Workshop report: Better QC using IMF (IBC 2023)

The HPA IMF UG hosted a workshop at IBC 2023 where 28 stakeholders from the media supply chain, representing both users and suppliers, explored using quality control (QC) with the Interoperable Master Format (IMF). This report summarizes their discussions.

What is QC?

QC ensures consistent consumer experiences, prevents technical failures, and avoids regulatory penalties. QC involves testing a media asset against a list of requirements, ranging from objective, e.g., ensuring that the audio loudness level remains below a specified level, to subjective, e.g., detecting incorrect color conversions.

Performing QC is costly. QC involves complex operations on large media files and expert human review. It is therefore critical to avoid performing QC multiple times on the same media assets.

Failing QC is costly. Failing QC nearly always means human intervention, which does not scale, and redelivery, which takes time and incurs expenses. It is therefore critical to minimize QC failures.

Minimizing QC by sharing assets across program versions

IMFallows the re-use of media assets across versions of a program. As such, IMF makes it possible to avoid repeating QC on media assets that are shared across versions of a program. This results in significant cost savings when, for example, a small part of a program is modified to correct an error or when multiple language versions have largely identical video content.

This, however, comes with challenges. Tools must provide context is needed when performing QC on a new part of a program: while the new part might pass QC on its own, it might not when considered with the rest of the program. For example, a video frame might have been duplicated where the new part meets the original program. It is also necessary to design workflows such that QC results on the original part of the program can be trusted when performing QC on new parts.

Avoiding rejections from expected failures

Consider, for example, a program where a long silence is part of the storyline. Such a program will likely repeatedly fail QC tests designed to detect missing audio, potentially resulting in multiple rejections as the program moves across the supply chain. QC tests that a program is expected to fail should therefore be captured as machine-readable data and as early as possible in the supply chain. It is also critical that such expected-failure metadata remain synchronized with the program across the supply chain.

IMF is uniquely positioned to be the source of expected-failure metadata: such metadata is generated at mastering, where IMF is typically used, and IMF allows rich metadata to be synchronized with a program. Additional specification work however remains to fully define the syntax of expected-failure metadata.

Automating QC using machine readable reports

Automation is impossible without standardization. Today, QC reports are routinely shared in a non-machine-readable form, e.g., as a PDF file, and using vendor-specific terminology. This makes it difficult to automate QC, keep QC data synchronized with the program, and trust QC data across the supply chain. Standardizing QC data is a non-trivial problem given the historical disparities in QC practices worldwide. Efforts, such as EBU QC (, are underway to standardize QC tests.

Next steps

As the number of programs explodes worldwide, IMF offers the opportunity to reduce QC costs by reusing assets across versions and being the source of QC data for the supply chain. Challenges remain in standardizing QC data and designing workflows and tools that make use of it. Get involved today with the HPA IMF UG to contribute to these efforts.


Many thanks to Tedial, who kindly sponsored the location and catering, and to our program committee: Fereidoon Khosravi (chair), Andrew Dunne, Andy Quested, Brian Holter, Harvey Landy, and Bruce Devlin.


Pixelogic Media Partners, Venera Technologies, BBC, EBU, Amazon Studios, Tedial, RTL, Marquise Technologies, Andy Quested, Mr. MXF, Lum::Invent, Netflix, MediaArea, Colorfront, Motion Picture Solutions, Deluxe, Sky UK, nomalab, BFI, Bitmax, Walt Disney Studios, Sky UK, Ateliere Creative Technologies, Dolby Laboratories, DI Factory.


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Workshop @ IBC 2023: QC for IMF

The IMF UG invites you to apply to a workshop at IBC 2023:

      Topic:    Quality control for the Interoperable Master Format (IMF)

      When:   September 16, 2023 from 13:00 to 17:00

      Where:  Eye Museum, Amsterdam

This unique event will bring together decision makers from the user and supplier communities to discuss the state of the art and future of QC for IMF across the supply chain, from the perspective of veterans and newcomers.

The workshop will be organized around short presentations and interactive discussions. A report summarizing the conclusions of the workshop will be published.

Apply today

A response to your application will be provided on August 4, 2023.

NAB 2023 panel: Cloud playout workflow using IMF

Can IMF be delivered directly into broadcast playout workflows? Oh, yes, it can! We have a cloud-native multi-vendor implementation to prove it. Join us on Monday, April 17 at the NAB show and hear directly from the folks that built it. In collaboration with SMPTE.

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Workshop report: IMF in broadcast workflows (IBC 2022)

The HPA IMF UG hosted a workshop at IBC 2022 where 34 stakeholders from the broadcasting community, representing both users and suppliers, explored using the Interoperable Master Format (IMF) as the source content format in broadcast workflows. This report summarizes their discussions.

UHD Transition

The broadcast community is facing a transition from HD to UHD programming. This transition requires a new program exchange format but also offers the opportunity to upgrade workflows so that they are more efficient today and more resilient to future requirements. For example, the time and cost involved with re-delivering complete programs when only a small part is defective is amplified by the larger size of UHD programs.

The Interoperable Master Format (IMF) is a worldwide standard for exchanging and archiving TV programs, movies, and ads. It is component-based: audio, video and access services files are stored separately and synchronized on a common timeline using a single playlist file.


IMF is deployed today, both in internal workflows and as a delivery format by large content providers and broadcasters: Netflix, BBC, Disney, Deluxe… Several attendees indicated that they are actively evaluating it.

IMF supports UHD today and is implemented by a wide range of commercial and open-source tools, including mastering, QC and transcoding tools. For example, the recent addition of an IMF demuxer to the FFmpeg, Avisynth and VapourSynth open-source toolkits has significantly reduced the barrier to adopting IMF.

IMF allows the re-use of components across deliveries and versions, reducing QC, making deliveries faster and requiring less storage for archives. One participant reported that they had saved 40,000₤ in QC costs alone by avoiding having to QC multiple times components shared by multiple deliveries. Component-based delivery and storage is also particularly attractive for cloud-based applications where bandwidth is limited.


While the IMF technology is mature, there is still little operational familiarity with component-based media processing and IMF is often used as a flat linear mezzanine, creating an obstacle to realizing the full benefits of IMF. For example, while IMF carries rich metadata that allows the location of color bars or candidate commercial insertion points to be identified, the automated use of such metadata during playout is not common practice.

Participants highlighted that it is preferable to modify one’s workflow to take advantage of component-based media, and thus of IMF, instead of shoehorning IMF into existing linear workflows. Such a transition should be planned over 2 to 3 years and account for education and onboarding.

It was also noted that several traditional playout and media server vendors do not support IMF, despite IMF using many of the technologies (playlist and MXF files) that they are familiar with.


It is unlikely that IMF will displace current formats and practices for HD. It was however emphasized that the future is not flat, and that IMF allows a broadcaster to both transition to UHD today and be prepared for future technologies. The future might include, for example, object-based media as identified by Ofcom, rights metadata or access services such as sign language.

Now is therefore a good opportunity for the broadcasting community to collaborate around developing best practices for component-based workflows and develop delivery specifications around IMF.


IMF Product and services
IMF Open-source
IMF Explainer


BBC, Colorfront, BFI, Ateliere, DI-Factory, Mr. MXF, NRJ, Netflix, Sky UK, Deluxe, Venera Technologies, Sky Italy, CST, Vidispine, Arte, Amazon, filter Media, Tedial, Black Photon, RTL, Marquise Technologies, Lum Invent, Aveco, ITV, Via Play, RAI, Fraunhofer IIS, Dolby, Rohde & Schwarz, MediA Digital Nutty, BBC Studios.


Many thanks to Ateliere and Deluxe, who kindly sponsored the location and catering, and to our program committee: Andrew Dunne (chair), Julián Fernández-Campón, Kirk Bradford, Laurence Stoll, Mark Pascoe and Simon Thompson.


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IMF Explained

Looking for an introduction to IMF from industry experts? Check-out the recording of the March meeting of the SMPTE Hollywood section.

Report: IMF State of the Union (Fall 2021)

Download our fall 2021 report on the state of the Interoperable Master Format (IMF), covering announcements, new specifications, upcoming events, open source…

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