VoD Rise Creates Need for IMF

The European Update Hans HoffmanHans Hoffman of the European Broadcasters’ Union was speaking about the Interoperable Master Format, which had been touched upon by Netflix on the previous day (Netflix Deplores ‘Versionitis’).

VoD services are rising quickly in Europe; content owners can increasingly reach niche audiences and exploit niche content. Users are demanding content on all platforms. The rising exchange of content between broadcasters in different countries requires different language versions and subtitled content.

The demand for localised content has an impact on broadcasters, who do not get money for this post-production. Each piece of content is effectively a new master file, which creates cost pressures.

A media package format facilitating easy versioning of broadcast master formats would be an improvement, said Hoffman. The IMF is not perfect; the industry needs “a kind of broadcast IMF TV thing.” A thesis produced on the IMF with Rhein Main University in 2015 showed that the format isn’t really used in the broadcast industry; a format is needed that will carry other codecs. Hoffman also pointed out that different broadcasters require different metadata, and so the IMF should be able to support different schema.

As well as metadata and carrying codecs, fundamental requirements for the IMF include managing large files for UHD, HDR, etc (a key point); archiving requirements; and storage & workflows. However, there are many challenges to be solved before adoption:

  • Awareness – Relatively unknown to broadcasters;
  • Prejudices – Suffers a bit from the MXF history (IMF uses MXF as an underlying layer) (but there is no alternative);
  • Codec – JPEG2000 and alike are common in broadcast. Need different codecs, or a new plug-in mechanism to make IMF flexible;
  • Metadata – Needs to support multiple schema;
  • System integration
  • Exploit clear business benefits.

The EBU is now looking at specs and requirements for the broadcast industry, and will host a plugfest in September.