First Look: Pulsar QC – Quality Control Your Media [u]

Posted on by Larry

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[NOTE: After I published this article, Fereidoon Khosravi of Venera Technologies sent me clarifications on the features in the Pay-Per-Use version of their software.]

In the Wild West that is the Internet, technical quality is often ignored because there’s no penalty if your images or audio are out of spec. But, in the worlds of broadcast, cable, OTT or DVDs, knowing that your file will pass technical muster can make the difference between making or missing the deadline.

When I was working in broadcast television, surrounded by video tape machines, the standard for quality assurance was a Tektronix recording video scope. These would monitor a tape during playback and printout warnings when audio levels, video levels or dropouts would exceed standards.

However, in today’s file-based world, different tools are available. The problem is that these analysis tools are really, REALLY expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars. If you are a network, receiving dozens of programs a week, the cost is totally affordable. But, if you are an independent producer, submitting one or two programs a month, you are priced out of quality testing your programs in-house.

This can be a big deal. Let’s say you are creating supplemental materials for a big DVD launch for a studio. You send off your final masters, it takes the studio 2-3 days to log your files, then a day or two more to verify they meet spec. If there’s a problem, say, an excessive video level, the program gets bounced back to you to fix. However, the deadline is immovable and you’ve just lost six days you could have used to correct any problems.

Complicating our life, OTT (“Over-the-Top”) media distributors – such as Netflix, iTunes, DPP – are now requiring QC (Quality Control) testing for files submitted to them for distribution.

This is where a “rental-based” quality-control testing software called “Pulsar QC” from Venera Technologies can make a big difference to smaller shops.

Last week, I spoke with Fereidoon Khosravi, the Senior Vice-President for the Americas (North and South) for Venera Technologies, to learn more about Pulsar QC.

Venera was founded in 2003, specifically to focus on media test and measurement. They currently have a wide variety of high-end customers, including:

WHAT IT COSTS

The analysis tools in the software are the same, what varies is the licensing. For example, Pulsar QC has three options: purchase the software, upload files to The Cloud, license on a pay-per-use, or license as a monthly fee.

Purchasing the software is only affordable to the very-deep-pocketed. The Cloud is far too slow for processing master files, unless those files are already stored in The Cloud. But the pay-per-use and monthly fee are very affordable even for smaller shops.

For example, you can test your HD files locally using Pulsar for only $9/program hour. (4K files can be tested for $15/program hour.)

As Venera’s website states: “Boasting the flexibility of a cloud solution and the security of a dedicated on-site system, Pulsar Pay-Per-Use (PPU) makes the advanced QC functions of the acclaimed Pulsar automated file-based QC solution immediately available to facilities of all sizes. This is increasingly important as a growing number of broadcasters and content delivery companies demand that content suppliers of all sizes, big or small, QC all of their content prior to their delivery.”

Imagine testing a file you need to submit to Netflix, in-house, for nine bucks; with the ability to discover and fix problems DAYS faster than sending the file to Netflix and having them test it for you.

The monthly fee is $500, with no per-hour charges. This option will save you money if you are testing 50 hours of material a month or more. A flat monthly fee makes it totally affordable to test stock images, or media shot by outsiders before even starting the editing process. (And, as you know, stock footage has caused technical headaches for just about all of us.)

UPDATE: Venera tells me they provide a $100 credit (valid for 30 days) when you sign up to use Pulsar PPU, allowing you to QC about 9 hours of content at no cost.

WHAT IT NEEDS

Pulsar QC runs locally on a Windows system, or a Mac running Boot Camp. Files never leave your premises. Hardware requirements are very simple – the software is CPU based, so a high-end system in not required.

An Internet connection is required as the software checks back to the home office to verify licensing and update accounting records.

HOW IT WORKS

The interface is very simple:

The system can analyze:

The Pay-Per-Use version of the software features:

The perpetual license version that you can purchase supports automation, more templates, and improved processing speed.

WHAT IT TESTS

In the Websites section, below, is a link describing all the tests the software performs. You can configure which to include or exclude, but a partial list includes:

QUALITY CHECKS (Partial list)

OTHER ANALYSIS AND CORRECTION FEATURES (Partial list)

SUMMARY

Pulsar QC has been on the market for 6 years and Venera updates it every quarter. They tell me they are very responsive to customer suggestions.

I have not run this personally, but I have had programs rejected for failing QC, so I am very sympathetic to the need for this type of program.

If you are looking for an inexpensive, on-demand method to make sure your programs pass QC, Pulsar QC from Venera Technologies should be on your short list.

EXTRA CREDIT – WEBSITES


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