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Advanced File-Based Quality Control Empowers TV Content Suppliers in a Transformed Marketplace

Editors Note: This post presents a short summary of an article that appeared in ScreenPlays Magazine. Click here for the full text.

Major advances in file-based quality control (QC) technology have arrived in time to provide suppliers of TV programming and motion picture content much-needed assurance that they can keep pace with demand in the fast-moving multiscreen services market.

The challenges to managing QC are mounting rapidly as more OTT outlets join the traditional VOD and TV syndication supply chains, each adding a unique set of quality benchmarks for incoming video files. Further complicating matters, suppliers must satisfy QC requirements across a growing matrix of metadata categories, multilingual subtitling and closed captioning feeds, TV display resolutions, color gamuts, contrast ranges and advertising support mechanisms.  

While many content suppliers’ post-production workflows already support an earlier generation of automated file-based QC solutions, the requirements have evolved to where a new level of flexibility and efficiency in file-based QC is needed.

Tektronix, the market leader in file-based QC, has fully addressed these requirements for all broadcast, cable VOD and OTT syndication environments with introduction of the next-generation Aurora 6.0 QC platform. As the backward-compatible successor to Cerify, the industry’s first file-based QC platform, Aurora QC delivers unmatched mission-critical performance in scalability, speed, ABR validation and QC analytics with support for 4K QC and integration into cloud-based workflows. 

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Aurora greatly expands the range, speed and scalability of QC applications with comprehensive report analytics.

Further augmenting QC operations, Tektronix has streamlined the manual review process with the introduction of a new multi-protocol playback tool, the Hydra player. When used as an integrated component with Aurora, Hydra accelerates the QC process at up to eight times normal speeds with unprecedented frame-accurate visualization of video, audio, metadata and other elements played back in multiple distribution modes, including ABR. Hydra, which can be used with other QC platforms as well, also supports real-time playback of the Interoperable Master Format (IMF) composition playlists (CPLs) that are widely used to facilitate 4K QC.

For existing Cerify customers, Aurora QC enables a planned migration to vastly improved file-based QC capabilities without an upgrade charge and without disrupting existing workflows. For new customers, the new Tektronix QC platform offers a lower cost point of entry into file-based QC at unprecedented levels of performance, ensuring they will be able to meet evolving QC requirements for years to come. For existing and new customers alike, Hydra represents a breakthrough not only in player performance, but in cost effectiveness as well.

The emergence of 4K UHD brings into play another dimension in content suppliers’ efforts to feed the distribution ecosystem. 4K UHD has become a growing presence in the services offered by distributors, especially those in the pure-play OTT camp, amid expectations that 4K TV set penetration will continue to soar, reaching 10 percent of households in the U.S. by 2020, according to Strategy Analytics.10 The researcher says that, worldwide, 4K set shipments increased by 633 percent in 2014 to reach 12.1 million units and predicts increases to 27.5 million units shipped in 2015 and to over 100 million in 2018. 

Ensuring 4K UHD content meets distributors’ requirements requires QC processes that can determine that files meet customer specifications, whether they were originally shot in 4K UHD or converted from other formats such as 35 mm film, the cinematic version of 4K or 1080p HD. It’s also important to note that content suppliers will need to be able to use advanced 4K-capable QC such as the provided by Aurora and Hydra to gauge the effectiveness of the 4K up-conversion processes available to them, such as upscaling, various types of scanning, film grain filtering, artifact removal and color re-grading.

Aurora can execute 4K QC testing in real time or faster across all codecs and containers, including JPEG 2000, HEVC and DPX as well as the various AVC permutations of H.264. For example, utilizing GPU acceleration, Aurora with the Advanced Codec Pack can perform 4K essence tests on JPEG 2000 files at speeds of 24 frames per second in real time.

Tektronix recognizes cost containment is a major issue for content suppliers as they adjust their QC capabilities to keep pace with today’s fast-moving distribution market. Customers will find the capabilities and application breadth of the Tektronix suite of file-based QC solutions set new benchmarks in cost effectiveness as well as performance.