Wednesday 27 February 2013, 15:29
Hi my name's Rowan and I work in a small team who look after the technology strategy for the TV making parts of the BBC. That includes everything from cameras and edit platforms to programme delivery and archive.
We work with production teams and other BBC users to understand what they need and design and deliver technology solutions to meet those needs.
We also help users across the BBC to understand new technology and how it might help them or enable them to work in ways which might be quicker, easier, cheaper or enable greater creative flexibility.
European Broadcasting Union Quality Control workshop
Right now a lot of what's keeping me busy is related to file-based delivery and in particular Quality Control (QC). I've been speaking on the latter topic today at the Broadcast Video Expo in London and I wanted to share the story here too.
Believe it or not finished TV programmes at the BBC, as at most broadcasters, still generally get laid onto digital video tape in order to be shipped around the country, sent to our playout centre and archived on a shelf.
In an environment where we shoot on file-based cameras, edit in file-based suites and play out from servers you could say that's a little crazy.
However, transitioning to an end-to-end file-based process without disrupting the production and broadcast process and without affecting the quality of our output is a big piece of work. Yet it also provides a huge opportunity to improve the way we do certain things and one of those things is quality control.
In a tape-based world we review every programme tape in a high-quality viewing environment with lots of technical kit like oscilloscopes and audio meters. We call this process Technical Review, though it checks for a huge range of errors from making sure that the video and audio signals comply with international standards, to making sure the pictures are in focus and the credits are spelled correctly.
This ensures that the progamme will pass through the playout systems, transmitters and your TV without being degraded or causing equipment to fail and makes sure the finished product looks good once it gets there.
In a file-based world we'd like to remove a lot of those real-time, expensive and old-fashioned bits of equipment and replace them with an automated, software-based analysis system.
That would leave the human 'eyeball' check to focus on those more subjective issues like colour balance, graphics and general picture quality, taking the real technical headaches away.
I've been working on this project for almost two years now, starting with an assessment of the QC tools that are now available on the market and then looking into how we can use them in our workflows.
For example, wouldn't it be better if an editor could get the results of the QC test while still in the edit suite rather than waiting two days to ship a tape, book a Technical Review and get a response? Then any issues could be fixed straight away.
We've also been working with the wider industry on this transition as the BBC certainly isn't unique in using this technology!
Myself and Andy Quested are involved with the European Broadcasting Union's (EBU) strategic programme on Quality Control where we're trying to ensure that all the vendors and all the broadcasters in the group agree on common standards and terminology for the sorts of tests we do.
Within the UK the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) is looking at which of these tests are needed for new programme delivery with the aim of having a relatively standard process across all the UK broadcasters.
That would make it easier for independent production companies and facilities houses who provide programmes and services to many different broadcasters.
All in all we have one simple aim: to ensure that the TV we broadcast to you is of a high technical quality whilst spending as little of your license fee on that process as possible so that as much money as possible goes into making programmes in the first place.
We're on a long journey of changing and improving the QC process with much still to do but there are exciting times ahead.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave a response below.
Rowan de Pomerai is a technologist in BBC Technology, Distribution & Archive.
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Saturday 23 February 2013, 06:00
Friday 1 March 2013, 10:15