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quality control special report


require a special focus in the media facility. This market dynamic leads to the idea of ‘adaptable QC’ where the more valuable content is subjected to more strenuous QC procedures. The same market driver also leads


to the concept of fault/degradation prevention in that it can cost more to fix a media file fault than to get it right in the first place. If this is the case and it costs more to fix, then averaged over the business, a more expensive transcoder that produces better quality output may well be cheaper to own than a less expensive transcoder that provokes more quality issues. Total cost of ownership is a


complicated equation: Cost (transcoder + throughput + QC + fix- up) averaged over the content must be less than Cost (transcoder + throughput) + Cost (errors downstream at unsuspected places). When considered at an enterprise


scale, the question of whether to invest in higher quality transcoders or in the resources required to identify and correct faults in media files becomes more difficult. It is true to say that in many cases the more expensive option may well offer better value for money when considered over the equipment’s total operational lifetime.


Focus on workflow processes, not problems


Quality control is not a point solution - it's a methodology and set of processes that ensure the quality of a media factory's processes. A typical file-based workflow may have many touch points between media arriving in a facility and media leaving. Each touch point - be that a file mover, transcoder, editor or playout server - uses up some of the ‘quality margin’. For example, if we look at the phenomenon of ‘lip- synch uncertainty’, no single step in a workflow will insert 100ms of lip-synch error, but 10 touch points of 10ms could create such a large error without being able to track any one single source of lipsynch problems in a workflow. At AmberFin, we have developed


the Unified Quality Control (UQC) system, which tracks quality over the lifecycle of material so that XML reports can be generated that allow tracking of quality margins across multiple processes with multiple tools and multiple media files. One file showing a small lip synch shift may not be significant. 990 files from a batch of 1000 showing an identical small lip-


synch shift shows that the process is faulty and should be fixed. The unique ability of UQC to deliver analysis of processes as well as individual files allows media companies to extract knowledge from their QC data so that processes can be refined, efficiencies improved leading to improvements in the overall business. A desire for many in the media


sector today is a ‘lights out’ facility where workflow processes can operate with minimal human intervention. When QC is talked about in this environment, the goal of fully automated QC with ‘no people’ is often discussed. The reality is that we are still working in an entertainment industry and only a human operator is truly capable of judging that content is fit for purpose. Massive efficiency gains can be made with the correct combination of software and hardware analysis to assist the operator delivering an ‘assisted QC’ solution that dramatically reduces the cost of QC whilst simultaneously improving its reliability. Not every file needs to be 100%


QC'd - in a big farm, it may be appropriate to do a lightweight syntax QC for every file created and to keep a single QC analysis node to sample generated files in a similar way that car manufacturing performs a lightweight check of every car and a detailed investigation of a small random sample to validate manufacturing processes. In media manufacturing, lightweight QC checks each file for gross errors whereas the full QC analysis ensures that the transcode, ingest and edit processes are still working according as required. Quality control is a business process


that costs money. In today’s multi- format file-based workflows QC is an essential pre-requisite of efficient business operations. The $64 million question is what is the right amount of money to invest and where should it be invested? Working out the risks and


consequences of QC failure helps judge the amount of QC analysis required in a system. At the end of the day the challenge focuses on a QC system’s total cost of ownership - Cost (transcoder + throughput + QC + fix- up) averaged over the content must be less than Cost (transcoder + throughput) + Cost (errors getting downstream). Make the right QC choice and the


future looks bright - implement flawed strategic thinking and your entire media facility is built on very fragile foundations.


Unified QC in file-based media workflows


First introduced at IBC last year,


AmberFin’s Unified QC (UQC) represents a unique approach to media quality control, combining multiple tools that include baseband analysis during tape ingest, file-based analysis after ingest, and overall operator-controlled QC, including custom-isable metadata


annotation, mark- up and


segmentation. Within months of its introduction, the system has been installed in many facilities worldwide, including UK-based television network, ITV, and multi- national media factory, TVT.


When first launched, UQC integrated Digimetric's Aurora analysis system to provide file-based QC after ingest and checks for common file wrapper anomalies to prevent expensive mistakes. Aurora tools also


automatically check for a variety of compliance


violations, including container metadata and delivery metrics, thereby reducing the burden on operators. At NAB 2012, AmberFin


introduced a new version of UQC which works


towards increasing the number of third- party QC systems including vendors such as VidCheck (VidChecker), Tektronix (Cerify) and Metaglue (MXFixer).


The provision of wider choices enables users to integrate UQC seamlessly within their existing workflows more easily. Also, the option of


integrating multiple third-party systems within UQC


empowers the user to quickly compare and contrast


measurements from the different


systems, increasing QC accuracy and efficiency whilst simultaneously reducing the amount of time required for operators to


improve the overall levels of confidence in the quality of their media files.


www.ibeweb.com l september/october 2012 l ibe l 79


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