metadata... without needing to enter each individual value. This greatly reduces the amount of data entry (and time) necessary to quantify something when considering the immense amount of content associated with any given record. But the big impact of the rich metadata engine found in our MAM is its ability to not only search but to discover as well. What I mean is that there are typically two methods of searching: The first is explicit search – the user chooses the necessary fields to conduct their search, and then enters the values to obtain a result, e.g. looking for “Videos” with “Jack Bauer” in “Season 2.” The result is a list that the user must filter through to find what they want. The second way to search is through discovery, with the MAM's ability to display facets. For example, I could type “Actor’s height” (6'2") in “Action role,” “On Location” (Los Angeles). The return would display facets organized by user-defined relevancy, such as Series, Media Type, Actor Name, to then produce a resulting list along with facet boxes that the user can "filter down" within the search. The above example would show: "I found 12 Videos with Keifer Sutherland as an actor," and “I found 34 assets shot in Los Angeles.” And then by checking the 12 Videos of Keifer and the 34 in Los Angeles to cross-eliminate, I would find that there are actually three assets of Keifer in Los Angeles. And then you would also see that the character Jack Bauer also has a cameo on “The Simpsons.” Rich metadata allows us to create relationship between assets at multiple levels. Those various facets allow you to not only navigate through hundreds if not thousands of media assets, but to easily discover specific content as well. And finally, having immediate access to these results for viewing or editing is what makes the Dalet MAM a harmonious ecosystem for not only information but also action/manipulation of said assets.
CCW, SOA, FIMS and the King & Queen of the Media Industry
All-Star Panel Sessions at CCW 2014 The NAB-backed CCW held some impressive panels, and our own Stephane Guez (Dalet CTO) and Luc Comeau (Dalet Business Development Manager) participated in two of the show’s hot topics. MAM, It’s All About Good Vocabulary – Luc Comeau, Senior Business Development Manager The saying goes, “behind every great man, there is a greater woman.” Within the panel – “Content Acquisition and Management Platform: A Service-Oriented Approach” – there was a lot of talk about content being king. In my view then, metadata is his queen. Metadata gives you information that a MAM can capitalize on and allows you to build the workflow to enable your business vision. Done correctly and enterprise MAM will give you visibility into the entire organization, allowing you to better orchestrate both the technical and human process. Because at the end of the day, it’s the visibility of the entire organization that allows you to make better decisions, like whether or not you need to make a change or adapt your infrastructure to accommodate new workflows. In our session, the conversation very quickly headed towards the topic of interoperability. Your MAM must have a common language to interface with all the players. If it doesn’t, you will spend an enormous amount of time translating so these players can work together. And if the need arises, and it usually does, you may need to replace one component with another that speaks a foreign language, well then, you are back to square one. A common framework will ensure a smooth sequence through production and distribution. A common framework, perhaps, such as FIMS… The One Thing Everyone Needs to Know About FIMS – Stephane Guez, Dalet CTO I was invited by Janet Gardner, president of Perspective Media Group, Inc., to participate in the FIMS (Framework for Interoperable Media Services) conference panel she moderated at CCW 2014. The session featured Loic Barbou, chair of the FIMS Technical Board, Jacki Guerra, VP, Media Asset Services for A+E Networks, and Roman Mackiewicz, CIO Media Group at Bloomberg – two broadcasters that are deploying FIMS-compliant infrastructures. The aim of the session was to get the broadcasters’ points of views on their usage of the FIMS standard. The FIMS project was initiated to define standards that enable media systems to be built using a Service Orientated Architecture (SOA). FIMS has enormous potential benefits for both media organizations and the vendors/manufacturers that supply them, defining common interfaces for archetypal media operations such as capture, transfer, transform, store and QC. Global standardization of these interfaces will enable us, as an industry, to respond more quickly and cost effectively to the innovation and the constantly evolving needs and demands of media consumers. Having begun in December 2009, the FIMS project is about to enter it’s 6th year, but the immense scale of the task is abundantly clear, with the general opinion of the panelists being that we are at the beginning of a movement – still very much a work-in-progress with a lot of work ahead of us. One thing, however, was very clear from the discussion: Broadcasters need to be the main driver for FIMS. In doing so, they will find there are challenges and trade offs. FIMS cannot be adopted overnight. There are many existing, complex installations that rely on non-FIMS equipment. It will take some time before these systems can be converted to a FIMS-compliant infrastructure. Along with the technology change, there is the need to evolve the culture. For many, FIMS will put IT at the center of their production. A different world and skill set, many organizations will need to adapt both their workforce and workflow to truly reap the advantages of FIMS.
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!
More Secrets of Metadata
Followers of Bruce’s Shorts may remember an early episode on the Secrets of Metadata where I talked about concentrating on your metadata for your business, because it adds the value that you need. It seems the world is catching onto the idea of business value of metadata, and I don’t even have to wrestle a snake to explain it! Over the last 10 years of professional media file-based workflows, there have been many attempts at creating standardized metadata schemes. A lot of these have been generated by technologists trying to do the right thing or trying to fix a particular technical problem. Many of the initiatives have suffered from limited deployment and limited adoption because the fundamental questions they were asking centered on technology and not the business application. If you center your metadata around a business application, then you automatically take into account the workflows required to create, clean, validate, transport, store and consume that metadata. If you center the metadata around the technology, then some or all of those aspects are forgotten – and that’s where the adoption of metadata standards falls down. Why? It’s quite simple. Accurate metadata can drive business decisions that in turn improves efficiency and covers the cost of the metadata creation. Many years ago, I was presenting with the head of a well-known post house in London. He stood on stage and said in his best Australian accent “I hate metadata." You guys want me to make accurate, human oriented metadata in my facility for no cost, so that you guys can increase your profits at my expense.” Actually he used many shorter words that I’m not able to repeat here J. The message that he gave is still completely valid today: If you’re going to create accurate metadata, then who is going to consume it? If the answer is no one, ever, then you’re doing something that costs money for no results. That approach does not lead to a good long-term business. If the metadata is consumed within your own organization, then you ask the question: “Does it automate one or many processes downstream?” The automation might be a simple error check or a codec choice or an email generation or a target for a search query. The more consuming processes there are for a metadata field, the more valuable it can become. If the metadata is consumed in a different organization, then you have added value to the content by creating metadata. The value might be expressed in financial terms or in good-will terms, but fundamentally a commercial transaction is taking place by the creation of that metadata. The UK’s Digital Production Partnership and the IRT in Germany have both made great progress towards defining just enough metadata to reduce friction in B2B (business to business) file transfer in the broadcast world. Cablelabs continues to do the same for the cable world and standards bodies such as SMPTE are working with the EBU to make a core metadata definition that accelerates B2B ecommerce type applications. I would love to say that we’ve cracked the professional metadata problem, but the reality is that we’re still half way through the journey. I honestly don’t know how many standards we need. A single standard that covers every media application will be too big and unwieldy. A different standard for each B2B transaction type will cost too much to implement and sustain. I’m thinking we’ll be somewhere between these two extremes in the “Goldilocks zone,” where there are just enough schemas and the implementation cost is justified by the returns that a small number of standards can bring. As a Media Asset Management company, we spend our daily lives wrestling with the complexities of metadata. I live in hope that at least the B2B transaction element of that metadata will one day be as easy to author and as interoperable as a web page. Until then, why not check out the power of search from Luc’s blog. Without good metadata, it would be a lot less exciting.
Why Doesn’t Anyone Label The Audio?
The great thing about language is its ability to allow us to exchange ideas and concepts, and hopefully create a business by doing so. With the increasing number of multi-platform delivery opportunities, the increasing bandwidths and channel densities, we are also seeing an increasing opportunity for content owners to create revenue with their content. Successfully exploiting that opportunity involves tailoring the version of the content meant for the audience to reduce friction and increase enjoyment of the viewer / listener. The blockbuster movie community has known for a long time that efficiently making versions of a movie and its collection of trailers on a territory by territory basis can make a significant difference to the number of people who watch that movie. I believe that we are entering an era where turbo-charging the versioning efficiency of media companies is going to be a dominant differentiator. To reduce the costs of versioning and to make life simple for the creative human processes, it is necessary to automate the processes that can be done by machines (or in our case, software). To a company that deals with video, all issues will looks like video issue. The processes for segmenting video content and replacing elements are pretty well understood. Organizations like the UK's DPP have created standards for interchanging that segmentation information. In today’s blog, I'm going to assume that the video issues are largely understood and look at a “simple” issue that two customers approached me about here at the SMPTE Australia show. Right now, on the planet, there are many more languages spoken than there are scripts for writing those languages down. There are also many more scripts than there are countries in the world. This makes the labeling of languages and scripts an interesting challenge for any media company, as the variables are virtually endless. There are many schemes used in the world for labeling audio and any naïve person entering the industry would assume that there must be some sort of global tag that everyone uses for identification ... right? Wrong. Traditionally, TV stations, broadcasters, content creators and others have created content for a specific market. Broadcasters, distributors, aggregators and others have sent their content to territories with only a handful of languages to cope with. Usually proprietary solutions for “track tagging” are developed and deployed. The compelling business need to streamline and standardize the labeling of audio channels hasn’t really existed until now. The internationalization of distribution compels us to find an agreed way in which labeling can be done. Thankfully, someone got there before the media folks. The internet community has been here before - and quite recently. The internet standard RFC5646 is very thorough and copes with the identification of primary languages as well as dialects, extinct languages and imaginary vocabularies such as Klingon. With such a comprehensive and interoperable specification that is widely used for the delivery of web content to billions of devices every day, you'd think that any media system designer worth his or her salt would have this electronic document in their favorites list for regular look-up. You'd think ... The MXF community knows a good thing when it sees it, so you'll find that when it comes to a standardized way to tag tracks in MXF – the SMPTE standard ST 377-4 uses RFC5646 as its vocabulary for labeling. ST 377-4 additionally recognizes that each channel of an audio mix might contain a different language. Each channel might also belong to a group intended as a stereo group, or a surround sound group, or a mono-group of one channel. This hard grouping defines the relationship of channels that should not be split. Going further, ST 377-4 defines groups of groups that are used as metadata to enable easy versioning so that, for example, a French group might consist of a French stereo group, a clean M&E surround mix and a French mono audio description channel. Reality ST 377-4 with RFC5646 solves a difficult problem in a simple and elegant way. Up until now, it's been easier for media companies to do their own thing and invent their own metadata vocabularies with proprietary labeling methods rather than use a standard. Today, to get cost effective interoperability we're starting to rely on standards more and more so that we don't have to stand the cost of an infinite number of proprietary connectors to make things work. As you see more versions of more programs being created, spare a thought for the future costs and revenues of media that needs to be exchanged. A little up-front-standardized metadata builds the launch ramp for a future searchable and accessible library of internationalized content. Standardized audio metadata and subtitle metadata - it may be a tiny-tiny addition to your assets, but over time it helps you find, use and monetize versioned content with no effort at all. Take action now and learn the difference between en-US and en-GB. It's more than just spelling.
MXF AS02 and IMF: What's the Difference and Can They Work Together?
If you read my previous posts about IMF, you will already know what it is and how it works. But one of the questions I often get is "how is IMF different from AS02 and will it replace it? After all, don’t they both claim to provide a solution to versioning problems?". In a nutshell, the answer is yes, IMF and AS02 are different and no, IMF will not replace AS02; in fact the two complement and enhance each other. Let me explain: MXF AS02 (for broadcast versioning) and IMF (for movie versioning) grew up at the same time. And while both had very similar requirements in the early stages, we soon ended up in a situation where the level of sophistication required by the broadcasters’ versioning process never really reached critical industry mass. Efforts were continually made to merge the MXF AS02 work and the IMF work to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that the widest number of interoperable applications could be met with the minimum number of specifications. When it came to merging the AS02 and IMF work, we looked at the question of what would be a good technical solution for all of the versioning that takes place in an increasingly complex value chain. It was clear that in the studio business there was a need for IMF, and that the technical solution should recognize the scale of the challenge. It came down to a very simple technical decision, and a simple case of math. AS02 does all of its versioning using binary MXF files, while IMF does all of its versioning using human-readable XML files. There are maybe 20 or 30 really good MXF binary programmers in the world today; XML is much more generic, and there must be hundreds of thousands of top quality XML programmers out there. Given the growing amount of localized versioning that we are now faced with, it makes sense to use a more generic technology like XML to represent the various content versions whilst maintaining the proven AS02 media wrapping to store the essence components. In a nutshell this is the main difference between AS02 and IMF. Both standards have exactly the same pedigree and aim to solve exactly the same problems, but IMF benefits from a more sophisticated versioning model and therefore requires a greater degree of customization – and XML is a better means of achieving this. IMF is not going to replace AS02. Rather the goal is to get to a place where we have a standardized IMF package as a means of exchanging versioned packages within the workflow. IMF will actually enhance the AS02 bundles that represent componentized clips that are already ingested, transcoded and interchanged today.
Reinheitsgebot: A clear and positive influence on the definition of European media file exchange and delivery formats
It doesn’t take much research into either Reinheitsgebot or file specifications to realise that this title is almost complete nonsense. When Reinheitsgebot, aka the “German Beer Purity Law,” was first endorsed by the duchy of Bavaria 499 years ago (23rd April 1516) it actually had nothing to do with the purity of beer and everything to do with the price of bread – banning the use of wheat in beer to ensure that there was no competition between brewers and bakers for limited supply. Reinheitsgebot has come to represent a mark of quality in beer and something that German brewers are very proud of, but as the law spread across what is now modern Germany in the 16th century, it actually lead to the disappearance of many highly regarded regional specialities and variations. By contrast, the definition of file formats for exchange and delivery in the media industry has everything to do with the purity, or quality, of media files – indeed the initiative that has lead to the publication of the ARD-ZDF MXF Profiles in the German-speaking community was lead by the group looking at quality control and management. This has represented a fairly significant change in mind-set in our approach to QC. Within reason, the file format should not really affect the “quality” of the media (assuming sufficient bit-rate). However, to have a consistent file-QC process, you need to start with consistent files, and the simplest way to do this is to restrict the “ingredients” in order to deliver a consistent “flavour” of file. By restricting the variations, we considerably simplify QC processes, mitigate risk of both QC and workflow errors occurring downstream, and reduce the cost of implementation through decreased on-boarding requirements. This point is critical, and for illustration, one need only refer to the results of the IRT MXF plug-fest that takes place each year. At the 2014 event, outputs and interoperability of 24 products from 14 vendors, restricted to four common essence types and two wrapper types, were tested. Even with these restrictions, a total of 4,439 tests were conducted. Assuming each test takes an average of 60 seconds, that equates to very nearly two whole man-weeks of testing before we even consider workflow-breaking issues such as time-code support, frame accuracy, audio/video off-set, etc. Constrained media file specifications equate to far fewer variations, simplifying the on-boarding process and enabling media organizations to easily facilitate thorough automated and human QC, while focusing on the quality of the media, not the interoperability of the file. However, the file specifications themselves may not completely answer all our problems. Referring back to the German beer market, despite the regulation being lifted in 1988 following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, many breweries and beers still claim compliance with Reinheitsgebot, even though very, very few beers actually do. We have two issues in media that are equivalent – future proofing and compliance. When introduced, Reinheitsgebot specified three permitted ingredients – water, barley and hops. Unknowingly, however, brewers were adding another ingredient – either natural airborne yeast, or yeast cultivated from previous brews, a necessary addition for the fermentation process. Without launching into a convoluted discussion about “unknown, unknowns,” from this we learn that we have to accept the extreme difficulties of scoping future requirements. Reinheitsgebot was replaced in 1993 by the Provisional German Beer Law, allowing for ingredients such as yeast and wheat, without which the famous Witbier (wheat beer) would not exist – one of the German beer industry’s biggest exports. Globally, this has lead to much confusion over what Reinheitsgebot compliance means, especially with many wheat beers claiming adherence. In the media industry, the UK DPP launched a compliance program run by the AMWA, but there are many more companies claiming compliance than appear on the official list. While I suspect that many beers have been consumed in the writing of media file specifications, in reality it is unlikely that the story of the German beer purity law has had much impact – it may still have some lessons to teach us though. And now, time for a beer! Cheers! Note: this article also appeared in the June 2015 issue of TV Technology Europe