The cloud era has enabled a new paradigm in media and entertainment (M&E), not just of content storage, but also the media supply chain process. Footage assembly, editing, post-production and distribution are increasingly online – often remote – activities, but as production companies, VFX vendors and distributors are finding, such workflows come with a host of their own problems.
Perhaps the biggest issue arises because you won't just be storing and managing a single content file for every show or film. You start with a few versions of each title for compliance or localization, and then when it's time to release or broadcast, you'll have to deliver assets to dozens, hundreds or thousands of distribution partners.
Those deliveries will need versions in multiple languages. Depending on the downstream media you'll need timing cuts for commercials or other time-based constraints. You'll need multiple cuts to satisfy territorial classification compliance, often contradictory and all very different.
Storing that many files and managing the delivery of them to the right partner at the right time is a complicated, time consuming and expensive task.
Proxies are also an established methodology, but where they suit streaming of content to the consumer, they're often completely unsuited to non-linear editing.
And overshadowing all that complexity is the ever-present threat not only that getting it wrong will cost you, but that it's very hard to get right. A 2021 Gartner survey said that until at least 2024, 60 percent of cloud computing users will run into cost overruns.
Automate content deduplication and reduce storage footprint and costs
Here’s the kicker. A video file for a given territory might be exactly the same as the file for another apart from text subtitles. Or local classification laws might have mandated that an offensive billboard in the background in just one scene be slightly blurred. In both examples, traditional storage would require two entire video files that are almost exactly the same, blowing your storage and transport costs out.
What if you could consolidate everything that's the same across versions and isolate the (often filesize-light) differences for individual action?
Deduplication does exactly that, letting you package and deliver data to as many partners as you like while reducing your storage footprint by 70 percent or more.
Ateliere Connect is a media supply chain solution with a key differentiator being our unique workflow capability and proprietary machine learning technology called Deep Analysis / FrameDNA. Comparing each frame in two video files, it isolates the ones that are different, consolidating versions and imposing storage needs only by the frames that need to be actioned.
It then lays the footage out as a series of clips in a user-friendly, timeline-style interface, giving the operator the means to approve or reject comparisons either individually or in bulk or leaving the decision to the system, where rules-based procedures perform the comparison assessment automatically.
Either way, the result is the retention or deletion of clips based on the differences the user needs to action, and the saving of potentially vast data storage needs.
The clips can then be consolidated into Interoperable Master Format (IMF) packages, which assemble versions into Composition Playlists (CPL). When the work's been done and the various versions for language, compliance or timing are ready, the CPLs can be used as inputs to prepare the final file for delivery, without the need to store multiple copies of the asset that are virtually identical.
Cut Down on Quality Control Time
Of course, in this day and age it's not enough to give your partners a thumbs up and click 'go'. They need to refer to verifiable quality control standards so that file fidelity, picture quality and countless other compliance standards are met across the entire supply chain.
Sometimes it's an editor or QC checker actually viewing the footage and audio manually, sometimes it's done with automated QC using established tools. Sometimes a mere spot check, where an operator carries out a 3-5 point check, is sufficient.
But it can’t be avoided, and it imposes an inevitable, hard-to-negotiate cost on media businesses. If you have a 90 minute movie in English and require French and Spanish versions, you're up for three fixed-time (and flat-fee, in the case of a service provider) QC checks no matter what. Even if your QC system is automated, the software still has to inspect three full-fat, separate files.
Now imagine you've produced CPLs for the French and Spanish versions, knowing that only the frames containing subtitles will be different. Your QC cost will be fixed for the English version, but now the operator (or QC software) only needs to inspect the unique frames in the other two versions, dramatically lowering the time and costs to check them individually and the QC cost across the project overall.
Real World Results
One media company came to us veritably drowning in data. They had 500 titles in their library, each with four versions containing text versus no text and various censorship cuts for daytime viewing versus the original version.
Each of the 500 titles took up 252GB, meaning their data needs added up to 126TB. Clearly, a deduplication method such as Ateliere's Deep Analysis/Frame DNA tool was sorely needed.
With one title in particular, the versions with and without text took up 126GB each. After Deep Analysis did its work, the texted file came down to 101GB and the text-free version down to 14.6GB. The version without censorship cuts was originally 63GB, and when processed into its texted/text-free versions, it was reduced in size to only 259MB, a reduction of 99 percent.
The end result was that the new storage needs added up to only 54TB for 500 titles, a reduction in the storage footprint of nearly 60%.
While this client only had 4 versions of each title, many clients have 15 or more versions of each title, and with each extra version, the savings multiply. If the same client had 15 versions of each title, their storage savings would jump to 85%!
But it is about more than just storage. This process supercharged the client's ability to deliver titles quickly and flexibly. Using Ateliere Connect's CPL workflow, they were able to render localized versions on demand, keeping and discarding elements based on the requirements of dozens of content partners.
Ateliere Creative Technologies is a leading cloud-native media supply chain company that empowers media companies and content creators to reach consumers on a global scale. The Ateliere suite of SaaS solutions incorporates cutting-edge workflows and formats to make the vision for a studio in the cloud a reality. The nucleus of the Ateliere platform, Ateliere Connect™, delivers core competencies in IMF, parallel scaling, and geographically distributed workflows. Ateliere is built by a team of experts with decades of combined experience at companies such as Amazon, HBO, Netflix, and Microsoft.