How to put a new codec into MXF

There have been a few twitter discussions recently about putting new media types into MXF. This short blog post gives you a few options on how to do it:

The Best way – via a Standard

The entire standards community is built on referencing other standards. This means that every reference in every document has gone through a due process. You can read the SMPTE due process documents to understand what this means, or you can take my word for it that there are a number of stages that a document must go through where experts in the field are able to check that the standard allows anyone to obtain the documents and that all the document contain enough information to implement the standard. This means that for a new MXF codec:

  • The codec must be defined by a due process standards body
  • The bitstream of the codec must be defined by a due process standards body
  • The mapping into MXF (including the mapping of the metadata from the codec to MXF) must be defined by a standard
  • The “magic numbers” i.e. the coding labels and other MXF metadata unique to this new codec must be defined in a standard and registered at smpte-ra.org.
  • The documents are maintained & published by SMPTE forever.

The whole process can take 6 months to 2 years depending on how well funded it is, the skill of the people in the committees and how controversial it is.

The open-Proprietary way

This is almost identical to the standards way except it is done via a SMPTE process known as the RDD – Registered Disclosure document. The documents pass through committee the same way, but the emphasis is on publishing what has been done rather than making a full, new standard. The opportunity for the committee to change what you write is less and in theory, this should speed up the process, but your documents will never be the reference of a full standard.

  • The codec must be defined by an RDD or a due process standards body
  • The bitstream of the codec must be defined by an RDD or a due process standards body
  • The mapping into MXF (including the mapping of the metadata from the codec to MXF) must be defined by an RDD or a standard
  • The “magic numbers” i.e. the coding labels and other MXF metadata unique to this new codec must be defined in an RDD or a standard and registered at smpte-ra.org.
  • The documents are maintained & published by SMPTE forever.

The whole process can take 6 months to 2 years depending on how well funded it is, the skill of the people in the committees and how controversial it is.

The closed-Proprietary way

This is the fast track – no scrutiny, closed and proprietary way. You register and pay for a private number space with smpte-ra.org. You don’t have to write much down and basically do what you like in your own number space. No standard or RDD can ever reference your work, but you can make everything hold together. You might have trouble persuading a big enough population of software writers to support your closed approach, but that might be what you want

  • The codec does not need a formal definition
  • The bitstream of the codec does not need a formal definition
  • The mapping into MXF can be open source and defined by the code
  • The “magic numbers” i.e. the coding labels and other MXF metadata unique to this new codec are registered in your own private corner of smpte-ra.org.
  • Nobody will know anything about your approach unless you reveal your secrets and maintain them forever.

The whole process can take a month to a lifetime depending on how much effort you put in.

How to choose?

I started the Mr MXF consultancy to specifically deal with this type of issue. It really depends on your business goals for doing the mapping. Contact me with your details and a phone number. I can give free advice, I can represent you at SMPTE and I can do all the work for you. It depends on your budget and how fast you want to proceed.

Enjoy

Bruce