Media operators all share the same goal – to deliver the highest quality content to consumers. But in a world of round-the-clock entertainment, that task is becoming a growing challenge. The journey from post production to the point of consumption varies widely across the media landscape. There are also different use cases for content processing, implemented by different departments in the same organization. So, should the industry embrace the nuances within the content supply chain, or consolidate media processing and try to make workflows more consistent?
It’s important to acknowledge that there is rarely a one-size-fits all solution that suits the full range of content processing requirements. Each use-case brings a unique set of problems to solve, but custom workflow development can be prohibitive for some companies. Increasingly, vendors are looking to ‘productize’ their vast experience of solving workflow challenges to help make next-gen technology more accessible.
A spectrum of requirements
Content arrives with the teams at post houses, broadcasters and distributors in multiple formats, and is destined for a host of different regions. That media might be a recent acquisition, heritage content from the archive or an original production. Difficulties also occur when the assets are at various stages of content QC, validation and compliance, and might have a mixed quality of metadata attributed to them. Common issues with metadata, such as incorrect, variable or missing information, can be a particularly time-consuming problem to fix.
All of this puts strain on content processing teams and can cause bottlenecks while issues are resolved — or even big delays if content needs to be sent back to the source for corrections. The media operators working on a wide-range of assets to ensure they are VOD platform or broadcast-ready, play a crucial role in delivering viewer satisfaction. They need to respond quickly to pre-release errors and identify any issues that could jeopardize a positive consumer experience.
Media teams have differing interface requirements and need a range of functionality from their workflows. Use cases can vary from essential edits for localization, through to audio and subtitling QC, as well as sub-clipping and the extraction of graphics for promotional purposes. This means that finding an all-purpose solution, which works effectively for multiple teams, can cause some headaches.
Product-focused vs. bespoke solutions
As technology has progressed over the years, and the media industry has moved into the cloud, the vast possibilities of SaaS and product-orientated development has emerged. It can be easy for technology companies to champion widespread change without understanding the evolving needs of established players in the media sector. But if organizations are going to move with the times sustainably, vendors cannot insist on a ‘out with the old, and in with the new’ philosophy.
Media companies have well-defined ways of working, and numerous technical and operational variables to factor in. It may be that some parts of their infrastructure are ready for a big overhaul, but budget constraints mean they are not primed for change in other areas. A bespoke workflow might be a step too far now, but there could be scope for more extensive development further down the line. Adopting an off-the-shelf solution, which complements existing requirements, can help solve issues in the interim. But then a custom workflow will allow companies to realize their media ambitions over the long-term.
Combining the best of both
In some cases, productized solutions will deliver everything required of them and optimize a workflow with the right features for specific tasks. In other cases, completely bespoke solutions must be developed to resolve unique organizational challenges. But there is also the option to take a hybrid approach. Ready-made products cannot provide the right tools for every job, but custom development can always help to bridge the gaps. By implementing solutions with well-defined APIs, new products can integrate seamlessly into existing infrastructure.
This interplay between the two approaches offers plus points for both sides. A product can be enhanced by lessons from bespoke projects, and every user will benefit once those new features are rolled out. Existing applications can provide a vital jumping off point for more service-led projects. That way, digital teams have a custom development basecamp to start from.
Media technology companies can get the right mix of innovation, by gaining insights from service-led projects as well as the user’s response to their product portfolio. By exploring both distinct use cases and common challenges, vendors can deliver better post production solutions. The future of the media industry lies in the ability to combine the best of both worlds. Leveraging the symbiosis between product-based and custom solutions is the key to making it happen.
Simon Bergmark is the chief product officer of Codemill (www.codemill.se), a company that provides media workflow applications that enable M&E companies to save time and money.