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May 21, 2020
What is HDR, WCG and Dolby Vision and why does it matter?
Enabling HDR & Dolby Vision in media supply chains with Dalet AmberFin

Add HDR & Dolby Vision to your media supply chain

Dalet AmberFin is the first software only transcoder and workflow engine to have full support for the Dolby Vision system.

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.

 

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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!

 

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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. For more information on ProSiebenSat.1 PULS 4, visit http://www.prosiebensat1puls4.com.
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 www.dalet.com/platforms/brio. 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.
Captions or Subtitles: A case of "You say tomahto I say tomayto"?
Did 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!
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
5 Steps to familiarize yourself with AmberFin iCR API
Workflow automation remains a hot topic for our customers, some simply drop incoming files into a watchfolder and allow iCR to process the files to meet their output or delivery requirements in a transcode workflow, others drive iCR via VDCP to an ingestor tape playback workflow: However recently I have noticed an increase in requests of how to achieve a GUI function via the APIs more and more customers investigate the benefits of the Web Service with a view to either develop a standalone application to drive their workflow or for better integration with their MAM. This blog introduces a tool to allow familiarization with the API either as a stepping stone to full API integration or as a test platform for debugging problems with existing Web Service integration. Point a web browser at port 8080 on the iCR host, http://Machine Name:8080/, and you will be greeted with the iCR Web Service landing page detailing the available WSDLs, clicking on one of the three links will display that WSDL information in XML format. While this information will give you a better idea of the SOAP interface capabilities it will not allow you to start playing, for this you will need a SOAP client. I have tried various clients and my preferred is SOAPUI, a free tool available for download from the internet. Connecting the application to the iCR WSDLs allows you to familiarize yourself with the API, its capabilities and send instructions to iCR. Below are the steps required to connect the SOAPUI to iCR and get started… Step 1: Start by enabling Web Service mode in iCR, launch the GUI and ensure the ‘Web Service Control’ check box is enabled. Step 2: Next, install SOAPUI on a machine and point it to the WSDLs. Open the SOAPUI application and create a new Project. Step 3: Now populate your new project with the three WSDLs; http://hostname:8080/icr/ICRControl?WSDL http://hostname:8080/icr/Library?WSDL http://hostname:8080/icr/VTRControl?WSDL SOAPUI will extract information from the iCR WSDL and create a structure for each of the available API calls for that WSDL, these will be available in the left hand pane of the SOAPUI tool. Step 4: Next, add the remaining WSDLs to the project by right clicking the project in the left panel, clicking ‘Add WSDL’ and pasting in the address in the WSDL Location field before clicking OK. Step 5: SOAPUI now has full access to the iCR Web Service interface and is ready to start playing. Expanding the three WSDL groups displays all available API commands in basic form, I say basic form because some of the API calls require parameters to be passed, for example atranscode request requires input file, transcode template and conversion name, below is an example transcode request; <soapenv:Envelope xmlns:soapenv="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/soap/envelope/" xmlns:con="http://snellwilcox.com/xmlbinding/icr/2007/04/control"> <soapenv:Header/> <soapenv:Body> <con:transcode> <arg0><![CDATA[ <ns2:transcodeparameters xmlns:ns2="http://www.amberfin.com/schema/TranscoderParameters"> <ns2:inputs> <ns2:input id="SOURCE"> <ns2:file name="D:\Input\Test_input.mxf"> </ns2:file> </ns2:input> </ns2:inputs> <ns2:segments style="in(inclusive),out(exclusive)"> <ns2:segment id="0"> <ns2:input>SOURCE</ns2:input> </ns2:segment> </ns2:segments> <ns2:output template="Proxy" conversion="H.264 Proxy"> </ns2:output> </ns2:transcodeparameters> </arg0> </con:transcode> </soapenv:Body> </soapenv:Envelope> Further API call examples are available on request, please contact us or raise a ticket with the support team giving an overview of your workflow and specifics of the Web Service request you would like an example of, we will endeavour to provide you with the details.
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.
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.