Automated, File-based QC: Challenges, Solutions, and a Real-World Success Story
By Penny Westlake, Director Sales and Channel Management EU at Interra Systems
Working in a file-based workflow environment, broadcasters and post-production houses come into contact with a large amount of digital assets. Obviously, efficiency is a top priority, but so is quality. Today’s television and cinema viewers expect an extremely high quality of video and audio during their entertainment experience, especially with Ultra HD and 4K on the horizon. To assure top-notch quality of assets, broadcasters need an automated, file-based QC solution that is flexible, scalable, and reliable, offering advanced capabilities such as analytics, broad format support, and ease of use.
This article will explore a few of the common challenges that broadcast and post-production operators encounter during the QC process, providing insight into the key features one should look for in an automated, file-based QC system. A real-world case study of Roundtable Films will shed light on how post-production houses are using Interra Systems’ BATON™ to simplify the creation of high-res content, including 4K and DPX, for film, documentary, and TV series projects.
Common QC Challenges
The auto QC process is fast, efficient, consistent, and reliable. When coupled with a manual review process on random and/or erroneous digitized content, broadcasters and post-production houses can achieve higher levels of productivity with optimized results. Of course, that is not to say that they do not still face challenges.
There are mostly four types of checks that are done as part of a quality checking process on digitized files: checking the compliance of the generated content, timecodes, and metadata; the baseband quality in audio and video; and encoding/transcoding errors, if content is compressed.
Compliance and metadata checking is a rather straightforward process. The real complexity comes with ensuring that baseband quality of the digitized content is above the defined and agreed upon threshold level. Video issues can manifest themselves in different ways, and each one of them requires deep R&D to be detected reliably and accurately. Fortunately, there are tools to correct these errors.
BATON™ Automated, File-based QC
Interra Systems’ BATON automated, file-based QC solution meets all of the industry’s crucial requirements for checking the quality of content in SD, HD, UHD/4K, and mixed workflows, providing comprehensive checks, scalability, support for wide range of media formats, and an intuitive web-based interface that simplifies quality control operations.
Choosing a file-based QC system that offers a full range of checks is highly important. BATON provides the most complete checks covering standards compliance, regulatory checks, and baseband checks in the industry, including PSE/flashiness checks. Recently, support was added to the system for text detection (including language) and recognition of burnt-in subtitles, audio language detection, detection of new audio quality noises, as well as support for the latest loudness ITU-R BS.1770 specification. In addition, BATON supports new image formats like TIFF/Targa, enhanced closed captions, and updates to DPP/ARD_ZDF compliance support. As broadcasters and other content providers eventually migrate to 4K distribution, the system offers unmatched 4K content verification speed.
Another critical requirement for today’s broadcast and post-production operators is assuring that their file-based content meets various delivery criteria. BATON ensures ease of deployment with pre-configured test plans for DPP, Netflix, CableLabs, and a full list of delivery standards.
Efficiency is also vital. Through the system’s rich, content-aware, rule-based smart folders, BATON guarantees efficient content verification workflows. The latest version of BATON features a user interface with revamped functionality across smart folders, manual scheduling, test plans, reports, and more, streamlining the user experience and increasing flexibility.
One of the unique benefits that BATON offers compared with other systems on the market is its scalable architecture, which lets users expand their farm as their QC needs grow. BATON’s high availability and responsive technical support team ensures that the system continues running in the enterprise environment even if one of the hardware components is down.
Seamless integration with media servers, transcoders, MAM archiving, and workflow solutions speeds up the deployment of BATON in broadcast and post-production facilities. For broadcasters wanting additional advanced features, like workflow QC, data analytics, and a centralized management console, BATON+ can be added to the pre-existing ecosystem.
Since the majority of broadcasters and post-production houses are utilizing a mix of automated and manual QC processes, they need a solution that allows easy manual intervention, if needed. BATON provides a user-friendly and stand-alone media player interface with support for complete manual review flow.
QUALES is a software that will help broadcasters, production companies and any company dealing with audiovisual contents; have the ability to evaluate the quality and integrity of the contents.
QUALES runs on any Windows system (or Virtual Machine environments) and it is installed just running a simple windows installer.
When customers purchase QUALES (as standalone product) they are provided with:
– Latest version available: via download link
– License dongle: physical USB license key
– User Manuals, quick start guide, and other support documents via download link.
QUALES is a web based application, thus being accessible through any computer on the same network (or even from remote locations) and by many different users at the same time.
Quality Check operations are quite CPU intensive tasks, since video and audio need to be decoded, and then analyzed (pixel by pixel in case of video). That is why, QUALES is a modular system, where the QC tasks can be shared among multiple machines (or servers) in the same environment, thus doing a workload share and load balancing in different servers. This makes QUALES the ideal system to adapt to growing and changing workflows. Each and every of the different servers where QC tasks run, are what we call NODES.
Many of the current and potential customers of the product usually have huge amount of contents to analyze. That is why the product is also scalable in number of files that can be analyzed simultaneously. QUALES will allow adaptation to the customers’ needs and by acquiring more POINTS, the users will be able to analyze a growing number of files simultaneously. One additional FILE to analyze in parallel, will mean one additional POINT to be acquired by the customers.
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