Report - Practicalities of DPP

The 15th  November2012  meeting of the new UK Section covered a topic much to the heart of Television production and of Post production across all display screen sizes –   workflows for Tapeless delivery.

Almost 50 people filled the Board room at Channel 4 Television   to participate in a meeting
on “The Practical issues of DPP” and were greeted by Chris Johns, Chairman of UK section - Chief Engineer Broadcast Strategy BSky B who had produced this meeting .

 Members meeting before the Formal events

SMPTE member Kevin Burrows CTO Broadcast and Distribution, Channel 4 and Chair of the Technical Group at DPP welcomed us to the building. He described how the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) was formed and funded by BBC ITV and CH 4, as an initiative to help producers and broadcasters maximise the potential of digital production.  

This was set up in 2009 to unify the TV programme delivery specifications for the 6 main UK broadcasters, (BBC ITV Channel 4 Channel Five BSkyB)  first for HD tape,  but its main aim was for File based delivery - which is now being used by productions and broadcasters- with all delivery being file based by 2014.  But DPP realised that it also needed to enable creative, cost effective production work flows, coordinate the large and dynamic Independent production sector   as well as providing some guidance on technical factors like codecs. Kevin  outlined the Structure of DPP and outlined the chosen AMWA profile - AS11 with AVCintra100. To encourage complete and compliant metadata DPP has provided a Metadata tool to enable the production to input data from before shooting starts to just before delivery. They had to do this to bridge the gap until an equipment and system manufacturers install this function in their products.

He looked to where further work was being done and thus industry input and assistance was required – Loudness (EBU R128) Programme Quality Control  and use of the DPP AS11 Shim for Acquired programmes.

The Panelists -  David Klafkowski, Neil Hatton , Graham Deaves, Andy Tennant - enjoying the Discussion

David Klafkowski- Technical Director The Farm – a Post house with facilities in London   mentioned three topics from his journey to tapeless. 
 He had held workshops on Workflow and workflow management  with the Operational (technical) and Production (Bookings Team)  - and beside providing a welcome link together of groups who needed to work closely together – it revealed that some Production staff knew lots … of “words” but needed a deeper understanding  of Workflow technologies.

He  introduced to them the golden rules of storage – there is never enough – or assume it is always full. And that It is important to understand how much storage a production actually requires and that this isn’t simply how much rushes data there is.
As a facility owner he commented on how difficult it was to get production managers to realize that storage and ingest costs money- which for business to continue they needed to recover.

The Farm is currently planning a new facility build– and if there was not the DPP creating the Standards for file delivery for most of his customer he would need to invest in a greater number of legacy VT decks. David saw that the world would change rapidly as it had done in the film industry where delivery seemed to flip over night from Film cans to DCP packs

Neil Hatton – CEO Azimuth post and a member of the Board of UK screen,   the trade association representing the UK's post production and special effects industries, explained how UK Screen and the DPP had been collaborating on numerous strands of work. From the business point of view the education that DPP has by means of the booklet / report “The Bloodless Revolution” has got the Programme makers talking and thinking about workflow on location- and thus many facilities were now including workflow plans as a contractual documents between them and the Production team to ensure that tapeless  rushes are delivered in a way that facilities can handle efficiently.   The new tapeless world required other systems to be changed - UK Screen, DPP and the Production Managers’ Association were reviewing the b templates commonly used in production  for budgeting and quoting to remove legacy cost centres and replace them with the new cost centres such as data wrangling, ingest and storage.

Neil looked forward to some future work for DPP. Loudness R128 is already readily understood and implementable by the largest facilities  that already have experience of it from co-production work.– There are many cost effecting plug-in options for metering and normalisation  but the UK  smaller facilities may needs to upgrade their systems to the latest version of audio edit software. He favours the DDP’s inclusive approach of interaction with suppliers rather than the legislation in other Europe countries.

Short form – commercials etc. are not included in the DPP specifications – this will require the DPP to liaise with the Advertising Standards Authority as their  BCAP specification  despite being only two years old was not really fit for purpose on the subject of  loudness and cause lots of confusion.

Whist on Audio he pointed out that with surround sound, the move away from Dolby E to discrete audio there was a still need to carry within the file (and also in HDSDI) the Dolby metadata which is needed at the emission coders.

Neil pointed out that the industry was about halfway there on the the transition to end-to-end tapeless production. Acquisition was almost there, although he would like better location practises - such as labelling Drives!   He warned against the practise of using Fire wire drives  as an archive format (but anything else costs money which is not in anyone’s budget line)

But the back end - Mastering Delivery and QC still need to change. Neil pointed out that you performed an informal QC whilst mastering to tape by viewing E-to-E through the VTR but this  was not something that can be done with files. You cannot QC a progress bar!  It is necessary to review the programme before an after encoding and producers will need to allow time to do this.- Any late edit for whatever reason – technical, editorial or  legal - requires the programme to be totally re encoded and wrapped and QC-ed – which takes a lot of time currently and the programme risks not making it onto the air.

Neil summed up by saying that DPP brings clarity and consistency at a time of change as well as a common interface for the facilities industry via UK Screen to interact with Broadcasters - long may it continue after 2014.

 

Graham Deaves has been building and operating tapeless production in studios since 2001 when he took Lime Pictures  Continuing drama   “Hollyoaks” to a total tapeless work flow – all be it delivering it (in SD) on tape.  By 2007 it had grown to encompass 3 studios 8 Edit suit suites at 6 Sound areas with 8TB of storage (in SD) - but grew to 16TB plus 27 Tb Newline plus LTO backup.  Graham then reequipped so Hollyoaks in June 2008 become the first UK continuing Drama to be delivered in HD. This system has 200TB Primary and 400TB secondary storage (about six months – useful for having flash backs) using the DPP compliant AVC intra 100 workflow.   The facility has to accommodate  other Lime Pictures productions like “Geordie Shore” a Reality show screened on MTV which  can easily deliver  up to 2TB a day

 But these IT based systems do not last like traditional Broadcast equipment and by 2013 the Discs will become unsupported so a new system will be required then.

Andy Tennant - Controller Technology, Production and Facilities ITV-  spoke on  how ITV, as a producer of programmes, as a “Broadcaster” to multiple  platforms, and commercially, sees tapeless

As a producer ITV has made the HD journey fast – for instance they had weeks rather than months to migrate “Coronation Street”  the UK’s long running and most popular continuing drama from SD to HD.   As other programmes migrated to HD multiple codecs proliferated making it difficult to manage media and workflows.  DPP helps put the order back into programme  making, and so when “Emmerdale” (ITV’s second most popular  continuing drama) moved  its production facilities, it went to an organised tapeless workflow, using P2 cards for location work and, like Lime Pictures, Geevs (Editshare) servers for studio, through a planned and monitored workflow using AVC-I throughout and delivering to AS11 standards.  

But the challenge is in areas that you do not expect: the whole checking of programmes for Photo Sensitive Epilepsy as well as the final review and QC needs more time even if nothing goes wrong. At the moment automated QC can throw up errors which then need the whole encode/AQC/view process to be rerun – and different PSE/QC tools throw up different errors...

As a broadcaster, ITV is still largely tape based for delivery. Whilst Emmerdale is file based, its file-delivery workflow is mostly manual.  ITV’s next challenge, in line with other broadcasters, is to make the process less manual and enable majority file-based delivery with onward rapid deployment to all platforms – linear TV, catch-up TV, the web, and all of these with the right metadata …

From a commercial point of view the technology and methodology  looks good for the next few years or so thus any investment decision looks safe until about 2018 when planning will need to start for the next generation of file based working. Andy hoped that within this time scale acquired programming and International sales will be brought under the tapeless umbrella.

From these good insights there followed a very lively discussion covering
what happens if the file format you have archived on becomes inaccessible (which could happen faster than the demise of an ancient tape format), the inappropriate use of LTO as a transfer format (like a tape is), the role of Cloud Services in ensuring that your storage was not always full and always geographically separated.  Higher frame rates and high bit rate workflows,  the importance of having sufficiently complete metadata,( and its use in second screen) volunteers for work on Short form programme specification and  why do are rushes kept – when it was film no one wanted them?

Nick Seth-Smith (Semtech Corporation), David  Austerberry  (Broadcast Engineering) and Peter Wilson (hddc ltd) chat

before the meeting withNick Wright (Pixel Power) and Andrew Foster (Totem Films) converse in the background.

It was with some reluctance that Chris Johns brought the formal part of the meeting to a close – pointing out how the methods, work, publications and standards of DPP should be recognised worldwide. He thanked the members for their discussions, the four speakers for sharing their experiences so candidly and Kevin Burrows & Channel 4 for the venue and the refreshments – over which members and others continued   informal discussion over a wide range of topics.

If you wish to  know more about the Digital Production Partnership and its work - contact them

 

Photographs by Tim Harris - Report by Peter Weitzel