The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) is an organization facing the Herculean challenge of helping the UK broadcast industry to exploit maximum benefit from file-based digital production. The DPP’s Technical Standards group objective is to achieve the standardization of technical requirements for the delivery of TV programmes to UK broadcasters and to maintain and update these standards in line with current capabilities:
The agreement of the DPP’s file-based Technical Standards (released Jan 2012) was not intended to signal an immediate move to file-based delivery. Instead, the DPP has provided clarity around which file format, structure and wrapper will become the expected standard for file-based delivery as it is phased in. In 2012 BBC, ITV and Channel 4 began to take delivery of programmes on file on a selective basis. The aim is for file based delivery to be the preferred delivery format for these broadcasters from 1st Oct 2014.
DPP D-Day is looming
So, slightly less than 12 months ahead of DPP D-Day how is it looking? Subscribers to Bruce’s Shorts may recall what we call the interoperability dilemma. The premise being that if you take all the combination of wrappers, video codecs, audio codecs, track layouts, time code options and other ancillary data and complete a “minimal” in/out test matrix you end up with test plan that will take at least 1800 years to complete. Even if you constrain this to “commonly used” combinations, by the time you factor in different versions of formats and specifications (we’re now on the 3rd revision of the base MXF specification for example), 1800 years is a little on the optimistic side.
By tightly constraining the wrapper, video codecs, audio codecs and metadata schema, the DPP Technical Standards Group has created a format that has a much smaller test matrix and therefore a better chance of success. Everything in the DPP File Delivery Specification references a well defined, open standard and therefore, in theory, conformance to those standards and specification should equate to complete interoperability between vendors, systems and facilities.
However, theory and practice frequently bear little resemblance. At AmberFin, we can see two key reasons why the theory and reality don’t quite match up.
Interoperability issues create need for DPP dress rehearsal before deployment
First, despite the best efforts of the people who actually write the standards and specifications, there are areas that are, and will always be, open to some interpretation by those implementing the standards, and it is unlikely that any two implementations will be exactly the same. This may lead to interoperability issues and the only way to find out is “on boarding” – actually testing real-life workflows. This highlights the importance of planning DPP deployments well in advance of the looming deadlines and allowing for “dress rehearsals” as early as possible.
Can you extend the DPP specification?
The second reason is less around files and more around workflow. The simple truth is that the more you constrain a specification, the fewer applications and workflows it can be used in. A year before DPP D-day, we have already been asked about where AmberFin can help “extend” the specification to meet the needs of those facilities already planning and/or implementing DPP file delivery.
The flexibility of AmberFin’s iCR platform in creating additional metadata fields and the ability to display and manage QC data while keeping a core media file that conforms to the DPP specification has been a big bonus. But while this flexibility simplifies the implementation of DPP-based workflows, deviation from the specification only increases the need for testing and highlights the importance of planning DPP deployments sooner rather than later.
If you needed any more reasons to getting going on DPP well ahead of the deadline – next summer is rumoured to be a good one, and if you would prefer to spend August enjoying the British summer sun knowing that come 1st October, everything will just work then you need to plan ahead!
So, to answer the question posed in the title of this blog – an enormous amount of work is being done by a great many people within various organizations. These operations will be the big winners when D-Day arrives. Other organizations might have fallen into the trap of believing that the DPP specification is an ‘off the shelf solution’ – it is not. If you want to be a part of the DPP revolution you need to start preparing now.