Buyer's Guide to Media and Entertainment Video Platforms 2015
Consider this scenario: Your production team is shooting a series of environmental and dialogue scenes for an international agency’s commercial campaign. The locations are split between the backwaters of Kerala and the mountainous terrain that sweeps down to meet the ocean, with both locations at least 30 miles apart.
The remote locations and lack of consistent power preclude you from bringing along more than rudimentary gear. In the place of a nonlinear editing system and big monitors, you’re backpacking in to the mountain location with a drone, a few camera bodies, a few smartphones, and a couple laptops.
The client wants to review footage, including a rough cut, two days after the shoot wraps up, but it will take you almost that much time to get back to Delhi—the closest agency office, with next closest being Singapore—so you’ll need to offload the content prep and logging to someone who can assess the content in a proper setting.
If this scenario sounds like your typical day in the wilderness office, or even if you’re part of a virtual team that’s shooting content in one location, logging in another, and editing in a third, you might just be in the market for a media entertainment video platform (MEVP).
To help assess the criteria you should use to compare the various MEVPs on the market, this buyer’s guide gives you five key questions.
Global or Localized?
Several MEVPs we’ve assessed over the past year have the option of choosing a specific geographical spot where your projects or media collections will reside.
This might not be a critical decision that many potential MEVP users face, but for those who find themselves working in Santa Monica one week and London the next, the ability to set a primary geographic location on a project-by-project basis means that cloud-based content is stored at the closest host data center. This is also beneficial for those whose content is of a sensitive nature, in which the content is stored outside of the U.S. or in data centers in a particular jurisdiction.
Authentications and Permissions
The levels of authentication vary across MEVP offerings.
Some offer role-based authentication, in which a user is assigned a specific role—be it commenter, logger, administrator—and content from a particular project is then available for those specific uses. This is helpful, for instance, if one needs to assign temporary access to a series of raw clips, so that they can be commented on or even logged in to subclips.
Others offer project-based authentication, in which each project requires reassigning permissions to a particular user. This is less flexible but perhaps more secure. In these systems, there’s no copy and paste of permissions, or even assets, between projects.
A few MEVPs offer Active Directory (or LDAP) authentication by user or role. These systems most often are media and entertainment extensions of enterprise video platforms (EVP) which we will talk about in a separate buyers’ guide.
All MEVP offerings allow uploading of original content, without alteration. Most will handle MOV files or AVI files, and a few will handle MXF container formats and plain vanilla MP4 files. Several come with both browser-based and dedicated desktop application options for uploading.
For most MEVP offerings, the next step is to create a proxy file, which is a lower-resolution, lower-bandwidth version of the original content. In this way, many assets can be viewed on less robust bandwidth connections, a useful tool for timing and logging purposes. Any comments or logging data associated with the proxy file are also associated with the original file. More on that in a moment.
A few MEVP offerings also provide the ability to transcode content out to multiple internet-based streaming formats. The differentiator in offering transcoding says more about the intended usage of the MEVP than it does of the potential capabilities of that system. For those MEVPs that aren’t geared toward publishing content directly to end users—focusing instead on workflows for editors, producers, and directors—the absence of the full menu of transcode options is acceptable. For those MEVPs that extend the workflow to publishing, however, it is critical that transcoding functionality exists within the overall project workflow.
If one spends time inputting metadata and comments, whether within the online MEVP or through a third-party logging system, does that content need to accompany downloadable versions of the media assets?
A few MEVP offerings allow one to import logging metadata created in dedicated tools, such as Adobe’s Prelude. When the asset is uploaded, associated metadata files (such as XMP or XML files) can be uploaded alongside the media asset. If the metadata was generated later on the dedicated offline tool, against the same asset, it can still be associated via what’s called a sidecar association of multiple files to one media asset.
At least one system also allows round-trip metadata updates, with media assets and their associated XML files downloaded in desktop-specific formats for key nonlinear editing suites. This is useful for those who might have a multisite and multiplatform workflow.
This area is probably the least refined part of MEVPs at the moment, which is a bit surprising given the amount of metadata generated during commenting and logging. A few MEVP offerings provide the ability to search through comments, and a few offer the same for metadata keywords added to the overall logging. As 2015 progresses, we’ve been told that MEVPs will expand their search capabilities, and that comments and keywords generated as part of subclips, then rolled over into cuts-only playlists, will also retain associated metadata and add the ability to search across all content in these rough cuts.
It’s a Wrap!
Going back to our original scenario, it’s easy to see how a robust MEVP might help alleviate the need to carry single-use gear in to remote locations. The scenario is real, played out frequently for clients in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. With the continued advancements in cloud-based media and entertainment video platforms (MEVPs) the likelihood of needing to even carry laptops for these remote types of shoots could disappear over the next 12 months.
[This article appears in the 2015 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook as Buyer’s Guide to Media and Entertainment Video Platforms.]
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