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Why Media Quality Control is so Important and the Steps that will save you time and Money

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With global delivery formats requested in different regions, you need to make sure that your media files are checked to meet the requirements for each specific distribution channel. Any defects can cause delays or even prevent your project from being released. Having one Quality Control platform in place ensures your project meets all the requirements for your project to succeed. Once you understand how it works, you won’t be able to live without it. 

Media Quality Control
A video editor working on their media quality control

What is Quality Control in Media?

As a film and/or video maker, it’s important to understand why Quality Control is an essential part of the post-production process. Quality control helps to ensure that any project you want to distribute meets the necessary requirements needed to ensure your project can be distributed globally. If your project fails its Quality Control, it may end up costing you both time and money. This can make or break your distribution deal and the release of your project. 

The key component for a file-based workflow is quality control. Quality control software can find both visible and hidden defects within your files. With the growing volume of content being created every day, ensuring your project meets the pre-requirements before the actual delivery requires thorough testing. 

QScan is an all in one Automated Quality Control Solution for every content creator out there. Quality control should be part of everyone’s workflow after the editorial, colour grading, VFX and the final mix has been all completed and combined into the final version. In essence, this master version should be the latest version that includes all of your final video and audio files. When your version has passed Quality Control, it will be the main source for all future formats of your projects. Once this version is delivered to its distributor, it is out of your control, so it is important to make sure it is working the way it should be.

What are the Typical file-based Errors in Video/Film?

There are several types of errors that exist. Many of them are visible or audible for the viewer, but what is not are the file-based errors. These errors are only detected by a software tool that can decode your data. Some of these errors are easy to detect since their definition is simply pass or fail, such as container type or frame rate. The more difficult ones are more related to the attributes of the file, such as formats and metadata values. Since different distribution networks have their own specifications, make sure your project meets their needs for distribution. 

Some errors are easy to determine immediately like video codec and its profile and level. If a network’s specification mandates H.264 video with High Profile Level 4.1 and the received file is a different format, it can be rejected immediately. Other errors may require more detailed measuring. For example, if your distribution channel requires a specific ad spot in your film, the number of frames must be counted to match the requirements. 

Another more known error is “syntax error”. This error can be found in how your files are encoded. Syntax errors in video or audio are often visible or audible defects that are attempted to fix unsuccessfully. By decoding your footage you can find any structural errors that prevent your footage from being played properly. In some cases where your video is encoded correctly, it can still have poor picture quality. If the bit rate is too low, compression artifacts can still be visible to the viewers. These include macroblock artifacts (edges) and quantization artifacts (banding).

Banding errors can be detected only by decoding each frame and applying specific algorithms to both the image and the audio. Video and audio dropouts appear as black frames as well as any low-level audio data. Gamut errors or loudness errors can be detected by measuring the post-decode pixels and audio samples.

What Needs to be Tested to meet Industry Standards?

There are multiple levels of Quality Control when checking your video, audio and digital files. Each of the different types of QC needs to receive a separate “pass” in order for you to distribute your content. At the end of the QC check, you will receive a report outlining the structure of your master project and if it contains any issues or potential mistakes made during the post-production.

You need to make sure your audio is “fully filled”. Any dialogue is easily prone to any underlying surrounding sounds such as movements from the actors and objects they are interacting with. Often these are not separated and when the dialogue is turned off, you will lose all the other sounds as well. Some of the common audio defects include:

  • Artifacting
  • Production issues
  • Compression issues
  • Static
  • Sync with video
  • Dropouts
  • Broadcast compliance.

For instance, for foreign localization and dubbing, QC checks to make sure textless elements are present with the texted feature, and also that the M&E (Music and Effects tracks) are fully-filled and suitable for dubbing your film into a foreign language.

In addition to the audio, your video needs to be clean. Some of the common defects include: conversion or compression artifacting, production issues (equipment in shot), transfer issues, editorial issues, title or action safe issues, misspelt on-screen text, mixed aspect ratios, broadcast compliance, animation or render issues or data corruptions.

The Consequences of not having a QC Process in Place

Unfortunately, many filmmakers feel the constraints of budgets and schedules, so quality control is not always considered first when it comes to project management. Film and video makers are often so wrapped up in working on their projects that they miss something that a fresh set of eyes can easily catch. This is particularly common, when the director or other creatives may not be involved directly in the post-production stages where any last-minute mistakes can be left unseen. 

This can end up being a big problem down the line when your distribution network requests your master version. These companies expect to receive a clean QC report since the distribution networks are doing considerable amounts of preparations such as artwork, advertising, marketing and other promotion before the distribution. If any delays occur, these companies are forced to cancel the whole release. This will end up costing you more time and money than expected.

If you are a first-time filmmaker, you may not be familiar with industry standards. Having one profound QC in place will educate you about any possible defects that your project may contain. It offers filmmakers the assurance that their vision of their project gets released and distributed successfully as planned. Since QC is a material condition for nearly every distribution agreement out there, make sure you can guarantee a clean QC master version of your footage in all levels of production.

QScan has you and your media covered, checking all your files and ensuring complete compliance wherever your content is heading to. Whether you're a one-person facility or enterprise-class broadcaster, QScan will automate your media quality and compliance in moments and save you ridiculous amounts of time, stress and money. Being aware of this process from the beginning of your project, this professional automated media QC platform ensures your video files meet the international delivery standards. Check out QScan today: QScan from LWKS

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