Quality Control in Broadcasting

Quality control differs somewhat between product-based companies and service-based companies. Most businesses fall somewhere in the middle and aren’t completely product-based or completely service-based. A plumber, for example, isn’t completely service-based; new parts and items are sold with most repairs or remodels. Broadcasting isn’t pure service, either; a product has been made… and content is the product produced by broadcasting. This product constructed by broadcasters in the digital age has graduated from relatively crude VCR tapes or audio cassettes to a tangible good. Customers are either renting (cable TV) or purchasing (downloading) this good, and sometimes this product is given away but is being packaged with third-party advertising. The service of broadcasting is getting the studio’s content, by whatever means, to the users. Additionally, all business of any type will also engage in customer service. Quality isn’t just pursued for the sole benefit of customers, either; all professionals work better when they receive quality treatment. Quality in all aspects of business equals corporate/and studio longevity.

Canon Camera
Canon Camera

Examination of a studio’s processes and workflows helps determine and hone overall quality. The speed and accuracy of the final output is combined with the human considerations of personal service, fairness and employee morale. In technical fields like broadcasting, a major determinant of quality is the technology and training used to achieve it. Human resources personnel, Secretaries, customer service representatives, and IT personnel appear in every corporation of any size. In the broadcasting and media industries, we also have a number of industry-specific people making our product (content) and delivering it (often by electronic means). Quality Control in these areas has a character of its own, and our IT personnel typically have a few extra skills to match. Editing, monitoring, testing, and training all come into play to ensure we are making and delivering a quality product.

First comes generation of content, which is either filmed/animated, or a combination of both. Whatever your place in the media spectrum is, such as news or entertainment, your raw footage quality combined with whatever spectacle you seek to convey, is the starting point for the application of your quality standards. Once that has been recorded the main determinant of content quality is editing, AQC programming takes care of the more repetitious side of the work, and the internal content team reviews the AQC files and also performs the more creative editing function that requires a human touch, like determining what effects go where, what to edit for time if necessary, and such things as the possible rearrangement of data segments to get the best overall flow, choosing which camera angle to use etc.

Editing software is another piece of the puzzle for ensuring quality content. Again, many companies have several fine editing products. Apple Final Cut

Apple's Final Cut Pro
Apple’s Final Cut Pro

Pro X 10.0.3, for example. With its 64-bit architecture, it can take full advantage of over 4-Gigs of RAM, and it can perform background rendering via GPU or CPU. It enables better informed creative choices, like the ability to review a specific clip using different effects each time to choose the best result; it can also access a library of your previously used and unused content. This amazing piece of software literally has several scores of useful features. A creative edit can increase or change the emotional impact of the original footage. Editing can make or break content.

AQC (Automated Quality Control) is an enormous help and timesaver in the editing process. As digital technology overtakes much of the broadcasting field, most content now ends-up recorded in a digital file based system. There are numerous companies manufacturing some very nice AQC hardware; the user sets his or her parameters for a specific file of data and the AQC zips through at high-speed, placing all blatant parameter violations in a series of files for review, while some high-end programs also flag questionable bits of data for review, as well. One of the neat things with saving errors in a separate file rather than eliminating them outright is that sometimes (admittedly rarely) the error actually looks interesting. Saving it gives the option of putting it back in the content, if desired. Another benefit of saved mistakes is the possibility to reduce that type of mistake in the future, if a pattern can be discerned in the generation of those mistakes, thus allowing the potential of a solution to that type of error.

The final step of the service-side of the broadcast studio quality equation is content delivery, ideally, with a final dash of customer-service mixed-in. Your studio’s particular niche will also determine your content distribution needs. Yet again, cutting edge software comes to the rescue.

Ignite CDS
Ignite CDS

Ignite Technologies flagship product, Content Delivery Solution, is of immense aid to your studio/media outlet in this last phase of high-quality customer service. Scalable, flexible, quick, easy, via live stream or HD videos, etc.; deliver content quickly and accurately to your employees or customers ranging from the smallest of devices to most powerful super computers. Five layers of security around your content helps to ensure content purity and virtually guarantee your studio’s and client’s privacy and discretion.

With the right set of software and hardware, and the right training and personnel, the only real challenge for quality control at all levels in your studio will be customer service. Every employee at every level of your studio should have at least some customer service training, even if it’s only one 4-hour seminar (for example); at least there will be some basis for dealing with those potential surprise moments of unexpected customer interaction, like being the last person in the office at the start of a long holiday weekend when your studio’s biggest customer calls with some concern. Let this year’s resolution for your studio be a commitment to quality throughout your organization.

Anthony Rogers is a freelance writer/author currently plying his trade within the broadcast, post-production and studio areas of the media world.He has contributed many articles to Broadcast Beat and appears in Broadcast Beat Magazine frequently.
Anthony Rogers
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