Whenever a show is delivered to a TV network, it is run through a process called “QC,” or “Quality Control.” Typically this is done on the network end, and if they spot any issues, like flash frames or audio hits or access luma (image is too “white,” IRE above 100) or temp footage…any number of things…then those issues are flagged and they provide us with a report of things that need to be fixed. Typical process.
Often, to save time and money, a production company will have a QC done BEFORE the show is sent to the network. So any potential issues are flagged before we spit out the four to 10 masters and multiple DVDs or reference Quicktime files. Because if it’s flagged AFTER that, well, we need to redo all of those masters. And besides, it looks good when you deliver a show and they check it and there are no issues. All issues caught and addressed before they saw it, so we look good in their eyes.
Before we send a tape, or a file to the network or to QC, we editors, or perhaps the AE and post supervisor…people at the company…will watch a show down as it exports. Or watch back the export/output to tape after the fact, to see if we catch any glaring issue (like temp footage with burned in timecode, a flash frame, digital hit…something easy to see). We want to make sure that everything is good, nothing is out of place, and nothing glaring has happened. This is our reputation, after all.
I’m used to doing a QC on my broadcast monitor…used to watching it output to tape. But lately, with digital delivery, I need to watch it down before I output (which I do with a producer), or I watch the exported file. I USED to watch the exported file on the broadcast monitor…imported back into the project and played back. But recently I’ve taken to watching the Quicktime file. And I’m not looking critically at the color at this point, that was what I did when I screened with the producer. No, I’m looking for the things that only show up in the Quicktime file…some things that can occur OUTSIDE TV Safe (which is one reason to watch with OVERSCAN activated on a broadcast monitor)…or that is hidden in the shadows. When the editor of the shows I online for has time, he watches them again too. And then gets me a list of fixes.
What do we normally catch? Well, I can show you. As I work on a lot of archival documentaries, we deal with SD footage blown up to HD, so the footage might not have been blown up enough, and the edge doesn’t quite fill the frame.
This is something that you might miss on a broadcast monitor if you aren’t watching in overscan mode. And sometimes, this has been missed even in overscan mode. It just shows up better in the QT file.
The other thing that I catch better on QT files are when we do moves on stills, or use stills as background for text. Or if you have footage that is very dark. You THINK it fills the frame, because you see a dark image on the screen. But in the QT file, the image is usually washed out more, so because of that, the difference between the dark footage, and the black of “no video image” (often called, “vertical blanking”) is very obvious.
This is what I see on the broadcast monitor:
This is what I see in Quicktime. As you can see, there’s a large area that is darker than normal. This would have been flagged.
UPDATE: There’s a lot more involved in QT than just looking at the picture, and I did leave out a MAJOR thing that I do. Something I started doing ever since working at Disney in a promo department where we had to perform our own internal QC (three people checked the final files).
Another major thing that can kick back a QC is audio issues. Incorrect track assignments or audio off phase (one frame offset)…as well as audio hits and glitches. What I check for in the exported file is first, that I did, indeed, export multiple individual tracks, and not a stereo mixdown (which does happen). When a professional QC is performed, it’s done in multiple passes. Once for picture, and then again for audio…perhaps a couple more times depending on the number of tracks that need to be checked.
As you can see here, I have the audio stems laid out on my timeline.
Ch1 & 2 are a stereo mix…Ch 3 & 4 are Mix minus VO, undipped, meaning at full volume…Ch 5 & 6 are undipped stereo music…Ch 7 & 8 are stereo sound effects…Ch 9 is the voice over…Ch 10 is the dialogue. So I need to export a 10 channel Quicktime file. After I do that, I open the quicktime file in Quicktime 7 Pro and check the properties of the file, making sure that all the audio tracks are present.
And then I will uncheck all but one track, then assign that track to Left or Right…and then play the clip in various locations, spot checking to see that the track is indeed what it should be. If they are a stereo pair, I make sure to have both tracks checked. I have, on occasion, caught errors like the dialog track repeated, or a slight offset in the stereo pair.
If you don’t have Quicktime 7 Pro and I don’t expect many do, as it’s old and discontinued, then you can re-import the file into your editing application and check the tracks in there.
So my advice is, always always watch down your export, if going to tape…or playing back the tape and watching that. Or watching the Quicktime file. Yes, I know you’ve seen the show 45 times if you are the editor, or 5 times if you are the online editor/colorist. But that small little extra time of watching…be it 22 min, or 43 min, or 90 min, or two hours….catching those mistakes before you send it increases your reputation as “reliable,” and “always turns in work with little to no errors. Some things are still missed..small audio hits, red condition errors, many things that are beyond the range of human eyesight and hearing. But everyone can understand those getting through. But the 10 second shot with a watermark and burned in timecode…or the 4:3 clip not pushed in on to fill the frame like the rest of the footage…looks sloppy. Strive for greatness. Your reputation will thank you.