File-based programme delivery standard for UK

The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) – a partnership between ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC – has unveiled its new Technical and Metadata Standards for File-based programme delivery in the UK. Through the DPP, seven major broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky, Channel 5, S4C and UKTV), have all agreed the UK’s first common file format, structure and wrapper to enable TV programme delivery by digital file.

These new guidelines will complement the common standards already published by the DPP for tape delivery of HD and SD TV programmes. Working closely with the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AWMA) in the US, the DPP has been the driving force behind the creation of the organisation’s ‘AS-11,’ a new international file format for HD Files.

The new DPP guidelines will require files delivered to UK broadcasters to be compliant with a specified subset of this new, internationally recognised standard. By implementing one set of pan-industry technical standards for the UK, the DPP aims to minimise confusion and expense for programme-makers, and avoid a situation where a number of different file types and specifications proliferate.

The new DPP standards aim to remove any ambiguity during the production and delivery process. A key aspect is the inclusion of editorial and technical metadata, which will ensure a consistent set of information for the processing, review, and scheduling of programmes, as well as their onward archiving, sale and distribution.

As part of the file-based guidelines, the DPP’s member broadcasters have agreed a minimum set of common metadata to be delivered with a file-based programme. And, in a bid to encourage international adoption of its metadata standards, the DPP has worked closely with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), mapping its minimum set of common metadata to existing ‘EBU-Core’ and ‘TV-Anytime’ metadata sets.

Alongside these new standards, the DPP is currently building a free-to-use, downloadable, metadata application to enable production companies to enter the required editorial and technical metadata easily. The new application is scheduled to launch in spring 2012.

Kevin Burrows CTO Broadcast and Distribution, Channel 4 and DPP Technical Standards Chair, said that having one set of standards for file-based delivery across the industry was of huge benefit in ensuring ease of exchange and compatibility. “It will also reduce costs for independent producers, as well as minimising confusion amongst programme makers,” he suggested.

“Metadata is now fundamental to audience choice about what programmes to view, record and eventually purchase and therefore a vital tool for broadcasters, distributors and producers,” noted Noreen Adams, BBC Head of Metadata and chair of the DPP Metadata Standards Working Group.

The agreement of these new file-based technical standards does not signal an immediate move to file-based delivery. Instead, the DPP seeks to provide clarity around digital delivery that will become the expected standard in the future.

During 2012 BBC, ITV and Channel 4 will begin to take delivery of programmes on file on a selective basis. Production companies wishing to deliver by file should discuss this at the point of commission, and seek formal agreement with their broadcaster at the outset of production. After a period of selective piloting, file based delivery will be the preferred delivery format for these broadcasters by 2014.

According to the DPP, the announcement of the new standards represents a long lead notice to the industry that will enable production and post-production companies and equipment manufacturers to ready themselves for this transition.

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