Apart from being a camera aficionado myself, I also head the global workflow team and provide technical level management to the post-production division Sim. Over the past few years, my team and I at Sim have overseen workflow on over 100 projects across the globe, collectively managing over eight petabytes of media. In addition to working on notable movies and television series such as “Mr. Robot,” “Narcos,” “Krypton,” and “The Great Wall,” my most significant accomplishment would be automating the visual effects file conversion/delivery process for HBO’s new show Watchmen.
My Journey as the Director of Workflow Services
It has been quite a journey from the time I joined Sim (formerly known as Bling Digital), until now. Today, my team and I play a crucial role in handling various international projects and rolling out dailies in our brick and mortar offices in Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, and Atlanta. Simultaneously, we also set up in Prague, Madrid, Budapest, Bogota, Paris, or anywhere across the globe production will be shooting.
My role at Sim International involves being a technical lead for our post division, innovating new workflows, providing ongoing technical and moral support, and standardizing workflows across the globe. When we work on long-format shows like television series or feature films, we need to maintain a log of every single file to account for each clip recorded and all of its associated metadata. We began by directly managing a shared spreadsheet of this data for the post-production team and ourselves. Eventually, this concept evolved to give birth to globally renowned metadata aggregator tools, like Metabanq, to help post-production teams streamline their communication/workflow process. Moving forward, having databases such as this, also connected with centralized cloud-based storage for the production’s camera negative will be very normal within five years.
Why Do You Need to Centralize Your Metadata
When it comes to managing the workflow between production and post, traditionally, companies/ departments have been exchanging PDF notes. Considering the limitations of PDF, the traditional way of workflow management makes the process cumbersome.
While aggregation and centralization of metadata as part of the post-production workflow is a fairly new topic, the road ahead is all set to embrace new technologies
Therefore, the idea of aggregation and centralization of metadata is to connect the data bank with any department that will be working with these assets, and cut down on re-creation of work and ideally automate many mathematical tasks that can be better served by a computer, leaving the creative work to the humans. Visual effects (VFX) data wrangler notes from the set, camera reports, metadata from the camera, smart lens information, and more can be centralized in such a database. As an example, when a VFX team is on-boarded to work on a shot, it is common that much of the information is lost between the various companies and departments managing said data. Therefore, with metadata centralization, VFX teams no longer have to guess or waste time trying to figure out how things were done and with access to such information many routine tasks will be able to be automated.
How to Centralize Your Metadata
The path to a centralized metadata repository is challenging. Every camera has its column names while different software follows different nomenclatures for their columns. Therefore, sharing metadata between various media sources is very hard. As a result, we have been taking multiple sources of data, centralizing it into a data bank, and using specific filename syntax to define the columns. Considering the arduous nature of this work, there is only going to be a very limited number of companies that would be working on a centralized metadata bank.
The innovation in this space will revolve around how the solution can process the incoming files and save them in a unified format. But before that, governing bodies like American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) is looking to help standardize metadata tags and introduce policies to take necessary steps for the front-end delivery format and make the data acquisition a routine part of the video production workflow.
The Road Ahead
While aggregation and centralization of metadata as part of the post-production workflow is a relatively new topic, the road ahead is all set to embrace new technologies. I have met independent people that have been relying on tools like File Maker for customizing metadata libraries to suit their workflow management processes. However, soon, there will be specialized companies offering services to different studios and production houses. While some newer studios like Amazon or Netflix might set up their in-house teams for metadata aggregation and centralization, many other studios will be contracting niche companies for the task.
The lens committee at the ASC is presently working on some standardization for lens metadata. Also, discussion among different camera vendors and their alignment with some of their metadata aggregation process will help the cause and make it easier to put the control back in the hands of studios for better workflow management.