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A lot can go wrong in the world of file-based media. With the increasing number of delivery requirements, regulations and file types, and with so many more ways to get content to viewers, the linear supply chain is gone. That means the number and types of files to send has increased and the chance of making a mistake has gone up.

Telestream put together a new, free guide to file-based media QC. Click here to download it now.

To learn more, we ran a few questions past Dominic Jackson, Telestream’s product manager for QC products, to see what he had to say about establishing a QC process for media distribution covering broadcast, agencies and post.

What are the file rejection and compliance issues you find post houses dealing with today?
Programming and spots need to be QC’d before they are delivered to the client. Having a file rejected can cost money in rework and resubmission fees. Plus, airing bad content can damage a brand’s reputation. A brand can't afford to deliver content that has quality problems.

Netflix, for example, is so committed to quality control and compliance that they give content providers a "take home" test that requires figuring out what is wrong with a sample file!

Testing the file in advance gives you visibility into what’s out of compliance. QC software provides error messages and reports which detail what needs correction, giving you the opportunity to fix problems before delivery or going to air. Software, such as Telestream’s Vidchecker, can also automatically correct key compliance parameters in the file. Video levels and audio loudness are just some of the parameters you may want to check and correct.

As you probably know, audio loudness is one of the most common causes of complaints to broadcasters. So much so that loudness is being increasingly subjected to legislation in many areas of the world, including North America, the U.K., Europe and Australia.

Increased standardization, like the UK DPP specification or the ARD-ZDF specification in Germany, means even more compliance verification will be required. More requirements for different regions are also causing media companies to rethink how they are meeting QC testing requirements.

What kinds of QC tests can’t be performed by people and why?
There are two types of quality control for your media files — “manual” QC, where a person looks at the file, and “automated” QC, where a software system validates the file.

As the number and type of required tests increase, humans simply can't do what's needed in a manual fashion. QC testing needs to be done by automated processes.

Automated QC is ideal for technical issues and for parameters that can't readily be examined by a human. QC software will check a wide range of parameters including sampling rates, codecs, audio loudness, true-peak, audio phase, minimum levels, audio presence, types of audio on particular channels and so much more. Also, while humans tend to check just the beginning, middle and end of a piece of content, software thoroughly checks the whole file.

And then there is the issue of Photosensitive Epilepsy or PSE.

What is PSE and how does it relate to video compliance?
Some video can cause PSE in certain individuals. Seizures can be triggered by flashing lights or contrasting dark and light patterns. Flashing patterns and saturated red can trigger PSE seizures in approximately 1 out of every 4,000 people.

Regulations in the U.K. and Japan require all content to pass inspection to ensure it does not trigger seizures in someone with PSE, and this may soon become a requirement with at least one major U.S. broadcaster as well.

Manually checking for PSE compliance is practically impossible. Correcting the most common failures involves working in an edit suite to reduce luminance contrast, re-rendering, rechecking the video for PSE triggers, and then if it still fails, going back and re-editing the video again. This process can be repeated many times and is time consuming, costly and inexact, particularly as the video can be overcorrected and therefore look of a lower quality than it needs to be in order to meet the requirement. A QC tool with automated PSE correction eliminates this costly manual re-work.

How does a QC template work?
A QC Template details the set of tests that you want your automated QC tool to perform in a given workflow. This may be as simple as checking that you have the file type that you are expecting (a .mov file with ProRes video for example) or it could be a much more complex check that the file meets a specific specification covering file structure, video quality, loudness etc.

While templates can be created manually, a useful feature in an automated QC tool is the ability to automatically create a template from a known good “golden” file. In this case the good file is loaded into the QC tool and the tool generates a template that matches the parameters of that file, this process typically only requires a couple of mouse clicks to complete. After the auto template has been generated it can be manually modified to add or remove tests or alter test parameters.

Who is benefiting from using automated QC today?
Post production companies are typically tight on time and budget, but they are dealing with content coming in from everywhere — different sources, various shoot locations, graphics and archive. It is important that they know as soon as possible if a media file is incorrect or of poor quality. Post houses need to be sure that what they are sending out is what the client wants. If they deliver a file that’s incorrect, they have to fix it and send it again. Studios and service companies that need to check compliance of IMF JPEG 2000 files for Netflix or similar content providers also use auto QC.

Then there are broadcasters. They are dealing with more channels and more content coming from multiple locations and sources. They also have shorter time scales, which means they need to QC the content as soon as it arrives, as they may have a short time window to get non-compliant content fixed or resubmitted.

Archives also benefit from QC, both when putting content into archive and upon retrieval. Broadcasters, government facilities and corporations all have large arhives of media. Older archive content may be on tape or film, and it might have degraded. Materials going into archive should be QC’d in order to store content of the highest possible quality. When pulling content out of archive for use in a program or project, the material also needs to be QC'd before use. Automated QC is really the fastest and most reliable means of finding compliance errors, and the best QC systems provide optional error correction as well.

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