OTT’s rising popularity has compelled broadcasters, content providers, and post houses to rethink the way they produce and deliver content. Kanishka Tongya, director of sales, APAC, Interra Systems examines the importance of deploying a quality control solution with built-in test plans, smart folders, burnt-in subtitles, and closed-caption checks
According to industry experts, the over the top (OTT) market in India is poised for rapid growth over the next few years. Let’s take a quick look at the OTT Video Market Update India 2016, by Frost & Sullivan. It showed that there are about 66 million unique connected video viewers in India, and 1.3 million OTT paid video subscribers. Moreover, the OTT market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30 percent between now and 2021.
The popularity of OTT video consumption and demand for higher resolution, like UHD, is having a tremendous impact on the broadcast and pay-TV industry. In particular, broadcasters, content providers, and post houses today have changed the way they produce and deliver content. Today, content must be prepared to support a wide range of devices and different formats.
The complexity of video streaming makes quality control (QC) more important than ever. In India, the media industry is in the process of migrating from analog to file-based QC workflows. QC files are often checked manually for issues like lip sync and censorship. This is true even in cases where broadcasters have already established file-based workflows.
It is common to see auto QC tools used during the first level of checking, with post auto-QC files passed through a manual quality control process. Managing two different versions of QC reports can be challenging.
Deploying a hybrid QC solution solves this problem, enabling broadcasters to merge manual and automatic QC reports. When choosing a hybrid QC solution, there are several often overlooked, yet important, functionalities that broadcasters need beyond comprehensive checks throughout each stage of the workflow.
Streamlining Content Delivery
Checking content before the delivery stage is the most critical part of a workflow. Early detection of errors saves time and effort while ensuring superior quality. Most content suppliers are handling a huge number of assets that are meant for broadcasting, streaming, and for delivering to different VOD operators like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and iTunes.
A test plan is a list of checks that content suppliers can use to validate a media file in their workflow. Each service provider has specific requirements about what types of files can be delivered to it. Yet, developing a test plan is time-consuming. It takes about a week for each set of test plans for a specific streaming provider to be created, and there are hundreds of different checks (for e.g., resolution, aspect ratio, audio channels) that can be included. The media environment today is fast-paced and ever changing. When updates to a streaming provider’s requirements are made, a new test plan needs to be created.
Using a QC solution that offers pre-configured test plans dramatically speeds up the workflow, taking care of encoding parameters and other necessities. Test plans come pre-made to meet the specifications of service providers like Netflix. When the specifications from organisations change, they are instantly updated and distributed to all of the content providers who are using the test plans.
Increasing Efficiency With Smart Folders
It is a common practice today for QC solutions to use watch folders. Typically, a QC solution scans any folder designated as a watch folder for incoming new files. After a new file is detected, a QC test plan is scheduled.
Unfortunately, if a broadcaster receives files from hundreds of its content providers via file transfers to a folder, watch folders are not equipped to handle the load in a speedy fashion. Each file must be scanned and sorted out based on the parameters before actions can be taken. Relying on a progressive QC solution with smart folders, this process can be made more efficient. Smart folders offer rule-based, content-aware, automated QC for file verification, enabling content suppliers to immediately recognise content based on structure and various content characteristics, such as resolution, frame rate, and aspect ratio, so that they can apply the QC process faster to new incoming files.
Embedded Subtitles, Closed Captioning
Over the years, audio has become just as important an element of the television experience as video. Subtitles are a
feature that content providers offer so that viewers can watch programming in an unknown language. They also support viewers who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have accent recognition problems. Closed captioning is another feature that assists the hearing-impaired and viewers learning a non-native language.
The primary difference between subtitles and closed captions is that the latter includes descriptions for every sound, including falling objects and background noises, whereas subtitles only comprise of spoken dialog. Both are important characteristics to delivering a superior QoS.
In the broadcast environment, burnt-in subtitles are embedded within the video frame and may appear within the region of a video that contains black bars. Oftentimes, they are detected as ‘video dropouts,’ causing false alarms to be reported by the QC solution. To ensure there are no issues with subtitles, it is best to a select a QC solution that automatically checks for burnt-in subtitles during video analysis.
Broadcasters need a QC solution that assesses the presence of closed captions, whether they are valid, and if there are
any dropouts throughout the entire workflow. Having a QC solution that is capable of ignoring music is another important requirement to ensure that false positives are not reported when background music is present in the file and closed captions are absent.
Many countries around the world regulate the presence of closed captions. Thus, choosing a QC solution that keeps track of closed captioning compliance is a must.
India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world with 16 million people from India living outside their country as of 2015, according to recent research. Taking this into consideration, it’s essential to own a QC solution that supports a wide range of languages in order to reach the most viewers possible.
Using a hybrid QC solution that allows broadcasters, content providers, and post houses to check for video and audio quality errors automatically and manually is the best way to ensure superior QoS. Through advanced capabilities like pre-built test plans, smart folders, detection of embedded subtitles, and closed captioning compliance, modern QC systems enable broadcasters to deliver flawless video on every device, increasing operational efficiencies and cost savings.