Dcl global Technical Specifications

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DCL Global Technical Specifications



This specification notifies Discovery’s production partners of Discovery’s technical requirements and standards for programme masters, graphics masters, and supplemental programme audio. Production partners are responsible for reading and understanding these requirements and delivering products that meet them. In this specification, “Discovery” refers to any network owned by Discovery Communications LLC (DCL), as well as any of DCL’s joint ventures. The term “production partner” refers to the production company providing a programme to Discovery, whether through commission, co-production, or acquisition.

What is in this specification?

This specification includes Discovery’s technical requirements for SD, HD, and stereoscopic 3D programmes. It applies to programmes delivered in any of the seven television standards that Discovery accepts for programme delivery.

  • 1080i 59.94

  • 1080i 50

  • 1080p 29.97

  • 1080p 25

  • 1080p 23.98

  • NTSC

  • PAL

Production partners must refer to their contracts to determine which of these television standards Discovery requires for their programme.

New in Version 4.0

Version 4.0 of this specification differs from the 2008 version of the specifications in many ways. These changes include:

  • Specifications for 3D programmes

  • New audio configurations

  • New standards for placing text in programmes

  • Different standards for acceptable cameras, mastering codecs, and upconversion restrictions

  • New standards and guidance for mixed frame rates in production

  • Updated audio standards that include new ITU-R BS. 1770 loudness measurements

  • A new format and standard for delivering graphics elements

Version 4.0 contains these changes as well as many others. Production partners with questions should contact their Discovery Production Manager.

Normative and informative language

This specification contains both normative and informative language. The specification uses normative language to state Discovery’s requirements. In this specification, the words “must” and “shall” are used to indicate that compliance is mandatory. Most of the language in this specification is normative, but the specification also uses some informative language. Words such as “should”, “may”, or any section preceded by “NOTE” indicate that a statement is informative. These parts of the document contain background information or present production partners with several options.

Table of Contents

Section One: Video

This section of the specifications details Discovery’s requirements for SD, HD, and stereoscopic 3D video. The SD subsection contains the requirements for NTSC and PAL programmes. The HD subsection contains requirements for programmes delivered in 1080i 59.94, 1080i 50, 1080p 29.97, 1080p 25, and 1080p 23.98. The 3D subsection contains additional requirements for programmes delivered in stereoscopic 3D.

    1. Requirements for SD programmes

This subsection includes the requirements for programmes delivered in NTSC and PAL.

1.1.1 Reference standards for sd programmes

Discovery follows many common industry standards for video format and interchange. All SD programmes must comply with the following industry technical standards.

  • ITU-R BT.601-7 Studio Encoding Parameters of Digital Television for Standard 4:3 and Wide-screen 16:9 Aspect Ratios

  • ITU-R BT.624-4 Characteristics of Systems for Monochrome and Colour Television

  • SMPTE 259M-2008 SDTV Digital Signal/Data Serial Digital Interface

  • SMPTE 12M-1-2008 Time and Control Code

  • SMPTE RP 218:2009 Specifications for Safe Action and Safe Title Areas for Television Systems

  • SMPTE 170M-2004 Composite Analog Video Signal – NTSC for Studio Applications

1.1.2 Acceptable camera systems for sd programmes

Production partners must use only professional-grade cameras, recorders, media and tools. At the request of the Discovery Production Manager (PM), partners must provide a production workflow for review. The Discovery PM must review and approve the production workflow before production can begin. Partners can download the Production Workflow Questionnaire from the Discovery Producer’s Portal (http://producers.discovery.com)

1.1.3 Acceptable mastering codecs for sD Programmes

When creating the master, production partners must only use codecs that meet the following specifications:

  • The codec must use 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 sub sampling for the color difference (chroma) signals

  • The video must have a minimum resolution of 720 by 480 for NTSC, 720 by 576 for PAL

  • The codec must use only intra-frame compression

  • The codec must have a minimum bit rate of 50 megabits per second (Mb/s) for video

  • The codec must preserve audio with at least 20 bits of depth with 48 kHz sampling

These requirements apply to codecs used in nonlinear editing systems, recorders, or any other tool used to create the finished version of the programme master. Production partners may use other codecs for “offline” editing, if they use codecs meeting the requirements for their final “online” edit. If production partners have questions about the qualifications of an editing system or codec, they should contact their Discovery Production Manager.

1.1.4 Aspect Ratio for SD Programmes

Figure 1 Aspect Ratio Examples
roduction partners must deliver their programmes in the aspect ratio specified by the deliverables exhibit of their contract. Discovery uses two primary aspect ratios for SD programme masters: 16:9 and 4:3.

When delivering a 16:9 programme master in SD the production partner must format the 16:9 video as a full height anamorphic image within the 4:3 SD frame (Figure 1). In a full height anamorphic image the 16:9 image is squeezed horizontally by 33%, distorting the image. This preserves as much of the resolution of the 16:9 image as possible while fitting it within the 4:3 frame.

Programmes must not contain a mix of different aspect ratios.

If the production partner’s contract specifies delivery of the programme in a 16:9 letterbox, the letterbox must meet the following requirements.

NTSC letterbox images must be 181 scan lines in height in each field. The top of the image must be at line 50 (field 1) and the bottom of the image must be at line 233 (field 1).

PAL letterbox images must be 216 scan lines in height in each field. The top of the image must be at line 58 (field 1) and the bottom of the image must be at line 275 (field 1).

Letterbox images must not contain partial lines of picture. The top and bottom edges of the letterbox must be full lines of picture.

1.1.5 Workmanship

Production partners must deliver programmes that meet Discovery’s standards for professional workmanship. When delivering a programme on videotape, the videotape must meet the VTR manufacturer’s standards for the tape format. Production partners must create master tapes using VTRs maintained in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions and accurately calibrated to the manufacturer’s specifications. The physical tape stock must be of professional quality and free from damage, creases, or other defects that would cause the VTR to report a channel condition error. Discovery will not accept videotapes that contain channel condition errors. Programmes must also be free of dropouts and digital blocking errors recorded into the programme from other sources.

The programme must be free of errors in workmanship or craftsmanship. The programme must not contain flash frames, jump cuts, or other editing errors.

All programmes must begin with a leader element with industry-standard reference signals and programme identification information. Table 1.1.6 shows the programme leader layout for NTSC and PAL programmes. Figures 2 and 3 show the programme leader and its key features as a timeline.
Table 1.1.6 Programme Leader for NTSC and PAL Programmes

Starting Code

Ending Code




NTSC 00;58;30;00

PAL 09:58:30:00

NTSC 00;59;29;29

PAL 09:59:29:24

NTSC 00;59;28

PAL 01:00:00

SMPTE Color Bars at 75% saturation

Reference tone at 1 kHz on all full mix channels, either stereo or surround, reference tone of 400 Hz on all other channels. For NTSC programmes the reference tone must have a level of–20 dBFS.

For PAL programmes, the reference tone must have a level of -18 dBFS.

NTSC 00;59;30;00

PAL 09:59:30:00

NTSC 00;59;34;29

PAL 09:59:34:29




NTSC 00;59;35;00

PAL 09:59:35:00

NTSC 00;59;49;29

PAL 09:59:49:24


Programme Slate


NTSC 00;59;50;00

PAL 09:59:50:00

NTSC 00;59;56;29

PAL 09:59:56:24


Video Countdown from 10 to 3

Audible tone at each 1 second interval

NTSC 00:59:57:00

PAL 09:59:57:00

NTSC 00;59;57;05

PAL 09:59:57:05




NTSC 00;59;57;06

PAL 09:59:57:06

NTSC 00;59;57;08

PAL 09:59:57:08



Sync Indicator

Two frames of white video and 1khz tone

NTSC 00;59;57;09

PAL 09:59:57:09

NTSC 00;59;59;29

PAL 09:59:59:24

NTSC 00;02;20

PAL 00:02:15



NTSC 1;00;00;00

PAL 10:00:00:00

Programme begins

Programme begins

Figure 2: Programme Leader Timeline for NTSC Programmes

Figure 3: Programme Leader Timeline for PAL Programmes

1.1.7 Time code

The programme’s time code must be continuous, without error, and contain the appropriate flagging information in adherence to SMPTE 12M-2008.

All time code tracks (Vertical Interval Timecode (VITC), Longitudinal Time Code (LTC), and Ancillary Data Area (HANC or VANC) time code) must match exactly.

Programmes delivering in NTSC must have VITC signals on lines 16 and 18 in the NTSC vertical blanking area. Programmes delivering in PAL must have VITC on lines 19 and 21 of the PAL vertical blanking area.

NTSC programmes must begin at 1:00:00:00. PAL programmes must begin at 10:00:00:00

If a programme is too long to fit on a single tape, the programme must be continued on a second tape. The programme must begin on the second tape at 3:00:00:00 NTSC, 13:00:00:00 PAL.

NTSC programmes must use SMPTE drop frame time code.

Table 1.1.7 Time Code Requirements by Video Standard




Time code type

SMPTE Drop Frame


VITC Position

Lines 16 and 18

Lines 19 and 21

Programme Start


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