- Friday, Apr. 1, 2016
Workflow has always been a key component to production and post. In fact, as digital took over from analogue, the shifts in workflow were all pain points that took years to resolve. The same thing happened when standard definition switched to high definition, a path that relied on manufacturers to upgrade existing gear and manufacture new equipment, and for all the connective points to be made at every step of the workflow. As those digital assets became increasingly “virtual”—as opposed to physical assets—workflow famously became a snowflake, every one different from the next one.
Since the end of celluloid’s dominance, production and post companies, content creators, owners and distributors have longed to return to a simpler, more standard and reliable workflow. Now, much of that promise is being realized through the implementation of such technologies as the cloud, even as the number of formats, standards and platforms multiply. The pace continues to quicken, as UltraHD 4K, high dynamic range, over-the-top content and even virtual reality grow, creating new workflows.
Unlike past transitions, however, speed is of the essence. We simply can’t wait to distribute assets and prevent their piracy. Here’s a story of how one international company is dynamically adjusting and growing to keep its clients on the cutting edge of the asset life cycle.
Prime Focus Technologies (PFT) has pioneered virtualizing the content supply chain. “Automation is the key to what we offer in terms of value,” explains PFT president, Americas Patrick Macdonald -King. The company’s core offering is its CLEAR Media ERP Suite, that creates a connected enterprise and digital ecosystem. CLEAR offers such key advantages in a complex and competitive marketplace—cutting 30 percent of operational costs and gaining 40 percent more efficiencies—that nearly all the leading companies of Hollywood rely on it. PFT’s client base includes Disney, 21st Century Fox-owned STAR TV, Warner Bros. Television Studios, CBS Television Studios, 20th Century Fox Television Studios, Relativity Media, Legendary Pictures, Starz Media, Lionsgate, A&E TV Network, Crown Media Family Networks, FX Networks and many others.
King says that the biggest trend he’s noticed over the last year is the increase in over-the-top (OTT). He notes that the rise of OTT isn’t simply because more content is created natively for the Internet but, rather, because previously linear TV programming is being distributed to a multiplicity of platforms. “The model has changed,” says King. “Now it’s hyperdigital, and these online distribution platforms need to get the content quickly and efficiently.” That means turning around programs not just for dozens of online platforms from Hulu to Netflix and Verizon but also for different territories. “Different metadata, promotional materials and so on are distributed on a global basis,” King adds. “It’s done in these quick sprints to get the material out before it’s pirated, so automation is critical to monetize their content in the best possible way.”
PFT has also developed an equation for the all-important use of metadata with OTT content: Content + Tags = Asset. “With its detailed and multilayered smart metadata, PFT enables its client base to fully monetize their assets via what it calls the DEE (Discovery, Engagement and Experience) moment.” “Instead of arranging logistics for every single provider in terms of video, metadata and marketing requirements—all those localization requirements, with CLEAR we have the ability to package them automatically, streamlining the distribution of content,” says King.
That PFT has adapted so readily to the needs of its client base now shifting into streaming platforms speaks to the strength of CLEAR Media ERP suite’s distribution capabilities. King also points out that CLEAR has given multichannel networks such as VICE and Nerdist the kind of speedy turnaround they need. “These networks create an abundance of content all the time,” says King, who reports that PFT has a similar application for Lionsgate with regard to that company’s marketing materials. “Many times they want to get published as quickly as possible. For Nerdist, as an example, we’ve used it so they can upload a single episode of the show and package it for eight sites, virtually, through the [CLEAR] software.”
Being able to handle such massive amounts of media for digital outlets around the world in a cost-effective manner is in large possible because PFT’s CLEAR Operations takes place in the cloud. PFT can also provide a variety of tasks, from transcoding to storage, on the cloud.
With the proliferation of digital piracy, screeners have also become a flashpoint. Prime Focus Technologies recently launched SecureScreener, an application that is a substitute for easily-pirated DVDs and is distributed online as part of CLEAR. “SecureScreener is a highly scalable secure application that people are using to securely view content online,” says King. “We have dual authentication, watermarking and viewing it through the piracy-proof Secure Player saves the recurring costs of DVDs.” He calls SecureScreener a “simplification tool” in that it enables a production to securely send out content to hundreds of people without the hassle and risks of mailing DVDs.
Then there’s Media Asset Management (MAM), that has grown, notes King, who reports that a major content owner can have up to 50 MAM deployments. “Controlling all that is extremely difficult,” he notes. “If your asset management system in Burbank doesn’t talk to the one in London which doesn’t talk to the one in Singapore, how do you find the files you’re looking for?”
As a virtualized end-to-end workflow provider, PFT is well positioned to centrally store and manage metadata, enabling companies to fully monetize their assets. “We hope this is the next evolution,” says King. “We’re looking at metadata for archiving and preservation of assets and it is a high priority for anyone in this industry. With our true cloud-based applications, we have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”