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Today's film and television productions need to be compatible with a variety of media and media standards as well as being archived at the highest possible level of quality for future use. Once a production is approved by the customer, it must be mastered and encoded for release, with hard copies for distribution if required.


Mastering
The creative post production process is completed - the pictures and graphics are edited, the soundtrack is edited and balanced, any sub-titles for the original language version have been added and the producer and customer are satisfied. But the project is not fully completed - it must first be mastered.

Mastering is the technical process by which all the video and audio components of the film are "locked-down". First the video and audio signals are inspected carefully to ensure that they comply with the relevant technical standards. At this stage, all project components are still individual clips on a timeline, which can be adjusted easily, but which, when played, are still not a single file or tape, but rather a "play list" from which the editing system plays the selected clips in the right order and at the right sound level, with the right effects. If the production shall be modified in the future - for example for language versioning, it is to a copy of this timeline that we will return - otherwise, it will remain "locked down" and unchanged.

From the timeline we create a single or group of master files, which no longer contain separate clips, but instead can be played and processed as complete production. This master file will be of high quality, usually far too high a bit-rate to be played on a typical computer, DVD player or uploaded to a website. It will however be a file of sufficiently high quality, that all future copies and transcodings to other distributable media file formats may be taken from it. This file will be archived on our server system, and often also be backed up to hard copy media such as DVD (data) or HDCAM videotape for release to broadcasters who require tape delivery.


Encoding / Transcoding
Starting always with the master file of the highest possible quality, we can produce the file formats which are required for the release and distribution of the production. Sometimes we will produce a suite of file formats, giving different levels of quality or compatibility with different player applications, depending on the project and the needs of the customer.

When preparing a digital file from videotape the process is called encoding (this also includes the first digitization of the videotape from its analogue or digital videotape format to the editing system). When producing a (usually lower quality) file format from the master file for release, the process is called transcoding as we are encoding between two encoding formats. For best results, a project should never be transcoded more than once from the original digital master file - other versions should always be transcoded from the original too.

Encoding and transcoding are essentially simple processes, using tried and tested encoder settings. Sometimes we encode directly within the Avid Media Composer domain, sometimes we use third-party encoding software - depending on the formats involved. All files produced must be checked for quality and playback compatibility using a platform that is as close as possible to that which the client will employ.

Most encoding/transcoding results in files that will be used for on-line distribution - viewing either via a corporate website or intranet, or via a hosting service such as YouTube. For such hosting services, we often transcode to a quite high quality (and thus large size) file because we know that the hosting service will transcode to its own file format when we upload - the better the file we give them to work with, the better the result.

If the production shall be released on DVD, Blu-Ray or similar hard copy formats, the necessary files for generating such copies are also produced in this stage of the process.


Release copies
DVD remains the most popular hard copy release format, though Blu-Ray is expected to gain in popularity. However the development in the past two years of online hosting, including file formats in excess of standard HD, has slowed the growth of new disc formats substantially.

Today there are few productions and clients that require production of disc copies exceeding 1000 units, which previously was the point at which glass-mastering of DVD's was particularly economical. Therefore most productions, if released to DVD are handled using our in house DVD duplication system, which uses high quality DVD-R at sufficiently low copy speeds to ensure optimal playback compatibility. Orders up to 1000 units per project/version can easily be handled by this process.

We offer preparation of release graphics, including presentation box covers, inlays and print-on-disc artwork so that we can offer fulfilment of all DVD orders in-house. We also handle mastering, encoding and duplication for other productions than our own.


Archiving
An important part of any mastering and encoding job is to carefully archive all media data, metadata and graphics files so that repeat orders and future versions may be delivered as quickly and economically as possible. Similarly, when mastering a production, we often prepare a so-called "IT mix" of the master timeline, so that future language versions may be accomplished easily. The IT mix is the entire production, with the original language specific content organized on separate tracks so that these may easily be disabled and replaced by new language tracks as required.


 
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2017 Channel 6 Television Denmark
  14/12/2016 18:47

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