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Audio only small part of new UK TV delivery standards

Kevin Hilton 23 March 2012

The first of a series of common technical standards for delivering high and standard definition television programmes in the UK has been published and includes basic guidelines for audio, writes Kevin Hilton. The document covers tape-based operations and has been drawn up by the Digital Production Partnership (DPP), a collaborative industry body financed and headed by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Further guidelines will appear during this year for file-based HD delivery and metadata, along with a Producers’ Guide, which will detail "best practice acquisition and post-production techniques". This will form the basis of a contractual relationship between broadcasters and producers relating to all new programme commissions, laying down technical specifications and picture and sound quality requirements for programmes being transmitted on the BBC, C4, Channel 5, ITV, S4C and BSkyB. The aim of the guidelines is to allow the UK TV sector to "maximise the potential of digital production" and is the first time UK broadcasters have agreed on common, achievable technical standards. Kevin Burrows (pictured), chief technical officer for broadcast and distribution at C4, is chair of the DPP technical standards working group. He comments that having a single set of standards for HD delivery in UK TV will "rationalise delivery processes" and save on costs for independent producers. "It’s a very welcome development," he says. The audio aspects of the first guidelines are based on the basic track lay-out of tape configurations. Burrows says that from this starting point they will become more detailed for file and data operations. Stereo is the basis but the aim is to encourage people to use 5.1 where possible and if budgets allow. "Most programming from the US is now in surround sound but it is up to each broadcaster what they want," Burrows comments. "It’s unlikely that we’ll see 5.1 for everything for a while but there is a place for it at peak times on main channels like the BBC, C4 and ITV." Loudness has also been addressed but with the EBU R128 recommendations only recently published Burrows says it is "a bit early" to include specifications on this in the DPP guidelines. He confirmed, however, that R128 would form the basis of any DPP standards. 

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