The Quality Control Workshop the EBU organised last week can be seen as a small 'state of the union' on where QC tools are, what they can(not) do and what broadcasters are looking for. After two days of presentations and discussions, a main conclusion is that here still is a lot of work to be done if we want to have extensive automated Quality Control for file-based media production.
The issue is *not* that there are no QC products on the market. There actually are quite some available already, both for audio QC and for video QC. However, these can be regarded as equipment that is focussed more on having a large feature set than being optimised for integration and collaboration with other tools. This is not a criticism of the manufacturers of those products, it simply reflects the stage we are in in terms of development of file-based media systems. Another point to consider is that the knowledge level at the user's side currently is relatively low. We know an awful lot about traditional, tape-based AV production, including everything that can go wrong with tapes, VTRs, SDI signals, etc., but we know only very little about what can go wrong in files and which elements we should care about in particular.
A first step to improve the interoperability of QC tools could be to define common terminology for problems encountered in QC. Some tools for example seem to represent a large set of problems as 'blockiness', which may not be very helpful if you want to do a detailed analysis. Another point to agree on could be how to integrate QC results from different vendors, some sort of standardised reporting language/structure, e.g in XML. One of the products providers proposed may actually be a good idea to integrate various QC tools in parallel - each of them looking for similar problems. From the correlation in the results from these parallel systems, one could then derive how serious an error may really be. The benefit of this approach is that it can compensate for the sometimes imperfect performance of individual QC analysers. It also implies there may be a market for tools providing the integration and representation of the combined data. A sort of 'meta-QC' system thus.
"Fine leaving me"
Another topic to consider is certification. Broadcasters may want to move to a situation where programmes contributed to them are accompanied by a certificate - guaranteeing a 'pass' through QC system X, version Y. This may help reduce the amount of QC checking to be performed by broadcasters in-house. Saving time and money. Not only for broadcasters, but also for producers, as they may be informed of non-compliance earlier in the production chain. These are just some of the QC aspects raised and discussed in Geneva. EBU Members are encouraged to check out the presentations and recordings and to join the EBU QC Group , which is open to non-Members also by the way.