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Defining File-Based Workflows

October 23, 2014

File-based workflows are a continuing issue in the facility. In a session on "Addressing Issues in File Based Workflows: the Joint Task Force on File Formats and Media Interoperability," Clyde Smith, Senior Vice President of New Technologies for FOX Network Engineering and Operations, gave a quick historic look at what has led to the creation of  the Joint Task Force on File Formats and Media Interoperability, a joint venture of North America Broadcasters Association (NABA), the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA), European Broadcasting Union (EBU as an observer), the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), The International Association of Broadcast Manufacturers (IABM) and Ad-ID, representing the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). "We laid out the foundation of the documents we'd work with and how we'd work together and we established working groups," said Smith, indicating two members of Working Groups on the panel.

Harold Geller, Chief Growth Officer of, Advertising Digital Identification LLC (Ad-ID) a U.S-based advertising-metadata system, described why advertisers and agencies care. "Broadcasters have said interoperability and cross-platform use of content isn't a problem," said Geller describing why advertisers haven't been part of the conversation. "They'll say, there's no problem, we'll take your money." The advertising industry, by the way, now understands what metadata is, he noted. "It's important because of cross-platform use of content, he said. "So don't dumb down the conversation." We haven't done a great job of explaining formats to advertising agencies. "Agencies are looking for innovation, for ways of saving money while doing a better job of cross-platform delivery," he said. "The industry could save over $1 billion a year by promoting interoperability. We have to start thinking about how to innovate with content and standardized delivery formats and metadata are the way to do it."

Chris Lennon, President & CEO of MediAnswers, has chaired the Specification Working Group. "Our job is to address the scale of the mess and how it might be addressed," he said. Starting in mid-May, the Working Group attracted 80 members. On weekly calls, 20 participants are consistently involved for 60 to 90 minute working meetings. "One of the early things we tackled is what our scope is, what our actual problem we're trying to solve," he said. "It isn't a lack of standards or practices but that there are so many of them and they're so diverse. Is there a way to harmonize what's out there?" They created a roadmap to come up with actionable tasks. He reported that they'll have a "good set of recommendations quite soon."

The working group's "marching orders" came from the user survey referred to by Smith. "We wanted the users to tell us directly what the problems were," said Lennon. "The response was broadcast-centric but we weighted it fairly among all those 130 people who responded." In the first pass, they consolidated the results into about 50 user stories, which were then consolidated into 17 user stories. "But that wasn't good enough if we wanted to form actual conclusions," said Lennon. The final pass classified four major categories: identification and metadata; file formats and metadata; compound Ad-ID related stories; and out of scope, some of which had "great merit" and will be included in the final report.

Now, the Specification Working Group is in the midst of finalizing its report. "We've looked at 20 technologies out there," said Lennon. "The intent with the final report is to finish by Thanksgiving. Hopefully it'll be more meat than stuffing. It will consist of an analysis of user stories, requirements, a look at existing practices, a gap analysis and then we'll make some recommendations. The Steering Committee will then decide next actions."

Tag(s): Broadcast , File

Debra Kaufman

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