IASA-TC 06 video guideline: video production infrastructure, new game

This is the fifth of a series of five blogs on IASA-TC 06 by the guideline's coordinating editor Carl Fleischhauer.

The title of the final section of IASA's new Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings, IASA-TC 06, is "Planning, Setup, and Workflows for Video Digitisation."  This 60-odd-page section provides information about digitisation facilities and operations, drafted by Andy Martin of DAMsmart in Canberra, a video, film and audio digitisation service provider, with some assistance from this writer.  

The section is written at a medium-high level, intended to be helpful to two audiences.  First, although decidedly not a facility-builder's how-to document, it is intended to be helpful to someone planning to set up and operate a digitising facility.  Second, it is intended to be helpful to those who outsource digitisation.  The concepts and practices described apply to work performed by a contractor, and the authors believe that some level of description of operations and quality control should be part of the contract's terms and conditions.  

The section has four major parts:

1.    Introduction

•    Illustrative answer to the question what is digitisation, as well as a conceptual discussion of quality assurance and quality control

2.    Planning, preparing collection materials for digitisation, and related logistics

•    Project planning and the selection of materials for digitization, assessing condition and preparing source materials, and notes on shipping logistics

3.    Setting up and testing a digitising facility and system

•    Description of video digitising infrastructure (more on this below); setup and testing of playback VTRs and intimate supporting elements; about vectorscopes and waveform monitors; a multifaceted discussion of VTR alignment and calibration tapes; notes on cleaning VTRs; monitoring video and audio; direct patch as compared to passive and active routing; notes on single-stream, multi-stream, and robotic transfer options; discussion of how this guideline uses the term digitisation system; about interim digital-file storage; and more.

4.    Operating a digitising facility and system

•    About typical errors and problems encountered when digitising; about important special features provided by some VTRs (Sony's 9-pin RS422 protocol, SMDP, and ISR protocols), radio frequency used to track signal output, VBI information that may support correct playback, and a discussion of the capture and retention of video payload elements beyond picture and sound (this challenging topic is discussed in blog four in this series), discussion of a technical dilemma associated with producing an "access" oriented version of the recording for digital dissemination today, and a discussion of quality control tools, sketching the main categories and identifying a few typical tools.

So what's the problem?  The entire section—and especially the segments devoted to the video infrastructure—is written in terms of traditional, conventional video cabling (often coaxial) and interfaces (often SDI), as if they were a permanent part of video facilities.  In fact, broadcasters and others in the entertainment field today are leading a revolution in the "networking" of video production, production-oriented archiving, and dissemination playout via terrestrial broadcasting and Internet "over-the-top" delivery.  This revolution is a continuation of the move from tape-based to file-based video recording, resulting in the development of video facilities where the cabling and interfaces are like those use for information technology, "packet-based media networks" in the jargon of the trade.  

These developments are marching in step with new standards from the Society for Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), which happen to be known to this writer as a SMPTE member.  No doubt parallel standards are in the stream from European Broadcasting Union (EBU).  One set of recent SMPTE examples are in the ST 2022 series, including Forward Error Correction for Real-Time Video/Audio Transport Over IP Networks (ST 2022-1:2007), Unidirectional Transport of Constant Bit Rate MPEG-2 Transport Streams on IP Networks (ST 2022-2:2007), and Transport of High Bit Rate Media Signals over IP Networks (HBRMT, ST 2022-6:2012).  Other related specifications include (1) Technical Recommendation TR-01 Transport of JPEG 2000 Broadcast Profile Video in MPEG-2 TS over IP, published by the Video Services Forum (VSF), (2) the IEEE 1722 Audio Video Transport Protocol, which specifies different methods for encapsulating SDI video, and (3) the Networked Media Open Specifications (NMOS) project from the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) to standardize an open "Internet-friendly" framework for IP-based professional products and services (https://www.nmos.tv/).

Meanwhile, the Joint Task Force on Networked Media, a cooperative effort between SMPTE, the VSF, and the EBU, is mapping out a strategy for using packet-based networks in the professional media industry to encapsulate uncompressed SDI and HD-SDI signals for transported over IP networks within a studio, in place of baseband signals over coaxial cables. Broadcaster and entertainment industry efforts in this area also begin to shape the formatting of data, as in the case of the UK Digital Production Partnership (DPP) and Hollywood's IMF effort.

The IASA-TC 06 problem is this: as these new IP-oriented specifications come into widespread use, the video infrastructure needed to digitise content will change in significant ways, and the IASA Technical Committee will have to roll up its sleeves and rewrite the final section of the first edition of the Guidelines for the Preservation of Video Recordings.

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