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Picture This: How to Optimise Production Data to Drive Compelling Content
Smart content uses a combination of enterprise NoSQL and semantic technology to integrate data from all points in the media production workflow

As the battle for eyeballs rages on, media and entertainment companies are increasingly using digital tools and cloud infrastructure for every aspect of production. Even the iconic wooden clapperboard, used to synchronise image and sound and make it easier to identify takes and scenes, has had a digital facelift as many larger productions have made the switch to "digislates" or "smart slates."

Across the board—from contract to wardrobe systems—these digital tools are replacing the paper clipboards and processes on the set and generating seismic volumes of potentially valuable data.

In order to survive in today"s highly competitive, multi-channel environment, companies must exploit this data to gain crucial insights into how to retain and attract eyeballs as well as how to effectively monetise content. But, instead of making it easier to take advantage of this data, these new digital production tools are actually making it harder to access.

The problem is the data generated on set isn"t available or integrated within the production process and often has to be recreated or manually sourced to make an impact on the business.

But by using a "smart content" approach, leading lights in the entertainment industry are demonstrating the value of connecting data in the production cycle to benefit the entire supply chain.

Messy Data in the Spotlight

Bearing in mind the typical camera generates roughly a terabyte of content per hour and there could be hundreds of versions of any one item of content across each part of an organisation's operation, the scale of the data integration challenge is clear. From accounting through to the wardrobe department, data is generated across each of these multiple disparate systems, resulting in silos of disconnected data.

Adding to the complexity, new digital tools are regularly being added, and each new production creates its own custom IT environment. Defining how to fit together and track all of this data ahead of time is a seemingly impossible task. And having to change it every time a new tool or data source is added could mean spending more time managing the data than actually creating the content.

There's a long list of details generated after a film's completion—ranging from information about the cast to writers and critical financial tasks such as the reporting of actor appearances in the film and product placements. On today's set, the reality is the industry still employs teams of people to re-key data and even watch content after it is produced to catalogue it; it's common for descriptive metadata to be re-keyed up to 22 times during production and distribution. Not only is this costly and inefficient, but it doesn't tap the full value of the original source data, most of which is discarded. So media companies are failing to share the data and use it in operations to spotlight new revenue opportunities such as digital product placements or take advantage of new interactive user experiences such as delving into the behind-the-scenes details.

Framing It All Together

Finding it time-consuming and costly to use traditional extract transform load (ETL) tools to integrate this data, and wanting to avoid redesigning the entire process when the data changes—as it inevitably does—production companies are turning to "smart content," a combination of an enterprise NoSQL database and semantic technology.

The smart content approach means production companies can, for the first time, integrate the many different sources of data generated in production and make that data operational.

The Suitcase, a short film produced by the Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California  was created using digital applications to manage the production, the cloud for storage, and smart content to demonstrate reuse of the production data. The team set out to prove that descriptive metadata from production applications could be collected and made available for reuse instead of having to re-create that data.

They aligned the script, scene, cast and set data to takes. Using this data, the team built an application enabling users to explore data behind the film at any point while watching the film—all directly powered by the data generated in production.

With smart content, the schema flexibility of enterprise NoSQL enables data to be stored closer to the way it's actually used. Data can be loaded as-is instead of defining relational-style rows and columns ahead of time. To make the connections between the data, including linking the production information to the action on the set for each take, smart content uses semantic data to record the relationships between the data. This includes classifications, genres, and relationships between titles and products as well as how characters, films, and series fit together alongside other data from production.

Meanwhile, at production company New Regency, the team took a smart content approach by creating a metadata hub that linked the data from various systems, including those for production management, contractual terms, the script, physical asset management, media management and editing.

This means the data is shared between systems without manual effort. They were able to automate operational reports including those for residuals and product placement using the integrated data.

It's a Wrap

Keeping everyone in the picture by connecting all of the data and content created across the digital supply chain has never been more important.

Using a smart content approach, leading-edge production teams are showing that production data can be used in operations to reduce complexity on the set, automate and streamline reporting, and enable media companies to stay ahead of the many changes in the industry. With better data management, the action can focus instead on clacking those clapperboard sticks together and getting great content in the can.

[This is a vendor-contributed article. Streaming Media accepts such articles and publishes them based solely on their value to our readers.]