Content remains king, especially as consumers are making choices on which OTT platforms to retain. Consumers want both quality content and they want it in a quantity that has, to date, been unprecedented. More people are watching more content on more devices than ever before, and the challenge has been to serve them not only with sheer volume but with relevant volume.
One of the key issues facing media organizations is a potential lack of understanding for which titles are in their own libraries; effective Title Management is only as good as the quality of the information in the catalog. Additionally, there can be a lot of duplication. Most titles will have a cinema or broadcast master, and many operators and streaming services have added their own audio requirements to that, their own subtitling requirements, different watershed and censoring edits, their own graphics requirements, and more, with the result that it is easy for a video library to have a significant number of copies of what is essentially the same program.
Cloud-based storage has helped solve most of the pain points involved in running a large media library. Cloud-based content storage platforms provide rapid access, OpEx payments, and enable media organizations to store their content more cheaply and access it more speedily than ever before. Storage costs and duplicates are a significant cost in themselves when you consider that a large media library can easily run to thousands of titles.
This is where IMF comes in. The Interoperable Mastering Format (IMF), is a SMPTE standard that has been designed to store content in multiple formats with maximum efficiency. It works by creating a single master version of a piece of video content, whether it be a movie, a TV episode, or a commercial. Once that master has been made multiple deliverables can be derived from it by simply creating files that log the differences. These are stored as Composition Play Lists (CPLs) referencing the available essence components as required and only take up a handful of bytes, meaning that it is a quick and simple task to distribute differing copies of a title to, for example, a broadcaster, an online streaming platform with subtitles, and an airline that requires content edits.
Indeed, we’ve found that just by implementing IMF in our Ateliere Connect platform when working with a customer’s content library we can save companies over 70% on their ongoing storage costs as it removes the need for keeping entire duplicates of files.
As well as this tremendous increase in efficiency it also brings a degree of standardization to the way that metadata is described. Over the years this has been an ad hoc process, to say the least. We know of major companies where the file naming protocols have changed five times in as many years, others where a single operator named files according to their own idiosyncratic abbreviations, and the operator is now gone leaving behind 256 characters filenames that defy any easy parsing.
With IMF you always know what you have and, crucially, so does everyone else that you deal with in the increasingly lengthy and distributed production chains that make up the modern media landscape.
In many ways, its use echoes the way that other industries have developed, and Just-in-Time manufacturing in particular. In the same way that a car is no longer manufactured until the order is in and all the variables in the specification are decided, so a TV program or movie is no longer converted to a certain deliverable specification until it is ordered. With all the common elements already in place it is then a process of assembly, sometimes transcoding — using cloud processing we can transcode at 35x real-time — and delivery.
When using IMF in your Title Management or Content Hub system, a good metaphor here is an Amazon warehouse. These giant buildings contain literally millions of pieces of inventory, but they know where every item is and how many of those items there are. Because of that it can pick, pack, and post inexpensive items to the consumer in an incredibly quick time and still make a profit. And this is precisely what the use of the cloud and IMF allows broadcasters and other media companies to do; leverage their deep archive and provide consumers with what they want when they want it at a point where profit is still possible.
To learn more, contact us for a demonstration of IMF in our cloud-native Ateliere Connect platform today.