Joint EBU /SMPTE Task Force Set to Issue Report on Synchronization System and Time Labeling Standards

Report to be issued at IBC 2009, available online at www.smpte.org or tech.ebu.ch

White Plains, NY, August 8, 2009 – Helping to pave the way to more efficient, cost-effective, and simplified approaches to building and refurbishing digital facilities, a joint European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) Task Force is finalizing a set of recommendations to help update synchronizing and time labeling standards for moving-picture, broadcast, and related content.

Current synchronization and time-labeling methods for today’s television, audio, and other moving-picture signals have been in place for more than 30 years and were based on the requirements of analog-only systems and video tape standards dating back to the 1970s. While still reliable, these methods are becoming increasingly inappropriate to support the requirements of a digital age, such as multi-format facilities, file-based workflows, and sophisticated acquisition and post-production technologies.

“While what we have today is still viable, it has a lot of limitations – limitations we no longer need to accept because, for the most part, we’re no longer reliant upon video tape, and the rollout of HD in Europe requires new ways of producing media in IT-based and networked environments” said Dr. Hans Hoffmann of the EBU Technical Department.

Chaired jointly by Hoffmann and Peter Symes, SMPTE Director of Standards & Engineering, the EBU/SMPTE task force examined global, user-defined requirements for the digital age, concluding their work with a comprehensive report. The report and related work statements will be presented to two special SMPTE standards committees in September for their consideration as the committees create new synchronization and time labeling standards.

”This report describes detailed standardization needs and suggests practical, cost-effective timing and synchronization approaches in media creation and broadcast technologies that will be useful for the coming decades,” said Hoffmann. The Request for Standardization report will be available online just before the International Broadcasting Conference (Sept. 10 – 14, 2009, Amsterdam), and available for purchase at the show.

“The EBU and SMPTE have had a long history of successful collaboration. The Task Force Report will provide a starting point for the decisions to be made in standardization; we expect that it will be studied carefully by those who have not yet provided input, and trigger wider participation in the decision process,” said Hoffmann.

Easing the Transition with a Comprehensive Approach
The EBU/SMPTE task force report leverages nearly two years of focused industry research and substantive user input to provide a comprehensive set of recommendations for simplifying and codifying synchronization systems and time-related labeling in the digital era. It features input from broadcast, post production, movie studio, and cable professionals, as well as broadcast and network equipment manufacturers.
“The demand is there for better timing information to accompany pictures and sound – and a robust system for tracking timing throughout the systems. What we are endeavoring to do is come up with a synchronization system that works by distributing an accurate time value that can also be used for the time label,” said Symes.

Recommendations Encourages User-Defined Approaches
The motion picture and television businesses today rely heavily on equipment and technologies developed by the IT industry. The recommendations of the Task Force seek to further leverage these benefits and to avoid the complex and expensive video-style infrastructures required by current synchronization techniques.
Specifically, the report recommends innovative, user-defined approaches – such as evolving a single synchronization standard that can address all formats and leverages today’s widely-installed Ethernet devices and infrastructures to minimize the need for dedicated interfaces and networks. New proposals could prevent expensive, wholesale equipment replacements; avoid multi-format workflow inefficiencies; and, overcome audio/video mismatches in fast-paced production environments.

SMPTE Fall Conference Addresses Critical Opportunities
The Task Force Report underscores SMPTE’s ongoing leadership efforts to provide technology education and information that advance and expand critical industry revenue-generating opportunities such as high-definition (HD) production, digital cinema, and stereoscopic 3D cinema and 3D television.
SMPTE will provide a forum for detailed study and discussion about such topics at its Annual Tech Conference and Expo Oct. 27 – 29, 2009 at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, California. To register for the event, visit www.smpte2009.org/.
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About the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
The EmmyÆ Award-winning Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is the leading technical society for the motion imaging industry. As an internationally recognized and accredited standards-setting body, SMPTE develops standards, recommended practices and guidelines, and spearheads educational activities to advance engineering and moving imagery. Since its founding in 1916, the Society has established close to 600 standards, including the physical dimensions of 35mm film and the SMPTE-time code. More recently, it crafted the Digital Cinema Standards, which paved the way for digital movie theaters. Underscoring SMPTE’s leadership in technology and standards development, the society received a prestigious technical EmmyÆ Award in January of 2009 for its work in the development of the MXF and GXF file formats. Headquartered in New York, SMPTE is comprised of engineers and other technical specialists, IT, and new media professionals, filmmakers, manufacturers, educators, and consultants in more than 65 countries. They are joined at SMPTE by more than 200 sponsoring corporations, principal players in content creation, production, and delivery for all platforms and in entertainment hardware and software. www.smpte.org

About the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is the largest association of national broadcasters in the world (75 active Members in 56 countries, 43 associate Members in 25 countries further afield). The EBU helps public service broadcasters to deliver unique high quality programming to their audiences. It offers Members technical, operational and legal services, and coordinates a growing supply of quality content for radio, television and new platforms. It provides Members with information and analysis on media trends, and training designed to meet their needs. The EBU works to secure recognition of the crucial role of public service broadcasters in the digital audiovisual landscape. For more information: www.ebu.ch or tech.ebu.ch.