QC Series: Introduction— It’s All About Quality

8 min read
Camera card gets offloaded at the DIT cart, then quality check happens in Silversatck

Quality control (QC) in movie production is not just about striving for technical perfection; it’s about safeguarding the artistic vision, smoothening collaboration by meeting industry standards, and finally delivering a product that resonates with audiences. QC plays a crucial role in the success of a film, and how much it costs to make. As an indispensable part of the filmmaking process, QC spans from pre-production (e.g, camera and gear checks), to the main production (checking the daily footage) to the final phases of editorial and final post-production.

However, checking quality is not enough to control quality. When issues are detected, they need to be properly documented with industry-standard methods and dedicated tooling so that they are effectively addressed. Standardizing this process simplifies the understanding of each QC issue and allows for more efficient workflows. 

As our software is at home on-set or near-set, this article series focuses on the main production. It demonstrates how to use Silverstack’s features for not only identifying but also documenting and reporting quality errors in daily production quality control. We will also look into Netflix’s proposal of a production QC glossary, which standardizes the language used to discuss QC issues and show you how you can benefit from this within the Silverstack features.

Quality Control During Production

Throughout production, unnoticed QC issues may require reshoots, unexpectedly inflate post-production and delivery expenses, and cause nerve-racking insurance claims. That’s why you want to uncover them on set or near set as soon as possible. As Netflix puts it[1]:

Quality control (QC) during the production phase is perhaps the most business-critical of all the QC types. It provides the first opportunity to flag issues that may be caught further downstream in the production process.

Maximizing production efficiency at scale requires automation and streamlined workflows as well as effective global collaboration across multiple practitioners, vendors, and crew members. Successful collaboration relies on communicating QC notes promptly and accurately with recognizable consistent terminology.

Netflix

Netflix recommends differentiating three stages of production QC: Visual inspection of original media files during offload, full QC, and editorial rushes sign-off. For best practices, the responsibility for each stage should be given to a different person or team.

Historically, there was not a universal language for production-oriented quality control, which made communication and efficient workflows difficult. To address this, Netflix proposed a standardized production QC glossary, along with a dedicated taxonomy to describe QC problems— which our Silverstack product family helps you to identify, track, and report.

The Netflix Production QC Glossary 

Efficient collaboration requires accurate and unambiguous communication. The introduction of the Netflix production QC glossary facilitates the widespread adoption of consistent QC terminology, so everybody from set to the dailies lab, editing, production, and finally post-production can use the same language to discuss issues.

Netflix collaborated with a consortium of global dailies experts, conducting industry interviews to curate a universal production quality control glossary. This glossary consists of a comprehensive database of “QC errors” in a standardized taxonomy that applies to all projects, regardless of their type, location, or scale.

Each QC error is listed with a clear title, like “Out of focus,” a description like “Focus rests outside of the ideal field for a long period of time,” and a unique code with a defined taxonomy. For “Out of focus” this would be `C-201’.

  • C” refers to the department “Camera”.
  • 2” refers to the subcategory “Focus issues”.
  • 01” is the error code referring to “Out of focus”.

The taxonomy also defines an optional structure for advanced information. For example, `C-201:?TR#A[09:10:22:03-09:10:23:10],’ would provide the following additional information:

  • ?TR” – Error is located in the top right of the picture
  • #A” – Severity level
  • “[09:10:22:03-09:10:23:10]“- Timecode

This machine-readable naming convention allows you to use these codes to initiate specific workflows or automation in your pipeline or trigger specific alerts for different departments. You’ll find further information about the glossary and the taxonomy at Netflix’s partner help center[2].

Other production QC errors that might be useful to know:

  • Visible production crew: M-302 – Crew is visible in a take.
  • Boom in shot: M-401 – The boom dips into the frame lines on a take.
  • Visible production equipment: M-400_096 – The on-set technical equipment associated with a film/television shoot is visible in the shot.
  • Lens flare: C-405_085 – “Lens Flare” is the refraction of light through a camera lens, causing a flash and potentially a light glare to be visible in the frame.
  • Generic Exposure Issues: C-100 – Image result is over or underexposed either entirely or partially during the shot.
  • Corrupted Codec: I-701_078 – The codec is corrupted and the file is not readable.

QC Related Features in Silverstack

The Silverstack story starts with the offload. Guaranteeing data integrity in the replication of the original camera negative (OCN) files is an important part of quality control. For this aspect, there are widely accepted best practices like checksum verification, and the 3:2:1 backup principle[3]. Our Silverstack product family gives you the toolbox to implement QC with ease in streamlined workflows. Check out our related blog articles[4] and the Knowledge Base[5] for more on this topic. 

When footage is registered in the library, you can start taking a closer look into the content— even while the backups are still running. Silverstack offers playback support for all major camera formats (while some RAW formats require at least Silverstack XT). Intuitive Playback[6] controls allow you to easily navigate between clips, as well as within an individual clip. 4k-SDI output[7] in Silverstack XT and Lab supports playback on professional broadcast monitors. For more elaborate inspections, you might want to check out the visual control[8] features— but don’t worry, we’ll cover some of those later on in this series.

You can store your QC findings associated with the affected clip in the Silverstack library. The user info tab[9] allows you to add ratings, comments, tags, and cue points— all in one place near the playback window. Cue points are especially interesting for documenting QC errors, as they can be categorized and allow you to comment (best case: using the aforementioned glossary) on a specific timecode or timecode range of a clip. You can speed up this process by using the quick-entry[10] menus, defining your own keyboard shortcuts[11], or configuring a Stream Deck[12] device with the commands you need the most.

Some QC errors might not be limited to one clip only. As Silverstack automatically extracts metadata from all clips you can use the library to trace correlations and find other affected clips. Let’s say you identify a visual error and assume it is due to a scratch on a neutral-density filter or lens. You can quickly adapt the metadata columns in Silverstack’s table view[13] to show the lens serial number, along with the ND filter value, and use this information to clips shot with related setups and quickly identify what other clips might be affected. You can also filter the whole library by specific metadata[14] and create combined filter predicates, e.g. to only list the clips shot with a specific camera and ND filter.

Finished your quality check? Then it’s time for reporting. Netflix hits the nail on the head when pointing out: “If QC notes do not make it downstream to the next production stage, there is no benefit from QC notes.” When you use the QC glossary to document your findings, a standardized quality report is just two clicks away! The best practice to hand the QC notes downstream is the customizable clips report[15]: Simply make sure you include in the report layout the fields you used for documenting the issues (e.g., the “Cue Point” column), and they will show up comprehensively and consistently in the PDF. For best production efficiency, the QC notes can also be included in exchange formats[16] for other applications, such as ALEs, XMLs, or CSVs.

Summary and Outlook

Quality control during film production is important to save time and costs. Identifying and clearly communicating problems early on is mandatory for efficient workflows. Silverstack comes with a comprehensive toolset for identifying, documenting, and reporting quality problems. The Netflix production QC glossary introduces a common language to document and discuss them across departments. 

The next article in this series will provide a thorough examination of Silverstack’s outstanding exposure inspection tools and how to use them for QC.

[1] Netflix QC Glossary Introduction

[2] Netflix’s Partner Help Center

[3] The 3:2:1 Backup Principle

[4] Related Blog Articles

[5] Knowledge Base

[6] Playback Controls

[7] 4k-SDI Output

[8] Visual Controls

[9] The User Info Tab

[10] Quick Entry

[11] Keyboard Shortcuts

[12] Stream Deck

[13] Table View

[14] Filter the Whole Library by Specific Metadata

[15] Customizable Clip Reports

[16] Exchange Formats


Further Reading

Until we publish the next article in the series, read the links below for some more information!


All posts in this series:

The Complete Set-To-Post Software.

Test Silverstack Lab with our free 10 day trial!

About the Author
Franz is a product manager for media management products. His experience in the film industry is versatile and paired with a solid background in IT. He’s passionate about smooth workflows and eager to make the user experience even more consistent and self-explanatory.