Preparing TV commercials for broadcast production can be a daunting task. There are so many variables and requirements, each station has its own specifications and guidelines, in addition to the various national advertising standards codes and practices. So what are the most common issues that tend to arise during TVC delivery?

The customer service team at Dubsat often come across several common issues during broadcast ad delivery, so we’ve compiled 3 blog posts with the common issues to look out for. These issues cover three general areas: visual considerations, video quality issues & audio issues and the clapper board (also known as a slate, potential quality issues with the visuals, and audio.

1. The Clapper Board/Slate

Color bars, tones and countdown clocks are no longer required at the beginning of most TV commercials.

What is needed for every commercial, however, is the clapper board (sometimes called the ID board or slate).

The delivery service you are using may require the clapper or slate to be part of the video already, or supplied as a separate image file.

Clapper/Slate Information

The clapper/slate should contain four key pieces of information:

  • Key number- should be no longer than 13 characters and cannot contain any spaces or any of the following @!#$%&*
  • Duration: e.g. 30 seconds or
  • Aspect ratio of the ad
    FYI: The Dubsat system is set up to convert files to 16:9 aspect ratio, this is why we require material to be supplied to us as 4:3 anamorphic file to begin with. All stations require material to be supplied in 16:9, and although most won’t ask for 4:3 title safe – you do need to make sure that it is within 16:9 action safe.
  • Declaration that the audio levels have been set to comply with OP48 (Australia) or ATSC standards (US)

Of course, the clapper or slate can also display other things, such as the client name, the product/service being advertised in the commercial, the title of the commercial, and the agency.

Example of a clapperboard:


2. Aspect Ratio

Since moving from tapes to digital delivery, one of the most common problems plaguing broadcast commercials has been aspect ratio.

Most broadcasters will broadcast footage in 16:9 aspect ratio. But if you are using a ad delivery system, it’s usually easiest to provide your 16:9 commercials as 4:3 anamorphic files. The delivery systems will convert the file into 16:9 automatically for you.

As always, these requirements can differ depending on your broadcaster and delivery solution provider, so make sure to check with them and the technical specifications they provide for submitting your files.

See diagram below:


If material is supplied as 4:3 to the client they will need to add pillar-boxes to the sides as the screenshot below shows:


Also in this screenshot you can see the letterbox along the top creating a ‘postage stamp’ effect, material like this will be accepted in Australian stations but not at New Zealand stations

3. Title and Safe Areas

Related to aspect ratio are the title and action safe areas. To ensure any critical textual or visual information is seen by viewers using older TV sets, broadcasters have typically specified title safe areas in the middle of the screen.

With current television sets, the larger action safe area can also be used. While title and action safe areas have traditionally been in the 4:3 aspect ratio, many broadcasters in Australia have standardized to the 16:9 safe area. In the US, where the market is mixed, both 4:3 and 16:9 title safe are used.

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