The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts



When you say “metadata” do you mean pre-post, asset management or distribution metadata?

What is metadata. Well, largely it depends on where you are in the production-to-distribution pipeline. We use metadata to solve problems in production, asset management and distribution. Let’s consider each of these problem and how it was solved before the digital era, and where metadata fits into the modern workflow.

How do we prepare for the editor’s creative input with the minimum amount of time spent on that preparation?

Pre digital we relied on labels on tapes and, if we were lucky, a field log, leaving a lot of work logging and transcribing before any editing work can start.

In my vision for the future, more of this information – now known as metadata – will be automatically generated, although until then we’ll get better metadata tracked from the source using easier tools. This is my area of particular interest. We are going to see a transition to smarter tools using metadata and smart computer programs to take a lot of the drudgery out of post production, without losing the need for a skilled human to bring their value to the project. This frees editors for more time to be creative.

How do we find shots, edits, clearances, etc one, two, three or more years down the track?

Tape libraries and production bibles formed our asset management in the past. Depending on how sophisticated the library management was, finding a shot would rely on index cards, tape logs, a folder or even a hand-crafted database.

These tools have metamorphosed into today’s Digital Asset Management (DAM) or Media Asset Management (MAM) System. There are a wide range of solutions that include all types of electronic documents beyond media: scripts, clearances, etc.

How do we keep track of all the variations of a movie or TV show (or commercial) and track all the associated cast, crew, usage permissions, etc through the life of the project.

Historically, tracking all the variations of a movie, TV Show or commercial, across many markets and localized edits and the associated credits and usage rights was, basically, a nightmare.

Now, there is EIDA: Entertainment IDentifier Registry, which allocates a unique ID for every movie, commercial or episode of a Television show. In the metadata world we love unique IDs because we can track other information (a.k.a. metadata) to that ID knowing that it will perfectly match. For example, Rovi link amazing amounts of metadata – including show times in some territories – all linked to that unique EIDA ID.

If you’re an editor, assistant editor, director or producer you need to understand how metadata is changing the industry. What you don’t need to become is some form of metadata geek.

So, what is metadata?

The classic definition of metadata is “data about data”. While accurate it’s completely unhelpful. If you’re in production you’ll be very familiar with the concept, but instead of calling it metadata you’re much more likely to be calling it “notes”, “log notes”, “script notes” or “logging”.

Notes about the script, location notes, script notes, tape or card labels, log notes, and even transcriptions are additional descriptions relating to the shoot and edit that aren’t the media itself. They are all metadata. This isn’t anything new, but the digital world lets us do so much more with metadata than we could with paper notes. That they are searchable alone make a huge difference.

Note: In the jargon-rich world of metadata, the media – whatever type – is referred to as “essence”. Metadata describes the essence.

As we go on I’ll explain more fine-grained ways of understanding and using metadata, but for the moment, you can think of it as any “notes” you might make about any part of the process.

The reason you make those notes – or hope those who are ahead of you in the production chain make those notes – is because it makes understanding the shots (and circumstances) easier. Sometimes the most important user of the notes we make, is our future self, which is why I love Jason Scott’s definition of metadata.

“Metadata is a love note to the future”

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  • Robin S. Kurz · September 8, 2013 at 2:54 am

    I haven’t used any recent iteration of Premiere or Avid, so I’m wondering how or even IF they recognize and use things like metadata from a camera such as the Digital Cinema? In other words, after punching in all the scene, shot etc. etc. metadata, does it even show up (in a usable fashion) in PPro or Avid like it does in FCP X?

    • Author comment by Philip · September 8, 2013 at 9:42 am

      I would expect that Premiere Pro would maintain metadata from whatever source it gets it. It’s very good like that. Media Composer, otoh, has very good support for “classic” metadata (reel, TC) but I’m not sure how it handles Scene, shot, take metadata. To be fair, FCP X has been quite late to getting reel metadata to carry through the entire process. (It does now).

      • Robin S. Kurz · September 9, 2013 at 5:07 am

        It hasn’t always been there? Oh… hadn’t actually noticed. Then again, seeing that I haven’t done any tape-based productions in years, I’m not sure I even need it (which is probably why I never noticed, too 🙂 ). Not even sure how that would work (or what good it would do) with disk-based media. Cheers.



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