By Ramón Bretón, Chief Technology Officer, 3rd i –
With the exception of sports and other live events, the era of appointment viewing is over. Today’s consumers want what they want, when they want it. It is no longer sufficient to deliver content on a schedule dictated by the content owners. Television networks have shifted away from the traditional season and instead are moving toward new content dispensed year-round.
Consumer demand for instant content was created in large part by the new breed of content owner: the over-the-top (OTT) service provider, supplying not only catalog content, but vast amounts of original content. In the wake of this on-demand content revolution, all major studios have adapted by licensing their content to established OTT services, while deploying their own platforms for serving content directly to the consumer. This multiplicity of avenues for content distribution, coupled with the need to meet the consumer expectation of constant content, equals one thing: there is more content being created than ever before.
The pressure is on
In order to meet the demand for constant content, production companies and post-production facilities are tasked with increasing their output. The nature of home entertainment is also shifting away from HD to more sophisticated — and more expensive to produce — content featuring UHD resolution, high dynamic range (HDR) with wide color gamut (WCG) images and immersive audio.
Along with these complexities comes the burden of larger file sizes that are cumbersome to manage, transfer and deliver. This new constant content environment is without a doubt a challenge, but one that can be looked at as an opportunity, rather than a hurdle.
Flexibility and quality
In order to take advantage of the opportunities offered in this new era of constant content, it is key for a service provider to look beyond the services upon which it was founded and develop ancillary methods to serve the M&E industry. However, this must be undertaken thoughtfully, by scaling up with appropriate personnel skilled in the tasks at hand. Maintaining quality while evolving is vital for survival.
One efficiency born out of the constant content environment is the transition from legacy file formats to Interoperable Master Format (IMF) packages. While this format has many benefits over its predecessors, not all facilities have the ability — nor the approval from the content owners — to create these packages. Here, then, is an opportunity for a facility well-suited to create these files.
Since these files are created in the final steps in the lifespan of a project, an organization specializing in the quality control review of master files marks an ideal place for these files to be created.
Granting the same level of care and attention paid towards the analysis of a project into creating the final deliverable IMF package is a benefit that an established quality control facility is uniquely positioned to deliver.
Most content owners require vast amounts of ancillary materials to be submitted along with the master files. These files in their native uncompressed format at UHD resolutions can amount to numerous terabytes for every hour of final show length. These deliveries consist of everything from alternate versions of the master to all extraneous camera footage excluded from the final edit. Delivery of this data via secure internet methods is frequently required, yet many small-to-medium post-production facilities do not have suitable bandwidth to make this delivery feasible.
An organization that ingests data on the order of multiple terabytes daily typically has a large “pipe” and can serve as the conduit to deliver this mass of data to fulfill the contract. For many post-production facilities, it is much more practical to offload these files onto encrypted portable drives and shuttle them to a facility that can handle these amounts of data with ease.
Today’s constant content environment creates opportunities throughout the media and entertainment industry, from pre-production to production, post-production, delivery and engagement with the end user. Although there is validity in specialization, whenever possible, branching out into new, yet related, areas of content fulfillment can help ensure survival in an environment where disruption is commonplace.
As long as these adaptations are implemented in a prudent and careful manner, the shifting landscape in the M&E industry can lead to opportunities for growth and expansion, rather than the dwindling need for a limited service offering.