Film & Movie Post Production QC Procedure For Distribution

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Updated February 20, 2024 by Rick Recco, Owner of QC Central. He has over 30 years experience in the Film Post Production and Quality Control Business-

Film & Movie Post Production QC Procedure For Distribution. An overview of how a Broadcast Quality Control check for Movie & Television distribution is conducted. & Issues that look & listen for.

There are different types of Film / Video & Television Quality Control, the most intensive is the 100% QC (or first QC, or Transfer Master QC) This is a complete review of the file, or tape from head to tail and involves all aspects of Quality Control. 100% QC usually takes 2.5 to 3.5 times the run time of the show to complete a first pass QC (Video and one set of audio tracks) If there are additional sets of audio tracks (stereo M&E, 5.1 mix, dialogue and /or music only tracks etc) There will be additional “passes” to the QC one for each set of audio tracks. A typical movie project may have Stereo Mix (2 channel), Stereo Music and Effects (M&E) (2 Channel) and 5.1 Mix (6 channel) Which would make it a 3 pass QC which for a 90 movie feature would take approximately 8-10 hours to complete. Virtually all programs that are going to a distributor, sales agent, VOD platform or TV network will require a QC report to be submitted with the project

The steps to 100% Broadcast Quality Control Procedure are as follows.

Head Format Reading Film Quality Control
The correct readings for Bars & Tones

Once begin work on a film or Television project, we will attempt to procure a spec. sheet or deliverables list, which will specify what standard, format, timecode, head format (bars / tones / slate, countdown, 2 pop) and audio configuration the final self-contained quicktime file should contain. Part of the QC process is to make sure that every aspect of the spec. sheet, work order, or deliverables list is met. Additionally, we make sure that the project conforms to correct and legal specification set forth by SMPTE and industry standards.

Step 1. Making sure that the file is the correct project.

a. Making sure the media is the correct standard and format Checking title, file name, and number. Often there may exist several versions of a particular show, or movie. They can have different aspect ratios, standards, formats, languages or audio configurations. We want to make sure we have the correct version of the project for the report

b. Checking to make sure that information on slate, is correct The slate at head of program contains Title, Standard, format, aspect ratio, run time, audio configuration & date, these need to be correct.

c. Making sure file type, timecode, and aspect ratio are the correct versions.

The next step is to check all technical specs of file / tape. The specs are all recorded along with a list of problems in program on the QC Report. During this phase of the process we will be checking the following:

Step 2 Spec. Check

a. Are audio tracks in the correct order, and in correct stereo pairings?

b. Are Luminance, Chrominance, & Black levels correct in bars, and do they match program?

c. Are Horizontal Blanking, and Vertical Blanking correct through program? are there any other framing issues, during program?

d. Is the aspect ratio correct standard, and of the type requested by distributor?

e.are all titles, & subtitles, in safe title and action area, and in correct place?

f. Is Run Time Correct?

g. Are video specs correct such as Overall bit rate / mode, Color space, & scan type. Are audio specs, correct such as Audio data rate, audio bit depth, sampling rate & codec?

h. Is closed captioning present and decoding correctly?

i. Is the aspect ratio of the movie or show correct. Does the line count (vertical interval) match the specs of program. Is it a standard aspect ratio (1.78, 1.85, 2.35 etc.)

j. Does the program comply with all aspects of the deliverable spec sheet provided by the distributor or network? (Often a distributor or network will provide a “spec sheet” which has all the guidelines for exactly how they want the project, these can sometimes run in excess of 60 pages. We read through the entire booklet, and make sure that everything is correct in the file or tape as per specs.)

Step 3 Watch down / Viewing

The Third step is to watch and listen to the entire program and note any/all problems that occur in program on QC report. We use a rating system from 1 to 3 to determine the severity of problem the ratings are as follows.

1. Minor Problem, no fix needed, Just calling attention to what is there.

2. Marginal. Problem should be fixed before air, if possible and time permitting.

2+. Marginal to Severe. Program is placed on hold for 2+. Fixes Recommended but client(s) to determine whether to fix.

3. Rejected. Project is not suitable for air, and must be fixed or redone.

We advise all clients to present report to consult with distributor, sales agent or network as to what they determine to be issues that must be fixed Vs. issues that can be approved as is. Whether a project is going to a domestic or International market is often a determining factor.

Step 4. Check program for problems

a.  Note film problems (dirt, splices, stretches, streaks, scratches, etc.) if applicable

b.  Note instances of Video/ Audio levels that are out of spec. (Luminance, Chrominace,
Blanking, etc.)

c.  Make sure all titles are within safe title area.

d.  Check for Video Hits

e.  Make sure audio is correct, in phase, and conforms to audio standards of show

f.  Note any program audio problems (ticks, pops, scratches, mutes, low level, missing dialogue etc.)

g.  Note other video issues (Freeze Frames, motion lag, moire, crushed blacks, contaminated blacks, overexposed whites, telecine misfires, framing errors, conversion errors, frame blending, pixel errors, and many other potential problems.)
h.  Make sure that textless material covers all texted shots in program (if applicable)

Step 5. Complete report.

with Pass, Fail, or Hold determination. If program fails or is placed on hold recommendations for how to fix.

Step 6. Consultation with client regarding Fixing If necessary

We can will make recommendations on what and how to fix specific problems an in what order of importance they need to be done. We will also be available to answer any questions during the fixing process

Step 7. Fix / Spot check

After all fixes have been done the file can be sent back to us for a Fix & spot check, in which we will go over all items on report that were fixed. We check the fixes and remove the corrected issues. After all issues have been fixed and removed the status of the report is amended to approved, at which point the final master file can be submitted to the distributor or studio.

We also offer Finishing / Fixing Services

If the filmmaker is unable to complete all fixes QC Central can do the work for you. We can fix most issues without any new files being submitted. In some instances we can use audio stems to help fix issues but we can also do it from scratch. We can go the final mile to have your picture and sound completed. For more information check out our Movie & Television Post Production Finishing Services page.

-DRS QC: Used for film restoration. In old films & movies there is often a sizable amount of black and white spots throughout the film, this is called Negative (white spots) or Positive (black spots) film dirt this occurs from actual dirt, dust, and sometimes hair getting on the physical film before it is transferred to video. A complete (or as near complete as possible in the given amount of time) list of all film dirt. Used for DRS process (dirt removal) This process usually has a set time limit depending on how much DRS work client wants to do.

Dub / Tech QC: For shows that have already been QC’d and have now been dubbed, purpose to make sure that no new problems occurred in dubbing process. Run time is usually 1.5 times the length of program

M&E (Music & Effects) QC: An M&E audio track contains all audio that is in the full stereo mix except dialogue; The dialogue is removed for the purpose of dubbing the dialogue into other languages at a later time.) Often done as part of 100% QC if program contains Music and Effects Audio Tracks.
(usually takes 1.5 times run time)

Spot QC: Quick spec check, and Check program for 2-3 minutes at beginning middle, and end.

In summary: Producing a movie or TV show is a long process that is often worked on by several different people over an extended period of time. An independent QC report is necessary as Issues are often found that editors or audio engineers miss despite multiple viewings and listening to the material. We provide the final check to ensure Quality Compliance for these projects.