Broadcast Television / Film Video-Audio Quality Control FAQ

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Updated by Rick Recco on 3/7/2024

Here is a list of Video Quality Control Questions we frequently get asked about QC of Film & Movie Video/Audio, and The Broadcast Industry. This Film/Movie Quality Control FAQ will answer those questions. This page combines all FAQ questions. It is also broken down by category in the links above.

Q: What types of Television shows, or movies need a Quality Control Report

Film/Movie Quality Control FAQ. Movie QC Report Page

A: Virtually all films, movies, and TV shows require a Quality Control Check at some point during the post production process. Television networks will not allow a show to air that has not received an approval or passing grade on a QC report. Often, the network will want a third party to perform the QC. The post facility that did the editing and output of the show may not be as stringent with their own work as an outside company would.
Film makers who get a distribution deal with a sales agent or film distributor will also be required to have a full video and audio Quality Control Report done before they accept a submission.

Q: What are the types of media that I can deliver to you to do a QC Report on my show?

A: That all depends on what you are delivering the finished product on. If you are delivering a file, such as quicktime or avid, then we should QC that file which is the final product that will be turned in. If it is being delivered on tape such as HDCAM SR, then we should QC the tape after it has been laid off from the edit master file.

Q: What happens if I have a project QC’d and it is rejected?

A: In any QC report, is rejected we can work with you to fix the issues that caused the rejection. Aside from Quality Control, we are also a Full Service Post Production House. We will consult with you on issues that need fixing. The client can opt to do the fixes or have us do the work for them. After fixes are done, we do a fix check. When all issues are cleared a final report is issued.

Q: What types of issues would cause a TV show, or movie to be rejected in the quality control process?

A: There are myriad different scenarios that could cause a file undergoing broadcast QC to be rejected. These include: High luminance, low black levels, incorrect horizontal or vertical blanking, video hits, audio hits and much more. Our QC Process page gives a more in depth view of some of the issues we look for.

Q: What kind of turnaround time can I expect when sending you a project for QC?

A: Our motto is we are available on short notice 24/7. A full Quality Control inspection and report will be delivered to you usually within 1-2 days.

Q: I have completed the editing of my movie and now need to deliver it as a file, what is the best file type to use?

A: We recommend Apple Pro Res 4:2:2 HQ. for HD Files. This is a quicktime .mov file that can be exported from Final Cut Pro, or Adobe Premiere. For 4K, UHD, or 2K Files Apple Pr Res HQ 4:4:4:4 may be more desirable. We can also work with Avid files such as DNXHD as well.

Q: I am a first time film director and have signed a distribution deal. My movie is complete and they have given me a list of “deliverables.” I am new to the post process and not familiar with what they are asking for, what can I do?

A: We work with new filmmakers frequently and often act as a consultant / post supervisor. QC Central can work with you in all phases of the post process. We will work to make sure the QC report is approved, fixes are done if necessary, and the deliverable list is complete. Please contact us anytime for more info.

Q: How is audio measured? What are the correct audio specs for a stereo or M&E mix?

A: Audio levels are measured using audio meters and phase scopes. Levels are measured on a scale known as dbfs. The dbfs scale is measured as negative numbers, with zero being the highest allowable level in movies and films.
Audio begins to become audible at -90dbfs. The reference tone for audio levels in the United States is set at -20dbfs. This is the level that the tones, in the bars & tones should be set to. This is used to ensure that all audio is measured the same. At the reference level of -20dbfs, audio levels will be average for a normal conversation that you would hear on a show. (Tones will match average program audio levels.) Many Television networks limit audio to peaks at -12 or -10 dbfs, For movies 0 dbfs is the Audio peak limit. Any audio that goes above 0 dbfs is considered “clipped” and will usually cause distortion. A Quality Control report will list the audio peaks and any instances where the peaks are clipped.

Q: Our film received a rejection for excessive Loudness. What is the difference between Audio Loudness and Audio Peaks?

A: There are several measurements we take when doing the audio portion of a Film or TV QC Report. “Loudness” refers to the overall average of the dialogue throughout the entire show. Metering loudness is a fairly recent addition to QC. Measuring Loudness came as a result of a law called the “Calm Act.” This law is to ensure audio levels are the same across all TV shows, movies and commercials. Have you ever been watching a show, and a commercial comes on that is much louder? This is what the calm act tries to stop.

Audio Loudness differs from audio peaks, which are the highest levels the audio reaches during the program. Loudness levels have mostly replaced audio averages on QC reports as they are more specific, and measured differently. Loudness is measured on a scale known as LKFS, or LUFS. Under the Calm Act a Loudness reading should be between -22 & -26 LKFS / LUFS. These levels are measured using specific programs that measure Loudness, such as Adobe audition The entire show must be scanned to get an accurate reading. If a show or movie’s Loudness levels are too high or low, they must be adjusted to the correct specification. Loudness and audio peaks work in tandem with each other: 1LKFS = 1LUFS = 1dbfs. Fixing the loudness issue involves raising or lowering the overall audio levels to within the audio specs, while still keeping the audio peaks in spec.

Q: My movie was rejected in QC for mono audio, even though I know the movie is in stereo. What do I do?

A: This is a common problem often found in quality control processes. Incorrectly outputting to a final self-contained Quicktime file will cause stereo audio to output as mono. During Davinci Resolve, or Adobe Premiere file export, the audio being exported must be panned. These programs have audio mixers that contain sliders / knobs that have to be set for stereo audio, They must be panned left for left channels & vice-versa for right channels. Additionally files containing more than 2 channels must have audio tracks output to the correct corresponding channels for export. Editing programs default all outputs to Channels 1 & 2. Additional tracks on exported files will not recorded to the correct tracks if the file is not exported correctly. We offer audio & video fixing, conforming, and outputting, as part of our Finishing Services, and can help with any issues such as these that need to be corrected in order to pass QC

Q: What are the different sets of audio tracks that make up the audio configuration?

A: A project being submitted for Quality Control could have many different combinations of audio tracks. For Movies there are usually up to 4 different sets of audio tracks. They are:
1. 2.0 Stereo Mix (2 channels)
2. 2.0 M&E Mix (2 channels)
3. 5.1 Full Mix (6 channels)
4. 5.1 M&E Mix (6 channels)
So there may be up to 16 audio channels on a movie file. Which you use will depend on what the distributor or network is asking for. For each set of audio tracks listed above, a separate QC “Pass” will be performed. Each pass consists of watching the movie all the way through and noting any issues found.

Q: What is an “M&E” track and what can cause it to be rejected?

A. M&E refers to “Music & Effects.” In an M&E track all audio that is on the 2.0 stereo mix track (or 5.1 Full mix) is present except dialogue. The reason for this is for dubbing the movie or show into other languages. All other audio is present, the audio dubbing facility just has to add dialogue.

An M&E track can be rejected for “Missing effects in M&E” which means any sound effect that is present in the full mix track that is not also present in the M&E track. Examples of missing effects in M&E could include footsteps, doors opening and closing, tapping on a desk, hand clapping or any type of sound effect. All effects must be present in M&E tracks. We specialize in fixing missing effects in M&E, even without source files if necessary. You can learn more about our Audio fixing at our Audio QC & Post page.

Q: What are the correct “specs” for a 5.1 mix?

A: Officially there are no written specifications for a 5.1 mix per se; which is unlike other video and audio specs that SMPTE (The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) has defined over the years. However, all the large studios produce 5.1 mixes in the same way.

The first two tracks of the mix are called The Left (Ch. 1) & The Right (Ch. 2) Tracks. These will contain various music and effects but no dialogue. Ch. 3 is the Center track which is usually dialogue only, and often, the only track with dialogue. Ch. 4 is called LFE or “Low Frequency Effects” track. This should be only deep bass sounds, which would normally come from a subwoofer. Both the Center and LFE tracks must be mono as they are one track each. Chs. 5 & amp; 6 are the “Left Surround / Right Surround” tracks. These go to the speakers in the back of the room in a “Surround” mix. They will also contain various music and effects but no dialogue. In a simple 5.1 mix, the stereo pairs Chs. 1 & 2, and 5.& 6) will have the full M&E on both pairs but at different levels (front speakers higher) but some movies will pan the effects around so some of the effects may be coming from the speaker behind you.

Mistakes on a 5.1 track that we often find (Which the distributor or network may approve) include.
1. Dialogue on any track other then “Center” which is the only place it should be
2. Music and / or effects in “Center” track which should be dialogue only
3. LFE track not containing Low Frequency effects only, or LFE missing completely.
4. Left / Right and or Left Surround / Right Surround tracks not being in stereo.

We can work with you to get your 5.1 mix correct.

Q: What is Textless Material? My project rejected for not having it present?

A: “Textless Material” is a sequence that is provided as part of the movie file. This sequence contains every shot of the movie that contains text over picture, without the text. Examples of “Text” Include:

  • Opening and end titles
  • Subtitles
  • Location titles
  • Any other written graphics that come on the screen during the show.

Movie and Television companies ask for textless material for the purpose of converting the show into another language. The Textless sequence will begin on the file after the movie has ended. Usually, there is a period of 10 to 60 seconds of black between the end of program, and start of textless material. The sequence will contain each texted shot minus the text in the order they appeared in the show. There will be a few seconds of black between each textless shot.

The Foreign distributors will take those textless shots and insert them into the spots where their corresponding texted shots are, thereby replacing texted shots with textless shots. They will then add the new foreign-language text. Many distributors or networks will not accept shows or movies without Textless Material, especially those going International.

Q: I shot my movie in 4K, Is that the best version for you to do the QC report on?

A: This all depends on what your distributor is asking for. If you have obtained distribution, or have a sales agent, the first thing you need is a spec sheet or deliverables list that will specify how the client wants the files delivered. Usually, a distributor will want the movie delivered in the native frame rate and format it was shot it, which is often 4K / UHD. They will often want an HD (1920X1080) version as well, which can be down-converted from the master.
We can do a QC Report in whatever format is needed. It can often be easier in terms of uploading / downloading a file to QC the smaller HD file. Any anomalies found in that version will also be found in a larger file. We can work with you to fit what’s best for your needs.

Q: Our Deliverables lists includes Audio Stems. Is this part of The QC?

A: Audio Stems are separate “D,M,E” (Dialogue Music & Effects) files which are individual audio tracks (.Aiff, or .wav) These files can be used to re-mix the audio of the movie. These are delivered separately from the final Quicktime file that is the movie, and are not a part of the QC Report.

Q: We got a rejection for “Missing Effects in M&E.” How did this happen & how do we fix?

A: The M&E track is “Music & Effects” only. As stated above, it is used for the purpose of dubbing a film into another language. The M&E track should contain all the audio that is in the full mix track, except English (or whatever language the movie is in) dialogue. M&E tracks need to be “fully filled” in order to be approved. Often, the M&E track will not contain effects that are in the full mix tracks; these all need to be present.

Big-budget films re-create all the dialogue and effects in a movie in post-production. Low-budget filmmakers cannot afford that and use the dialogue directly from the shoot. In this instance, the sound effects that came through the microphones while shooting were used in the final mix. If a character is talking during an effect, it cannot be used in M&E. An editor would not be able to “cut around” the dialogue during the effect. That effect would have to be recreated. This is one of the Finishing services that we provide.

Q: What are the specific things that should be in an M&E mix and what should be left out?

A: We have compiled a page that gives you the exact specifications for an M&E mix as part of the industry standard. Some distributors will have different requirements and you should check with them. Here is a standard list of specific M&E requirements.
Audio Specifications for an M&E (Music & Effects) Track for Film & TV

Q: Our Audio mix has ADR issues, specifically loose ADR, what does this mean?

A: ADR stands for Audio Dialogue Replacement. Often when movies are made, the dialogue that is recorded through the boom mics is less than ideal for the final mix. The film’s producers will use ADR or “looping” to improve the sound of the dialogue in post. The actors go to a studio, watch scenes and say the lines into a microphone, repeating what they said in the original daily shoot footage. Once all the dialogue has been rerecorded, it is “replaced” back into the sound mix of the movie. Problems can arise when the sound sync between the original dialogue and the ADR dialogue doesn’t match. On some occasions, the dialogue can go in and out of sync during a single sentence. This may occur when transferring original footage to a different timecode. Loose ADR can be fixed either by adjusting the sync for full scenes or the entire mix, or by painstakingly editing every line of dialogue where the sync issues occur.

Q: My QC report says my film has a non-standard aspect ratio, what does this mean?

A: The Aspect Ratio is the size and shape of the picture while viewing the movie. It is the ratio between the Vertical lines (top and bottom) and the sides (left and right) of the edge of the picture. The standard for UHD & high-definition broadcast TV and movies is 16×9, which is the ratio on your home TV. A 16X9 Full frame (1.78 to 1) will fill the entire screen. There are also matted versions of movies where the picture is narrower than a full frame; these are sometimes called Letterbox. Most movies, if not full-frame, have an aspect ratio of 2.39 or 2.40 to 1.

The aspect ratio can be gauged to be correct through a “line count” on a waveform monitor. This measures the “active video” as opposed to the black at the top, bottom, or sides of the picture. As an example, in High Definition a 16X9 full-frame picture will have active video that starts on line 21 and ends on line 550, with the rest of the lines being blank. Each aspect ratio has its own specific line count measurements. In HD, if a program has a line count that does not match one of the standard aspect ratios (1.78, 1.85, 2.39, 2.40), it could be judged to be non-standard. This often happens as a result of an output error in the making of the file. It can be corrected by re-outputting the file correctly.

In the 4K and UHD world, the situation is much more fluid. Aspect ratios are measured by pixel count, and standard Aspect ratios are no longer judged as they once were.

Q: What is HDR? And what is the difference between HDR & SDR?

A: SDR stands for Standard Dynamic Range, which is the standard for most UHD / 4K content currently being produced. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and is the newest technology being used for picture optimization. Photographers have used HDR for still shots in programs like Photoshop. There are various filters available that can manipulate the color, contrast, shadows, & highlights of different parts of a photo. These changes can be layered to form a whole new look to the picture. HDR can be set to perform all of these functions simultaneously with the push of a button, and is used in moving pictures as well.

There is different color spacing with SDR & HDR. SDR uses the ITU-Rec 709 color space, which is the same used in high-definition video. More advanced color spacing and gamut are used for HDR, including Rec. 2020, which is used for UHD HDR. There are also higher levels of HDR, such as HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, which have a whole set of specifications that can be found in our Post Production Video Specifications page.

Q: Why should I hire your company instead of one of the other (bigger) companies out there?

Most Experience, Fastest Turnaround, and Best Prices. What more do you need? I started this company back in 2007 because I knew I could deliver exactly that. In that time, we have worked with a large majority of the companies in Hollywood and worldwide that provide Video content. We have a very long list of past Clients & Projects. When you hire QC Central, you are hiring an owner with over 33 years of experience in Broadcasting, Post Production & Quality Control.

You have direct access to the owner of the company virtually 24/7. You can call anytime with any questions you may have before, during, or after the job. Our QC standards are also the highest in the industry.

Q: OK we are ready to send your are project for QC, What exactly do we need to send?

A: Glad you asked. We have a page that answers that very question in fine detail it’s called What You Need To Send Us For Film QC. Please refer to this sheet for how to proceed. Of course we are also available to answer any additional questions. Email text or call anytime.