Friday, October 14, 2011

The Future Is In The Metadata

It's a while since we've been techie on this blog, so let me rectify this.

Recently I've been having involved discussions about metadata, the stuff that adds tags that gives things like video files attributes and properties. Now, in many parts of cybersphere metatags are easy to deal with - text can be parsed and you can often make up tags dynamically. But with video this isn't possible. Video files are just great big blobs of data until they're decoded and there's little technology out there that can recognise a black cat in a video file and tag it as such.

So, tagging content with metadata is hugely important, but this brings with it a huge new range of challenges. These include:

1) Standardising the tags
2) Storing the tags when the video file is moved or delivered
3) Keeping the tags up to date
4) What to do when editing content ?

Even more interesting are the nature of the tags change depending on who you're talking to.

My friend and colleague Peter McInerney at Sheridans is concerned with legal definitions, with contracts and with the ability to make legal terms consistent; in a recent meeting with Peter Storer, one of the forces behind BXF, the concern is with how to make video content portable across broadcast systems; in the online video world more prosaic standards such as MRSS still hold sway, and my colleagues at Rights Tracker probably have the richest set of video based metadata due to their requirement to map everything from distribution agreements to residual and royalty payments. Meanwhile discussions at WIG focus on metadata as part of the workflow in production facilities and departments.

Meanwhile, at VidZapper we're looking at how you can do so much more with video if you carry metadata in the file (or the file wrapper) itself and have a major project underway looking at injecting additional metadata streams into video files.

Of course, there are also standards bodies who are all over this, including the EBU and SMPTE.

But it seems to me that the next frontier in video technology, and the ability to make video work in ever-more complex distribution environments, and linked to the social web, is the ability to have ever richer functionality built into the file itself.

There's an interesting summary of the tags that are available with various file wrappers here.