Future Media Standards & Guidelines

Version 1.5 of Addendum to Audio-Video Standards v1.55

1. Purpose

1.1 This addendum is an update to the existing Audio-Video Standard version 1.55.

1.2 It provides the latest information on using Flash and the Embedded Media Player (EMP) for streaming video content on BBC websites.

1.3 Please refer to the current Audio-Video Standard version 1.55 for any information about audio and video standards not covered in this addendum, such as how to stream live content, and audio.

1.4 This addendum should also be used as a reference when site testing.

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2. When To Use Flash

2.1 You MUST use Flash to stream non-live content if you are developing new video content for a BBC website, unless:

  • Your project began prior to the publication of this addendum, in which case you MAY apply for an exemption to use Real Media or Windows Media Player; or
  • You are updating content on an existing site that uses Real Media or Windows Media Player that has not been updated to Flash and/or cannot be easily updated to Flash.

2.2 You MAY also use Flash for progressive downloads of fully rights-cleared content.

2.3 Currently, live content SHOULD NOT use Flash (trials and testing are underway to determine its suitability for this purpose).

2.4 See section 4 below for information on how to distribute Flash content.

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3. When to Use iPlayer and When to Use the EMP

3.1 You MUST use the iPlayer to display all content that has been approved for use by the iPlayer Steering Group. This Group determines what content should be displayed using the iPlayer.

3.1.1 In general, this is all long-form and scheduled audio and video content that has been broadcast in the previous seven days.

3.1.3 If in doubt, contact the Head of Online Media Group.

3.2 You MUST use the EMP to display all other types of video content; namely, off-schedule and short-form video content on BBC websites, including existing websites that are being refreshed.

3.2.1 There are three general exceptions to this rule:

  • If your project began prior to the publication of this addendum in April 2008 you MAY use a bespoke player skinned to look like the EMP. However, note that bespoke players will not be supported long term.
  • If the content forms part of a wider interactive Flash application/product you MAY use your own player instead of the EMP. However, you MUST apply for an exemption to do so, and you MUST ensure your player uses EMP-like functionality and visual language.
  • If you need to provide the EMP in a language other than those currently supported you MAY use your own player instead of the EMP. Note that the EMP currently supports English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Spanish.

3.2.2 For Vision sites, if applying G for Guidance labelling on your short-form video content you MUST ensure that you only use agreed guidance labels, and that labels are only applied with prior agreement with the Repeats and Reversioning Unit. This is to ensure that we maintain consistency in our guidance labelling on all platforms.

3.2.3 For Audio and Music Interactive sites, contact the following groups for advice:

3.2.4 For further information about the EMP, including instructions on how to apply G for Guidance labelling, see the BBC's EMP website [Internal BBC website an internal BBC website – please gain access through your Technical Account Manager].

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4. Using the EMP on Third-Party Sites

4.1 If you wish to syndicate content onto third-party sites using the EMP, you MUST ensure that you have gained editorial approval and sign off to do so from the relevant person or department in your division:

4.2 For instructions on how to syndicate content refer to the EMP website [Internal BBC website an internal BBC website – please gain access through your Technical Account Manager].

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5. Distributing Streamed Flash A/V Content

5.1 You MUST restrict all Flash A/V content to the UK only, unless:

  • It is grant-in-aid funded content and approved for international distribution.

5.1.1. If you would like your content distributed internationally, BBC Worldwide MAY agree to pay for distribution costs in cases where your content is able to deliver commercial revenue. BBC Worldwide will need to work with you to determine the optimal commercial and editorial experience to recoup distribution costs. Contact the Business Development Manager at BBC.com to assist you in developing your proposition. For further technical information refer to the document Flash Streaming – How It Is Distributed [Internal BBC document an internal BBC document – please gain access through your Technical Account Manager].

5.1.2. If BBC Worldwide have agreed to pay for distribution costs, you MUST also ensure that appropriate rights have been cleared for the content. Contact the Talents and Rights Negotiation Group [Internal BBC website an internal BBC website – please gain access through your Technical Account Manager] for guidance.

5.1.3 If you cannot get funding for your content to be distributed internationally you MUST either:

  • Remove the content for internationally-facing IPs and all references to it in the surrounding text, and move the editorial content up in its place; or
  • Replace it with a static promotion or other international relevant content.

5.1.4 Note that the restriction on distributing A/V Flash content does not apply to current audio streams that the A&M Board agrees can be distributed outside the UK. At the moment these streams are in Real or Windows Media but are likely to become Flash in the near future. This is to be reviewed in early 2009.

5.2 You MUST email projected usage details of the proposed streamed Flash A/V content on your site to Fiona Batson in the Future Media and Technology Infrastructure team prior to its launch. This is to ensure there is enough capacity in the infrastructure to host the content.

5.2.1 For instructions refer to the document Flash Streaming – How It Is Distributed [Internal BBC document an internal BBC document – please gain access through your Technical Account Manager].

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6. Encoding Standards

6.1 You MUST encode your Flash video using On2's VP6 codec (Flash version 8.0+).

6.2 Note that the intention is to move to encoding using H.264 as soon as the serving infrastructure is available and the penetration of the relevant player has reached a significant level.

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7. Bitrates

7.1 When encoding your Flash video always consider the type of content you are encoding and the target audience, and adjust the video:audio encoding ratios accordingly.

7.2 You SHOULD always encode your Flash video at a bitrate of 512kbps (see 7.2.2 below).

7.2.1 However, if the target audience is likely to encounter bandwidth-related difficulties (for example, highly contended corporate networks) and/or the content does not necessitate the highest quality audio/video (for example, News clips) you MAY encode at 368kbps.

7.2.2 When encoding at a bitrate of 512 kbps, 384 kbps SHOULD be allocated to video and 128 kbps SHOULD be allocated to audio (stereo).

7.2.3 When encoding at a bitrate of 368 kbps, you SHOULD allocate a maximum of 320 kbps to video, and a minimum of 48 kbps to audio (mono).

7.3 Where possible you SHOULD keep a high-resolution file of any transcoded content to enable any future changes in standard/s to be retrospectively applied. This format would normally be a 'mezzanine' or 'intermediary' format, between broadcast and Future Media output quality.

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8. Video Window Sizes

8.1 You MUST encode your video at 512 × 288 pixels, but MAY resize the player to any of the sizes defined on the EMP website [Internal BBC website an internal BBC website – please gain access through your Technical Account Manager].

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9. Document History and Contacts

30/09/2008 v1.5 Added details on adding parental guidance labelling to EMP content. Modified section 5 around display of international streamed Flash video content. Revised section 4 on syndicating EMP content. Victoria Jolliffe
22/08/2008 v1.4 Modified section 3.1 about use of non-EMP players. Victoria Jolliffe
01/06/2008 v1.3 Modified section 5 around distributing Flash video content internationally. Victoria Jolliffe
28/05/2008 v1.2 Modified section 8 on window sizes so that it refers to the EMP website, instead of listing them in this document. Victoria Jolliffe
07/05/2008 v1.1 Added section 4.0 on guidelines for syndicating content using the EMP. Victoria Jolliffe
11/04/2008 v1.0 Released document. Victoria Jolliffe
09/04/2008 v0.6 Minor revisions following review by Richard Titus. Victoria Jolliffe
27/03/08 v0.5 Final small revisions to bitrate definitions and window sizes following review by Henry Webster. Henry Webster / Victoria Jolliffe
26/03/08 v0.4 Revisions made to sections on bitrates and video window sizes following review by AV Standards Working Group and DM Cluster group. Victoria Jolliffe
20/03/08 v0.3 Revisions made to encoding standards following comments from Henry Webster. Victoria Jolliffe
20/03/08 v0.2 Revisions made following reviews by Henry Webster, James Hewines and Andy Smith. Victoria Jolliffe
14/03/08 v0.1 New document. Victoria Jolliffe

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