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Industry Groups Collaborate on Metadata

26 Mar, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey

LOS ANGELES — Several industry groups, spearheaded by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) and DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG), are working toward one standard for metadata, aiming to have digital content include the same basic information, regardless of the distributor.

It’s not a simple endeavor, according to Larry Wilk, digital ambassador for DEG.

“Missing or bad metadata is just as bad as non-standard metadata,” Wilk said, speaking March 25 at the inaugural Metadata Madness event. “We want to ensure we have one standard for the industry, and not six sets of standards.

“What we don’t want to do is fall into the bad metadata trap. What our metadata standard is about … is film, TV, EST, VOD, broadband, cable TV, OTT. [And] we’re also focused on the quality of metadata.”

The proposed standard — Media Entertainment Core Metadata — calls for all the basic information expected with digital content (titles, actors, etc.), along with individual encodes for audio, video and subtitle streams.

Besides EMA and DEG, the standard has been endorsed by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), the cross-industry consortium behind UltraViolet, and the Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR), the unique identifier system that puts a digital tag on movies and TV programs.

“This has been a collaborative effort,” said EMA president Mark Fisher, discussing implementation of the standard. “It takes time for studios and retailers to adapt their internal systems to support a new standard and process, and several key studios and retailers are currently in the internal development phase. There are also implementation pilot projects in the works between studios and retailers.”

EMA worked with Amazon, Best Buy’s CinemaNow, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Rovi, and Vudu, to get the metadata standard off the ground (with assistance from Fox, Lionsgate, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros.). EMA looked to DEG “to make sure the Media Entertainment Core Metadata met the needs of studios as well as retailers and could be endorsed by all,” Fisher said.

The groups tapped Craig Seidel, VP of distribution technology for studio-funded tech research company MovieLabs, as the technical architect behind the standard.

“Craig has been a tremendous resource, and the industry is really in his debt for his work on this,” Fisher added.

EMA first started the process with MovieLabs, Fisher said, with the intent to offer the right set of metadata with content for retailers and distributors (and ultimately to consumers).

The “all-inclusive” standard “promotes consistency and automation, which means cheaper, faster, and more accurate data, which benefits everyone,” Fisher said. “In terms of new business, it will lower a barrier to entry in the digital distribution supply chain.”

MovieLabs’ Seidel said that while metadata standards should prove helpful, it’s up to initial production teams to make sure every bit of information is included with content.

“Everyone agrees that [metadata is] important, but nobody wants to deal with it up front,” Seidel said.

That’s a sentiment Dave Stump, chairman of the American Society of Cinematographers’ technology subcommittee, agrees with. He said the idea of metadata has never been a priority at the beginning of a production (he joked that the delivery of background information of content during production should be called “metapaper”).

“When you ask cinematographers what our biggest impediment is [it’s] the inefficiencies of workflow,” he said. “The biggest inefficiency is the flow of data from the set to editorial. This has long been a bottleneck.”

The idea of metadata isn’t new, said Thomas Stilling, VP of worldwide home entertainment for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. But getting everyone on board to recognize its importance is a challenge.

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