Broadcast Leader Elements

Broadcast Leader Elements

Television stations or advertising agencies will provide detailed instructions on their broadcast requirements for producers to follow before submitting their program. However, before exploring the technical specifications of the bit rate, codec, wrapper, GOP structure, etc. you’ll need to ensure you add your broadcast leader elements to your timeline. Although the broadcast requirement varies from station to station (sometimes absent), we have established a common layout of how the leader elements should be formatted.

  • 60 seconds of color bars & tone
  • 10 seconds of black slug
  • 10 seconds of slate
  • 10-second universal countdown (standard countdown that goes to black with 2 seconds left)

NOTE: Always confirm the requirements with the station’s guidelines and stay consistent if you are a weekly program – stations may automate the trim of your leader & tail elements before air.

Color Bars & Tone

Color bars, or color television test patterns, are computer-generated electronic signals produced by a camera or editing software. The color bars (examples shown below) are accompanied by a 1kHz (-20dBFS) audio tone.

Traditional SMPTE Color Bars
Modern HD SMPTE color bars feature a grey-scale gradient

Whenever possible, it is best to originate the color bars from the capture equipment (video & audio). However, they’re readily available in your editing software.

For Adobe Premiere

File/New/Bars and Tone (HD, if HD)/Select your sequence settings to match your content

For Final Cut Pro

Effects tab/Video Generators/Select Bars & Tone (to match your settings)


Your slate tells the station’s traffic department everything they need to know about your program. Our recommended layout is as follows:

  • Client Name
  • Show Title
  • Episode (Industry Standard Coding Identification, or ISCI Code)
  • Episode Title
  • TRT: (program total run-time from FADE IN to black - without the leader & tail elements)
  • Closed Captioned (if applicable)
  • Contact Name
  • Contact Phone Number

Universal Countdown                

A continuous countdown from eight to two with the numbers in the center of a target with two white circles and a rotating "clock arm" animation. At two, a quick 1 kHz audio beep is heard, also known as the 2-pop. After the end of the countdown, FADE IN to the start of your program.

An example exported out of the Adobe Premiere suite

A “tail” element was also mentioned, wasn’t it? It is recommended to add five to fifteen seconds of black slug to your program. Again, confirm with your stations and stay consistent.

That’s where Aberdeen will run the race for you. Our AberFast Digital File Delivery service coordinates with your station distribution list to ensure that you are formatting your content to their specific technical specifications and getting it right every time.