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Applied Technology: EditShare QScan is an Integrated Approach to Content Compliance

Content that does not match broadcast or VOD delivery specifications can have a detrimental impact on any media facility. Non-compliant content is likely to be rejected by the service provider requiring the producer of that content to make the necessary adjustments. However, with proper quality control technology and workflow such costly errors can be prevented.

Rejected content can lead to expensive additional work for the production facility and will ultimately affect the bottom line. With tight margins and increasingly compressed deadlines, it is of the utmost importance that facilities have a workflow that ensures their content packages are going to pass muster at hand off.

Implementing an automatic quality control (AQC) workflow is the most efficient and best way to ensure delivered content meets the quality bar. Do it once and do it right should be the motto.

AQC is Not Complicated or Expensive

Within the media and entertainment industry, there is a common misconception that the implementation of an automated check solution is complicated and expensive. However, when examining the ease with which such a solution can perform checks on content, the return of investment can be measured in days rather than months. The ROI is typically rapid because AQC systems are incredibly efficient at completing difficult mathematical algorithms, meaning they are able to perform checks at a rate much faster than humans and can identify media nuances that may not even be visible to operators.

Historically, the most challenging aspect of such systems was creating user-defined templates to perform checks on content (beyond published delivery specifications), then retesting the content if the threshold for any check parameters change or to find that ‘sweet spot’ for what may be acceptable for certain parameters (like macro block errors). This is time consuming, tedious and frustrating.

The process often relied on one specific technician who was tasked with learning and monitoring the entire quality-control process. In addition to creating a bottleneck, such a practice prohibits a truly integrated approach to monitoring video and audio quality. Rather, checks should be able to occur at any point within the post-production workflow.

QScan AQC

EditShare’s QScan AQC solution relies on a patent pending single-pass analysis. With this technology, facilities are able to build a template once and then adjust the parameters as they go without needing to retest each individual file. QScan allows adjustments to be made (e.g. video levels or blockiness) without the need for any retesting, which can save considerable time, effort and money.

The software setup process is easy, a set and forget solution. With built-in templates or profiles set up to the delivery specifications required, it’s all about the results from the files tested. Here lies the key to the rapid adoption of an automated QC workflow. The interface was developed with the creatives in mind, with the goal being that through a minimal number of mouse clicks, users can achieve compliance.

Identifying wrappers

The most basic aspect anyone wants to know about file delivery is: is the file what it says it is? How can you be sure that your facility received and is working with a MXF Op1a file and not a QuickTime file? Instinct would dictate that the file extension holds the answer. After all, why would anyone change the file extension from .MOV to .MXF? Odd as it may seem, it happens.

The file type (also known as a container or wrapper) is the part of the file that includes technical and descriptive metadata that may include simple things like number of audio tracks and what language they are in, etc. What could possibly go wrong with that? The answer is quite a lot.

The good news is that AQC is very efficient and reliable at spotting inconsistencies between the essence (the video and audio inside the container or wrapper). For example, it can check that there are two physical audio tracks as described in the container.

More importantly though with more complex containers like MXF, AQC systems can check the integrity of the whole file very quickly. This is something that a human simply cannot do. Just playing the file with a media player is not good enough, because many players like VLC only look at the essence for playback and not the whole file. Broadcast and OTT systems however rely on information in the wrapper for transcode information as well as audio track mapping and EPG data.

QScan allows users to combine different test templates and with QScan Single Pass Analysis, the result is maximum efficiency for qualifying essence and container elements across a wide range of project types

QScan allows users to combine different test templates and with QScan Single Pass Analysis, the result is maximum efficiency for qualifying essence and container elements across a wide range of project types

Quality check solutions need to maximize efficiency across a wide range of product types. EditShare’s QScan templates allow users to create a library of (for example) audio specific test templates that are combined with a common set of video test templates or, for example, different audio test templates to cover the different number of audio tracks for different deliverables. This approach makes the solution more organically accessible across the organization.

Users are able to create a template, test the file and then adjust the threshold for any parameter and see the results of those changes immediately. No need to redo the entire template. This approach makes the adoption of AQC much easier and eliminates most false positives. In addition, QScan will also perform partial analysis, allowing users to skip, or set the test templates to skip, over the bars, clock or black at the start of a clip.

Implementing an effective, integrated AQC process in a production facility can be a critical tool that yields near instant ROI as well as reputation protection. With advancements in software, enterprise level organizations can rest assured that their content is compliant and ready for delivery right out of the gate. 

Howard Twine is Director of Software Strategy at EditShare.

Howard Twine is Director of Software Strategy at EditShare.

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