The Quality Control Technician

Quality Control, or Assessment as it can also be referred to, is a vital stage in the post production of television and film content, ensuring that all material reaches the highest creative and technical standards. Here at FATS Digital we take pride in offering this service as we believe it to be essential in producing a top quality product. It is very satisfying when clients feel the same way.

Broadcasters’, distributers’ and other visual media platforms such as iTunes generally require a quality control / assessment to be carried out, with a subsequent report to be submitted along with or before delivery of content. Material is sent worldwide and there are many specifications to be met, one objective of the service is to supply clients and third parties a certain peace of mind that the product is as fault free as possible and therefore reducing the need to repair or replace material in the future, negating additional shipping costs and also meeting the scheduled broadcast and contract deadlines.

qcThe QC Technician at work

The responsibility of this role carries a certain degree of expectation from clients, the quality control technician is generally highly trained, experienced and somewhat of a specialist. When you consider that video frames run up to 30 within a second, and an operator is expected to spot errors that occur over only 1 of those frames, you can appreciate that it takes a particular kind of person with a high level of attention to detail in performing the task, and quality control / assessment should not be performed by someone with an untrained eye or without the necessary experience. There is no substitute for having content checked by the human eye and ear, but it is a human process after all and a degree of pressure is sometimes felt in ensuring every effort is taken in minimizing any oversight of potential issues.

The role of the quality control technician is to advise clients of what third party specifications have not been met and also to express any concerns that may hinder the overall quality of the production. This can sometimes be a subjective process as issues such as colour grading and motion artefacts can often be an intentional effect.

There are different levels of quality control available. The most intensive is the full or 100% QC. A complete review of the tape master or digital file is carried out covering all aspects and generally takes 2 to 2.5 times the run time of the production. It covers a range of video, audio and technical criteria such as but not limited to things like; checking the labels and ID boards are correct, playback channel conditions are good, legal luminance and chroma levels are within range on waveform monitors and match the reference bars at the head, aspect ratio along with vertical and horizontal blanking are correct throughout, titles and action are within safe areas, subtitles and textless elements are complete, any drop outs, glitches, black holes, flash frame editing errors and archive material is within an acceptable condition. Audio loudness is checked that it’s within range along with other issues such as: phase is apparent and in, drop outs, clicks, distortion, crackle and sync is within viewing satisfaction.

qc monitorsAudio Monitoring Equipment

A detailed list by timecode location of any and all problems, which are rated on a scale for severity, is then produced. The QC report concludes with an overall evaluation and may include how to fix certain problems that might give cause for rejection.

In today’s rapidly changing media world, file based content is becoming more common and with the capability to now send files over the internet via FTP etc. files are a lot quicker and easier to deliver. In the event any problems are detected in the QC process, it’s then possible to quickly send fixes to the facility house carrying out the assessment, where the master can then get patched accordingly before delivery takes place. There is also software available to aid the checking process and make sure things like container and metadata information is correct and within specifications.

Other types of QC exist like DRS, which is a more tedious process and often used for film restoration. It is a complete or as near as possible list of film dirt and blemish within archival material. The time taken generally varies depending on the quality or can have a set time depending on allocated budget.

There are also more economical QC procedures such as the Dub or Clone QC which is a general watch through of a copy master which has already had a full QC to make sure that no problems have occurred in the dubbing process. A Spot Check QC generally checks the master for 2-3 minutes at the beginning, middle and end, and a DVD/Blu-Ray QC, which apart from checking the video and audio content, also checks for encoding issues that might occur during playback and that menu / function buttons are all working correctly.

Our QC team, here at FATS Digital, work tirelessly to achieve the highest standards in quality control, as we fully understand the importance of a flawless production.

FATS Digital (FATS) (established 1987) is wholly Australian owned and has operations in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. FATS is a leading multimedia organisation representing Sony video products, and offers broadcast duplication, video QC, digitization of all forms of multimedia assets, archiving and digital ancillary services to the broadcast, production, Corporate and Government industries.

If you would like further information on any of our quality control services please contact us at www.fats.com.au