Squeezing Profit from Every Video Frame
“It's a strange profession you have. You take people's lives, make lies out of them.” – Fletcher, “The Final Cut,” Lion Gate, 2004
Today, it’s not just producing eye-popping content, it’s monetizing it … every bit and byte
Networks, local stations, studios, YouTube (100 hours uploaded every minute), Yahoo, Amazon, Netflix, AOL, others – there are so many choices it’s no wonder scheduled show viewership is down.
Thanks to all of the advances that have been in cameras, really good content is easier to shoot, produce, prepare for consumption (viewing).
Digital cinema cameras enable:
- Shooting raw 4:4:4 streams with full-color correction and widescreen aspect ratios at full 1080 line resolution
- Metadata inserted into each frame for faster, easier composition--even on a laptop in the field
- 2K, 4K, 8K (coming) at 24fps, 30fps, 60fps, 120fps (coming)
In addition, budget digital cinema cameras like the one Blackmagic introduced at NAB are putting quality in the hands of even more indie producers.
Today, the camera and camera storage options cover the gamut.
Capture Opportunities – The latest advances in high-performance, high video quality digital cinema cameras provide features and capabilities we only dreamt about a few years ago. Higher resolutions, faster speeds, multiple sensors and in-camera color-correction/modification as well as metadata and object tags help production and post-production teams deliver outstanding content quickly and economically.
While many feature films and commercials are still using film, the transition to file--and now object-based digital from beginning to end, is rapidly taking place.
Most of the new and promising directors are fully comfortable with digital, computers and storage technology since they have grown up playing the latest generation of complex video games.
The new cameras are being designed to be endpoint devices in the industry’s creative/storage network.
The units are more intelligent with greater capabilities that not only give them more hands-on creative control but also provide efficient post-production and monetization.
The combination of camera advances and the use of digital content is producing growing volumes of creative content that has to be stored and protected from the beginning to the end of the project.
For optimum monetization, content producers are also focusing on preserving the content for long periods of time.
Delila explained, “These moments ... they belong to me. The good and the bad. They're mine.”
How much data are we talking about?
Each digital frame is about 8MB, and if you're shooting standard 24 fps it’s pretty easy to rack up over 1/2TB/hr.
Speed, Resolution, Volume
Increasingly, producers are shooting at 48 and 60fps at standard 4K; and increasingly, 6K and 8K to more than double the RAW content storage requirements.
The creative part of the process has almost become the easiest part of the content creation process.
The “dirty” (and profit-producing) part is done during the ultra-HD production and post-production workflow phase.
This is because content has to be quickly produced and delivered to meet today’s expanded range of consumer options.
Any Time, Any Way – The viewing options have gone through the roof in recent years causing directors, producers and content owners/distributors to scramble to deliver just the content viewers want, when they want it and on the screen they have at that specific time. The Channel of One is forcing content owners/producers to ensure they can maximize their return for every bit of content.
The challenge for content producers, owners and distributors is that today, people have thousands of channels, multiple screen configurations available and a growing realization/expectation that they now have the luxury of watching Channel Me.
To meet this constantly changing requirement, the content owners and distributors have developed a building block hierarchy of content, delivery options and user presentation.
Deliverables Pyramid – Life used to be relatively simple for the entertainment industry. Produce the content, deliver it, get paid. Today, with the consumer in more control, the content has to be available in a more open format so it can be delivered through a growing range of channels and with a wide range of interfaces for optimum enjoyment.
To provide optimum delivery flexibility, organizations use an open post-production structure that enables them to draw components/segments from an increasingly richer content library stored for fast delivery in high-capacity hard drive online libraries.
Separated Components – Increasingly, entertainment is digital from the moment it is shot to the time it is viewed; but every frame, every bit of information must be secured, protected and preserved in the most reliable, most economic storage level possible. Then, each component can be accessed and repurposed as needed for enhanced monetization.
The file-based digital workflow is generally stored in the object-based repositories for fast access of specific segments/shows.
Hot, Cold HDs
A senior executive at Western Digital explained that the higher-performance, higher-capacity hard drive storage libraries make more content available for repurposing and delivery.
The growing acceptance of the solution is the result of user management wanting to minimize the need for high-cost SSDs and to drive down their TCO (total cost of ownership) compared to old-fashioned archiving options.
Ultra-High Value - Entertainment content does touch the cloud during production/post- production but this is usually fleeting because specialty houses are spread around the globe and transient cloud storage is faster, easier than HD shipments. In addition, network/cloud outages and poor SLAs (service level agreements) make most entertainment executives wary of storing their most valuable assets in the cloud.
To help studios control their overall costs, drives can be managed in a wide range of readiness from hot/ready to cool (minimum power) and cold (powering down drives to reduce energy consumption) for older, relatively inactive content.
Industry analysts note that solutions such as Amazon Glacier and tape archives take three to five hours to retrieve files, which don’t meet the needs of “anxious” network/studio executives.
No one agreed with Jennifer when she said, “Perhaps ... some things are best forgotten.”
To continue to drive down their storage costs and streamline their infrastructure while image resolution and frame rates are increasing, the entertainment industry is showing renewed interest in the features/benefits of optical preservation solutions in the field and in the studio.
The solution provides long-term preservation while eliminating power usage except when files are needed. The rack-mounted systems can quickly deliver video segments in under five minutes.
Instant Preservation – The present 1.2TB optical preservation cartridges are an ideal solution for producers/directors to use in instantly mirroring their high-value content being stored on SSD or HD media in the field and in the studio. Every high-definition, high-resolution pixel of RAW content is preserved for use later, for nearline rack storage or offline storage--without incurring any electrical, AC, staff support costs for 30-50 years.
On the set, 1.2TB optical preservation cartridges can be used to mirror the HD stored content so every pixel shot is available to the post-production team.
If the preserved content isn’t needed during the production/post- production process, it can be stored in rack-mounted libraries which provide virtually unlimited storage capacity.
With power and cooling costs doubling every five years, the long-term benefit for the content firms is a substantial savings in energy costs. There are no energy costs unless the write-once, read-many files are needed.
Because the media provides a user-proven data life of at least 50 years (30-year-old discs like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon are still played, enjoyed today).
The importance of long-term, low/no cost preservation of content to studios and networks was illustrated by a study of media and entertainment executives last year which found that more than 45 percent of the organizations said digital archives were never updated.
Entertainment Storage – Storage and process/software management firms have worked diligently to keep pace with the growing storage requirements of today’s rapidly moving entertainment industry. Because of the variety of online access points, improvements have been made in HD storage management so content can go from hot (immediately available) to cold. In addition, ultra-reliable, energy/time conservative optical preservation solutions help monetize the content.
This is somewhat understandable when you consider the entertainment industry is extremely focused on developing new content and new monetization opportunities.
When older tape archives are used, they require constant migration and refresh to protect the content.
Hakman wryly commented, “They say that friends help you move, but good friends help you move bodies.”
In our visits with leading studios, networks and producers, one of their major issues they have with older archiving techniques is having to migrate tapes every three years which they consider a waste of time, money, energy because it only faintly duplicates what advanced hard drive technology and management accomplishes.
What they want is long-term preservation – more than 20 years.
It is essential, according to one studio executive, because most film and video producers make their money on the resale of assets, not on the original presentation.
For entertainment firms that have hundreds of Petabytes of content, they must manage, protect all of the assets.
This protection/preservation represents a major undertaking/cost that is often overlooked … until it is too late.
Constant Motion – Often called “active archiving,” tape solutions require constant attention, power, air conditioning and regular migration to refresh and recheck the content again and again and …
As one executive noted, “Migration isn’t a job, it’s a career.”
Since the industry has moved to object-based, random-access storage, file metadata and indexing can be stored separate from the video files, making them easier to manage, locate and use--even when they are stored in very large entertainment repositories.
Location/information data are treated as objects, separate from the content files themselves.
The object-based storage approach provides a lower cost of implementation, administration and management.
In addition scaling by volume and namespace is becoming a vital consideration for capturing and delivering higher resolution video content.
Hadoop seems tailormade for video content because it provides very efficient streaming access to the data sets.
In addition, Hadoop provides high throughput data access/performance that ultra- HD content increasingly requires.
As the movie and entertainment industry moves to a complete digital acquisition, production/post-production/delivery model, not only does the shooting double the storage requirements but all of the associated asset information also doubles the storage requirements.
Several industry leaders have produced single movies shooting more than 4PB of data and every frame is important, valuable and useable/reusable.
Industry executives state that the industry will reach a true 4K phase in the next year or two, which will enable a complete 4K digital chain from acquisition to post to distribution.
Because of the value of the material, comprehensive and reliable content preservation is a necessity.
As Alan Hakman said, “The dead mean nothing to me. I took this job because I respect the living.”Hits: 100325