'Hi-Def Cowboy' rides into town
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Fri, 22 Jul 2011 11:37

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE…Internationally renowned Los Angeles-based digital asset management expert Bryson Jones (aka the ‘Hi-Def’ cowboy) provided delegates at the Screen Africa Production + Technology Conference, held at Johannesburg’s Coca-Cola Dome on 20 July, valuable insight on how to avoid confusion in managing tapeless workflows.

Jones, who has worked on big projects such as Celebrity Rehab, which generates 1 800 hours of footage a week, made the point that most tapeless mid-sized productions of between two and 10 edit suites aren’t finished, they’re abandoned.

“The stages in traditional tape-based workflows were ingest, edit, output, archive and clean up. In tapeless workflows you have ingest, edit, output, abandon and ignore, until someone decides to buy a new storage drive. Things are very fragmented today due to a variety of different cameras and editing systems and there is no a graceful way to clean up at the end.   

“So drives have ended up becoming the new tape, which is not something they were ever meant to be. Thus we need something to give us order. I call digital asset management the management, tasks and decisions surrounding the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets. I’ve found that smaller companies are paralyzed when it comes to digital asset management,” said Jones.

Some digital asset management definitions include: metadata (data which provides information about the data); hi-res (the original target asset); mezzanine (a mid-res working copy of the video asset – Jones has found that a lot of smaller companies have only this and nothing else); proxy (a low res version of the original target asset); and archive (the long term repository of the primary source of an asset). Archive is not to be confused with back-up, which an ongoing and continuously updating process.

“In the old days things were much easier as one company, like Sony for example, made all the ingest, edit, playout and archive equipment, so there was peace and order in the universe,” continued Jones. “In the new world you have a huge variety in capture (Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Red, Canon, etc.) and edit suites (Apple, Avid, Grass Valley). As for distribution – the options are too numerous to mention. MultiChoice, for instance, has 15 different delivery formats that it accepts. 

“Mid-sized productions have to allocate time in their workflows to allow files to exit gracefully and to know where they go and what’s in them. So where to start the process? The first step is to employ naming conventions - a show code, a date of shooting and a reel name. Next, create coherent folder structures - I spend lots of time on this stage.

“Following this stage collect metatdata about these files and make sure that your data is exportable and transferable. “Start small and don’t skimp on storage,” stressed Jones. “In terms of archiving it’s very important to have two copies of everything, preferably in different locations. My first law of digital data is that data that doesn’t exist in two places doesn’t exist.”

Regarding storage formats Jones advocates tape such as LTO, which is linear and holds 1.5 terrabytes of data on a single cartridge. It’s very small and lasts for 35 years.
If you’re wondering about the name ‘Hi-Def Cowboy’ – it stems from the fact that Jones’ father is a cattle rancher. “No matter what you’re moving, whether it’s media assets or cows, they’re your power,” concluded Jones.

For more on the ‘Hi-Def Cowboy’s’ secrets to digital asset management look out for the September issue of Screen Africa.

(Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)

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