Delivery specs - no bars
I've recently picked up a new job and moved to a new Denver. (Go Broncos) I've got a delivery sheet for the affiliate station of one of the big four networks, and it's..concerning. The delivery sheet says - in this order - to provide:
Exact duration - no black, no bars, no slate
H.264 in Quicktime (HD and SD)
30fps (I'm assuming 29.97 drop here)
4x3 title safe for a center-punch
That's followed up by directions to upload it to their server - or you provide them with a way to download from your server.
There are no resolution requirements, no aspect ration requirements, the frame rate requirement is vague, no audio guidelines, no video guidelines beyond "30fps" and 4x3 title safe, basically no QC guidance. How are you guys working in this new world? Do you provide bars at the end in hopes of an engineer seeing the file at some point? Do you follow the sheet and hope for the best?
I'd love to just print off to tape but that means Beta SP. In about a year we'll have a lot of new gear, including HD decks and monitoring, but right now HD delivery is tapeless in our world.
The spec sheet should include contact information so I would recommend calling them with specific questions - specific dimensions and frame rate do seem important! It's entirely possible they're new to digital delivery as well and still working out what is ideal for them.
I'm a little surprised at the h264 since all my FTP deliveries for broadcast have been prores, but they've all had unique slate, black, and bars requirements so that seems normal. Good luck!
For the LIFE of me I can't get the network that I deal with to accept a tape less delivery of any kind.
We were forced to purchase an HDcam deck to deliver the show for the TIME being. (Clues to the networks name are capitalized.)
Well, I can understand them not wanting bars, slate, or countdown. Slate and countdown are really for manually cuing the playback of a tape... and playing files off a server is instant-on, every time. Supplying slate and countdown in those circumstances means somebody not as careful as you is going to have to take the time to load your stuff into god knows what kind of system to chop that stuff off and re-save in who knows what resolution or codec.
As far as bars, I have been on this rant about the uselessness of bars in digital TV for some time now - my point being that digital cams generate bars from a stored file that has zero to do with whatever comes thru the lens, and only a tenuous connection to the edited program levels. If you use bars to calibrate color, IMO, the only way that makes sense anymore is if you are actually shooting thru the lens at a macbeth or chroma du monde chart under the actual lighting conditions. THEN, what you recorded can again be matched to a known standard.
Funny though that the spec sheet wasn't more detailed on codec parameters, field priority, etc. This can mean they have a box that doesn't care and can correct for such variation... or it could men they are still too new to this themselves and just don't know enough yet.
I deliver spots to only one station as H264 files. All others are getting MPeg2 files. Call the station(s) and ask specifically what they require. Sometimes it takes a few calls to get to the right person with the answers. I've found that the first or second call usually doesn't answer your question. Eventually you will get the person involved with the actual encoding for air and he (she) will have the answers. The Denver stations are all very tight technically. Good people. Just ask until you get your answer. Do a little research on your own about tapeless delivery so you know the right questions to ask in the first place. Also, invest in some good FTP software for your computer. It will save you a lot if time and headaches.
Why not just tune in to the station and see what format they're broadcasting. There's only 2, 720p60 or 1080i30. They gave you the details on everything else.
Bars are still absolutely essential in digital. More so I would think. With analogue the need to calibrate was assumed. With digital the assumption is that things are always correct. At my last job we placed a few ads in programming. I caught gamma shifts on a couple of digitally delivered ads. I only found them because there were bars and I was checking them against scopes. This is the exact reason I'm concerned - with the previous job I was there QCing everything, and my delivery specs ensured I was able to properly QC them, and conform them if possible when someone missed the specs.
My concern with the delivery sheet isn't as much the lack of detail as it is the implications. I can make some good guesses, and as suggested, frame rate can easily be figured out by simply tuning in or visiting a wiki about the network.
My concern is if they're requesting no bars/tone seems to imply no QC. I guess at the end of the day if the client wants to pay to be on their network they play by the network's rules. The advice to reach out to the network and see what exactly they want is certainly something I'll follow through with. I guess I was interested in seeing how others are working inside the tapeless world.
While I don't want to bite the "are color bars needed" stick, I can say that audio tone requirements will be going away. Or at least the necessity for their presence will.
With the implementation of the new ATSC practices for maintaining audio levels, almost all ingest systems now analyse the audio's LKFS level and either assign correct dialnorm metadata to it or conform the level to the system's preset metadata entry. All automatic. You are still expected to deliver material with appropriate dynamic range, as that is not corrected, but there will almost universally be one less human interaction with audio before it airs. One more reason to check those mixes before submitting.
I always try and include a separate color bar file with my first upload to a particular broadcast pipeline and ask that someone checks it to validate the workflow. Whether they do or not is another story. Pointing out the vagueness of the specs to them is always a plus as it'll help future users and the specs may well have been written by a technically-less-than-literate employee and never been checked by techs.
[Jean-Christophe Boulay] "While I don't want to bite the "are color bars needed" stick, I can say that audio tone requirements will be going away. Or at least the necessity for their presence will. "
One can only hope that this might work.... my main insecurity with accepting layback files is that without a tone reference or some kind of hard descriptor, it is sometimes very difficult to know what it is that just landed on the timeline --> -12, -20, full scale? Is it being turned around for a streaming upload or going to tape? All different.
I see color bars, use and implementation, as being less understand by the day.
As technical standards and requirements deteriorate in terms of deliverables, QC, and description, because "its digital" becomes a no-brainer mantra, the notion that all you have to ask for is "a Quicktime" is being imbedded in the managerial side. Just give us whatever, somebody will be able to make it work, even though they just laid off most those "somebody"s.
Not long ago, someone remodelled the "make me a quicktime" into "make me a sandwich". I loved that one -- so if someone is nonspecific, I just make them one of my favourites. Black Forest ham with Emmenthal on buttered caraway winnipeg rye, dijon mustard and leaf lettuce, not sprouts, a little bit of mayo. And, you know, if it works for me, it must be good for everybody... [winkie}
"I always pass on free advice -- its never of any use to me" Oscar Wilde.