Ensuring Error Free Content through Exhaustive Quality Checks (QC)
In the Media & Entertainment (M&E) industry, QC refers to a complete evaluation of content, where all technical as well as creative specs are checked, rejectable issues are noted, itemized and provided in the form of a QC report to the client. Timing is everything when it comes to QC of audio-visual content, as errors (whether technical, structural or creative) which are missed early on in the content lifecycle tend to perpetuate along the workflow. Imagine the financial repercussions of recalling thousands of Blu-ray discs of a film from across the globe because of a single frame error which came to notice a tad too late. The cost implications (not to mention the embarrassment!) would be far greater than the cost of conducting a Master QC. Thus, QC can potentially save content owners hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In today’s ‘Digital Next’ era, challenges are many in the area of QC. Content owners need to deliver to an ever-increasing number of platforms and devices, satisfying QC requirements across a growing matrix of metadata categories, multilingual subtitling and CC feeds, TV display resolutions, color gamuts, contrast ranges and advertising support mechanisms. Their content also needs to meet various broadcast regulatory standards such as PSE and Loudness, as well as AS02 and AS11 compliance. Moreover, each new media platform like iTunes, Voot, HOOQ and Netflix has its own set of quality benchmarks that need to be adhered to. Given these complexities of the ‘TV Everywhere’ universe, it is extremely important for content owners to understand the different categories of QC, and choose the right partner who can best meet their QC requirements.
Understanding QC Categories
Typically, QC needs to be undertaken not just for adherence to technical specs, but also to regulatory guidelines (like a broadcaster’s Standards & Practices) as well as the identification of creative glitches (like a boom mic showing in a frame). This may involve both manual as well as automated file-based QC analysis. Listed below are some of the different QC categories:
- Master QC – A thorough technical evaluation of fiction/non-ﬁction television shows, feature ﬁlms, documentaries etc.
- 3rd Party Master QC – A review of QC done by a primary vendor
- Update QC/Watch Down Veriﬁcation – QC of content which has already been QC'd (e.g. for broadcast) for repurposing on a different platform (e.g. an OTT outlet)
- DCP (Digital Cinema Package) /IMF (Interoperable Master Format) QC – Master QC in theaters or on HDR (High Dynamic Range) monitors
- Audio QC
- Captioning QC
Identifying the Ideal QC Partner
In order to ensure 100% error free content, it is vital to work with an experienced QC partner who can generate comprehensive, accurate and meaningful QC results within a short turnaround time. The partner should follow a two-tier QC process, with all QCR (QC Reports) being checked not only by a Quality Analyst (QA), but also by a senior QA who has in-depth knowledge of global broadcast specs. In case of any rejections, the QC team should be able to do a deep dive analysis and prepare a feedback report that captures the nature of error, a detailed response as well as corrective measures and re-delivery details (if needed).
It is equally important to choose a QC partner who uses state-of-the-art equipment (like Blue/328 AES mixers, Sony/Samsung HDR Monitors and Genelec speakers), cutting edge software for Auto QC (like Baton and Cerify) and superior storage systems (like Isilon). Film studios should additionally look out for a partner whose setup includes a special DCP/IMF QC Theatre and QC rooms designed adhering to Dolby guidelines. Support for all tape and file-based formats (including 4K/UHD, HD, SD, NTSC/PAL and HDCAM SR amongst others) along with support for related media processing services such as encoding, transcoding, etc. are added advantages.
Cloud-based technology can also add tremendous value to QC operations. There are now specialized cloud-based solutions available which facilitate instant access to QC reports, real-time status updates and the generation of customized QCRs. Some service providers even offer in-built pre-set QC rules for various new media platforms like YouTube, iTunes and Netflix, which can help M&E enterprises reduce costs and ensure smooth content delivery across multiple platforms.
PFT is the preferred QC partner for major broadcasters and content owners across the globe, such as Warner Bros., Showtime, Criterion, Viacom, MTV, Comedy Central, AMC, IFC Films and Zeitgest.
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