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Time-based metadata and the emerging video landscape. By Zane Vella, Watchwith
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Time-based metadata and the emerging video landscape. By Zane Vella, Watchwith

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No matter how well resourced a media or entertainment company might be, it is near impossible to keep up with every new digital distribution opportunity, and equally impossible to differentiate your …

No matter how well resourced a media or entertainment company might be, it is near impossible to keep up with every new digital distribution opportunity, and equally impossible to differentiate your program content from one distribution outlet to another. The solution is to turn the tables, and for the content owner to offer each distribution partner a variable package of time-based related content metadata associated with each licensed program. This related content metadata becomes the key ingredient for each distribution partner to deliver a differentiated, value-added consumer experience to their enduser or consumer.

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  • 1. MES P E C I A L I ss u e • F A ll / w i n t e r 2 0 1 2 andJOURNALMedia & EntertainmentStrategies. Solutions. 8Ways We Are TransformingMedia & Entertainment Special Reports Know Thy Customer:How Digital Analytics is Changing Entertainment Marketing published by ME S A Everything You Should Know Media & Entertainment Services Alliance About Cloud Computing
  • 2. METADATA“Content is King, and Context is its Crown” –Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Reuters Time-based metadata and the emerging video landscape. By Zane Vella, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Watchwith © Watchwith. All photos are property of their respective owners Watchwith “Metabubbler” time-based metadata QA software. Each rectangle represents specific metadata associated with that frame of the film. M Abstract: Over the last decade a uch of the traditional enter- sode. Unlike traditional program metadata familiar battle cry of the digital media tainment distribution busi- that defines general information applicable executive was “Anytime,”Anywhere,” ness is an analytic and strategic to an entire program, time-based metadata meaning the promise of digital for exercise in windowing and follows the heartbeat of the program content differentiation. In short, this means extract- itself and includes a steady time-code or time- the consumer was to watch “what ing greater return through enforced scarcity reference that refers to a relative time within you want, when you want it, where or by delivering added value through one or the media asset. Fundamental examples of you want it.” And as we look around another distribution channels or partners. time-based metadata include what actors are today, much of that future has arrived This article examines how and why time- currently onscreen, what music is playing, in the form of HBO Go, Netflix, Xbox based metadata is becoming a critical strategic what locations are in the scene, and what fea- and Xfinity – all popular on-demand asset for content owners, and how it enables tured products are on screen at any particular services now available on tablets, new forms of windowing and differentiation moment. phones, computers, game consles, across the digital distribution landscape. Within the realm of time-based metadata, Blu-ray Disc players and connected there is also an important concept of “event TVs. So, what’s next? A New Vocabulary types.” For example, “actor,” “music,” “quiz,” First, some definitions: “time-based meta- “poll,” “behind the scenes video” and “produc- data,” a.k.a. “related content metadata” is tion still” are all types of events or related con- descriptive information related to a particular tent (which can also be thought of as layers) scene, shot, or moment of a film or TV epi- that are associated with particular moments M&EJOURNAL  7 6
  • 3. METADATAin a program. Event types can be anything acontent owner or producer desires that eitheradds value to a program or is related to theprogram. One of the defining characteristics oftime-based metadata is that it is informationrelated to content which is abstracted fromany particular visual presentation or consumerexperience. This primarily means informationin the form of text, images, and links to otherInternet-based content or services. 2 Metadata syndication means providing different time-coded related content to Another key concept is “metadata syndica- different distribution partners, across various digital platforms.tion,” or more simply, fine-grained controlof which event types or layers of time-based pricing, royalty tracking and interoperability across a wide range of distribution partners.metadata are made available to certain busi- across various systems. These requirements There is at the same time, however, a definiteness partners, based on business rules such as have driven a great deal of innovation, and and glaring absence of any unified or efficienttime-window or geographic location. Techni- over the past several years, an enormous way to enhance the consumer experiencecally speaking, metadata syndication is imple- amount of ingenuity, intelligence, and dedica- around that video or any standardized meansmented via access credentials, (a.k.a. API keys) tion has gone into solving industry challenges to deliver value-added related content.that are provided to a distribution partner or around program-level metadata. While chal- While the industry has been successful withto each application that consumes time-based lenges and opportunities for efficiency remain, the first critical step of delivering programmetadata made available by a content owner. great progress is being made, particularly by content to the consumer, there is a distinct industry organizations such as ISAN3 and lack of business tools or “levers” for distribu-Foundational Digital Trends EIDR. tion executives to efficiently create consumerIt is important to identify two broad over- Together, these two trends are an im- demand for their digital assets. Unlike inarching technical trends which are both trans- portant indicator of the direction that the DVD and Blu-ray, each distribution partner,forming our industry and providing the foun- industry overall is heading, and form the basis such as iTunes or Xbox, has their own uniquedation that time-based metadata strategies are of some logical conclusions: If digital file set of requirements for delivering value-addedbuilt upon; first, the dominance of digital file delivery persists or increases, content owners content (if at all) and promotional opportuni-based workflows, and second, the increased will increasingly need to provide their distri- ties also require unique one-off asset produc-importance of more traditional program-level bution partners with metadata around their tion and expense.metadata in digital distribution operations (as assets, and different types of metadata will be This lack of a unified platform for creationopposed to the time-based data). required for different means and channels of and delivery of added-value content may be a Until very recently, program assets were exploitation. Metadata will increasingly be- significant contributor to decreased consumerdelivered to distribution partners via a broad come the means of delivering information to interest in sell-through and ownership models.range of technical means. Broadcast and pay business partners throughout the entertain-TV exploitation relied primarily on satellite ment production and distribution ecosystem. Turning the Tables foruplink, theatrical exploitation relied on physi- Everyone’s Benefitcal delivery of 35mm prints, home entertain- Anytime, Anywhere, But Digital distribution executives not only lackment (DVD and Blu-ray) exploitation was via Now What? a unified means of enhancement and promo-tape formats (DLT) to manufacturing facili- Thanks in large part to standardization of tion for program assets, they also operate inties , and digital exploitation (iTunes, Xbox, digital file formats and the hard work of many a highly fragmented landscape. TraditionalPS3) via file transfer. Within just the last few digital distribution operations teams, most cable, satellite and telco distribution partnersyears, the economics, practicality and opera- large entertainment companies are now able have increasingly complex delivery require-tional benefits of digital video workflows have to reliably deliver their audio and video assets ments to fulfill their own evolving customerelevated digital file transfer as the primarymeans of asset delivery across all distribution Zane Vella is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Watchwith, a softwarechannels. platform to create and distribute time-based related content around films, TV and Once operating within such a digital file commercials. He has 20 years experience at the intersection of TV, Internet, andecosystem, program-level metadata associated software product strategy and has led the development of interactive products andwith those files becomes critical for inventory platforms for media and entertainment companies including Apple, Disney, NBCU,management, merchandising, fulfillment, Netflix, Viacom, and Warner Bros. M&EJOURNAL  7 8
  • 4. METADATAThe solution is to turn the tables, and for the content owner to offereach distribution partner a variable package of time-based relatedcontent metadata associated with each licensed program.viewing habits. In addition to these MVPDs, content owner would provide the consumer ence, as opposed to expecting content owners’a new wave of mobile and tablet applications, with ongoing or evolving enhancements (ac- limited marketing budgets to stretch across allweb video distribution, and OTT partners tive layers of engagement) with their favorite distribution platforms they currently have tobring additional delivery requirements and films or TV programs. reach. Only the content owner or network pro-new valuable ways to connect with the audi- grammer has access to first-run television epi-ence. No matter how well resourced a media The Power of Metadata sodes before their first airing, so metadata syn-or entertainment company might be, it is near Syndication dication allows them to make related contentimpossible to keep up with every new digital This approach is extremely powerful for the such as quizzes, trivia and behind the scenesdistribution opportunity, and equally impos- content owner because it allows them to func- images available in a way that no distributorsible to differentiate your program content tion more similarly to how they have tradition- would be able.from one distribution outlet to another. ally operated. It becomes the content owners’ The solution is to turn the tables, and for responsibility to create the highest-value master The Time-Based Metadatathe content owner to offer each distribu- asset possible, but now that asset is a combina- Ecosystemtion partner a variable package of time-based tion of audio, video and time-based metadata. Creation, production and distribution are allrelated content metadata associated with Individual distribution platform idiosyncrasies part of the time-based metadata ecosystem. From a creation perspective, an enormous amount of valuable time-based related content exists from the earliest stage of pre-production. Similar to popular DVD, Blu-ray and synchro- nized “Second Screen” experiences4, examples of this type of material include early story- boards, location scouting photos, and produc- tion design sketches. These are are all valuable related content that can be set to time in a film or TV episode, and are good examples of how to extract value from existing production arti- facts. Additional examples of existing informa- Example of a movie and TV companion app powered by time-based metadata. tion that can be quickly set to time are music cue-sheets, branded entertainment producteach licensed program. This related content and presentation layer requirements become list, and on-set photography.metadata becomes the key ingredient for each the responsibility of the distribution partner, Applications of time-based metadata alsodistribution partner to deliver a differentiated, and the content owner can focus their atten- open up new creative opportunities for writ-value-added consumer experience to their end- tion and resources on delivering value to the ers, producers, and multimedia storytellers.user or consumer. consumer and marketing those benefits. Instead of leaving related content creation For example, electronic sell-through partners This approach also opens the door for con- to marketing and programming teams, writ-and ultimately the consumers that purchase tent owners to focus on the ongoing interactive ers are increasingly taking responsibility formovie and TV programs through them, can have social and commerce services that may be con- various types of related content metadata asaccess to extensive layers of value-added content, nected to any scene or moment of their con- an integral part of the creative process. Forwhile rental partners and their consumers can be tent, and with the right technology platform example, Fourth Wall Studios is an LA basedrestricted to a more limited subset of metadata, at their disposal, enable the content owner to entertainment company that is creating newand fewer layers of value-added content, if any. benefit from these additional layers of moneti- forms of storytelling where, for example, the In practice, this means that the consumer zation in cooperation with their downstream on-screen characters call the viewers cell phonewho purchases a film or TV program can enjoy distribution partners. at designated moments in the story timeline5.a different, presumably higher value experience, “Turning the tables” though metadata syn- Another example of creative time-basedthan one who rents that same video asset. By dication is also powerful because it challenges metadata creation and production comesextension, this also means that a subscription distributors to innovate and compete with from USA Network where Twitter “hashtags,”model could potentially emerge in which the each other to deliver the best consumer experi- Continued on pg 98 M&EJOURNAL  8 0
  • 5. File-based workflows / “Turning the tables” though metadatacontinued from pg 54 syndication is powerful because it challengesbroadcasters sending to affiliate stations thathave different requirements for formats, frame distributors to innovate and compete to deliver therates and standards. This is also ideal for auto-mating production workflows such as when best consumer experience.camera files are sent for archiving, high bit rateready-for-edit files are sent to a post house, or metadata / continued from pg 80 ing at any moment is critical to differentia-as digital dailies are sent to a producer’s desk- originally intended to drive social media activ- tion in a multiscreen world, and will play antop or mobile device. ity during first-run viewing, are being stored as increasingly important role in differentiation Following post-production, Brevity persistent time-based metadata with particular across distribution partners. As smartphones,can facilitate and improve file based dis- episodes and scenes, so that they can be lever- tablets, and smart TVs proliferate, there willtribution in a variety of ways since much aged by applications and users in later syndica- be increased demand for rich and valuablecontent today is still put on hard drives and tion and VOD. time-based metadata delivered as part of thephysically delivered. For instance, it can Time-based metadata also has important master asset. Increasingly, time-based meta-be used on commercial Internet more cost implications for ecommerce and enable new data will unlock the context of film and televi-effectively and at similar speeds to satellite transactional revenue opportunities for both sion, and will power the new user experiencesand fiber for certain types of distribution content owners and distribution partners. In and new revenue streams that are only pos-requirements. Brevity is currently being 2012, eBay introduced Watch With eBay, a sible on emerging two-way digital platforms.considered for TV distribution opportuni- stand-alone iPad application that surfaces cur- Just one decade in to the twenty-firstties and longer-term, as a way for digital rent auctions and “Buy it Now” items that are century, we are starting to see indicators of acinema to securely move away from hard related to a particular program. eBay has also vibrant metadata ecosystem growing withindrive delivery. demonstrated a version of the application that the folds of the traditional film and TV pro- VOD often involves distribution of uses time-based metadata to surface items that duction and distribution industries. Writerslarge libraries of material, which must be are related to a particular scene, and expects. and producers will increasingly create time-transcoded into hundreds of different for- based metadata as an inherent part of theirmats for each destination. For example, to Time-based Metadata, Win- creative storytelling process, and productiondistribute 400 films to 10 locations that dowing & Personalization companies will increasingly package, license,each require a different format, current One of the greatest opportunities for content and sell that critical enabling meta-layer totechnologies create multiple versions using owners and distributors alike is to leverage their programmer and distributor customers.a transcoding farm that then requires 4,000 time-based metadata to proactively drive con- Programmers and distributors will in turn in-transmissions to deliver. With Brevity, sumer activity in new viewing windows, and creasingly deliver a time-based metadata layertranscoding and transport occur simultane- with new viewing patterns. Through metadata to their cable, satellite, telco, web, mobile andously; so 400 files are sent and delivered in syndication, the same digital file can offer the OTT licensees, so that those consumer facingthe required formats to all 10 destinations consumer a new experience with each view, services can unlock the context of every mo-at once. Brevity can transform this multi- and that experience can be influenced by ment of film and TV for their audiences. nscreen distribution requirement, opening whether it is being experienced in parallel withup additional doors of opportunity for the the first-run viewing, within the Nielsen C3 2 Time-based metadata is typically provided as a JSON or XML formatted message so that a product developer orentertainment industry. window5, or in a VOD session. programmer can choose from available time-based information Brevity enables leading M&E companies Technically speaking, windowing relative and use it as they see fit in a consumer experience.to move beyond decades of inefficient work- to time-based metadata means that basedarounds to embrace a more streamlined and upon the specific time-window at which a 3 ISAN is the International Standard Audiovisual Number a voluntary numbering system and metadata schema enablingcost efficient way of handling file-based viewer engages with a piece of content, a corre- the unique and persistent identification of any audiovisualworkflows. sponding package of related content layers can works and versions thereof including films, shorts, documenta- Since the Brevity solution improves be made available. These time-windows can be ries, television programs, sports events, advertising etc. http://video transport and transcode both inter- relative to first-run or premiere of the content, www.isan.org. EIDR is a universal unique identifier for movie and television assets. http://eidr.org/nally and with collaboration partners, there or personalized to a specific viewer and corre-is tremendous potential for viral growth sponding with successive views. 4 Walt Disney Studios Distribution has been a leadingand acceptance by large global media cus- innovator of synchronized consumer experience on a tablettomers. After a successful NAB launch in Time-based Metadata and associated with a film. More info available at http://disney- secondscreen.go.com/ 5 Founded in 2007, the Culver City-April, Brevity is now working with lead- the Future of TV based company develops new properties delivered via Interneting networks, studios, content providers, Over two decades of video product develop- browsers, smartphones, game consoles, TVs, movie screens andsports teams, and production houses to ment, time-based metadata has emerged as one in the physical world. http://fourthwallstudios.comredefine key media production and distribu- of the most important components of a suc- 5 Nielsen C3 is a metric launched in 2007 which refers to thetion workflows in the U.S. and around the cessful digital video distribution strategy. This ratings for average commercial minutes in live programmingworld. n descriptive information about what is happen- plus three days of digital video recorder playback. M&EJOURNAL  9 8

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