M&E Journal: The Progression of Digital Archives

By Robert Crotty, COO, 5th Kind

As filmmaking went digital, final picture—once the single deliverable—became supplemented by hard drives and archival tape of digital content created during production. These “digital content” deliverables ended up in boxes on shelves in studio warehouses, filed just around the corner from costumes and props. It’s no surprise, then, that these files were rarely called upon for reuse. When a drive was recalled, assuming it spun up without disc corruption, the content folders were a hodge-podge of files organized (only) for the creative mind that dumped them there.

As a result, hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars of digital content was inaccessible to downstream use. And this didn’t just affect art concepts and design that could be marketed to fans; millions of dollars in digital environments and CG models that could be reused across studio productions were either lost to time or stored away at VFX vendors.

When a studio production required files, vendors typically charge to unarchive or recreate them. The same is common for third party marketing vendors that hold the proverbial keys to the studio’s asset kingdom.

Today, thankfully, studio asset management systems allow studios to tap their digital files for ROI. These asset systems offer unified archive policies, metadata tags for searchability, access control, tiered storage management and multi-format proxies for visual reference, allowing filmmakers and studios to find and remonetize digital files.

These system features have provided studios like Disney, Marvel, Warner Bros. and Illumination millions of dollars in workflow efficiencies and reuse of assets, especially for franchise properties.

First, you have to be able to find it

Studios like Marvel that have mandated digital archive policies have found themselves atop a rich archive of millions of files. They realized at the inception of the studio that storing a digital file wasn’t enough; it had to be searchable.

Enter 5th Kind’s CORE, a Studio Asset Management (SAM) solution that allowed the studio to mandate a minimum set of metadata tags such as production, company, department, category and asset type.

From there, embedded metadata and unlimited custom tag values could be applied, allowing files to be found according to any department-specific naming convention. Production departments uploaded their digital content throughout the show and by the end of the first franchise film in properties like The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, Marvel had access to all the content it needed to feed the marketing pipeline. Subsequently, filmmakers on the next franchise production now had a portal to find, research and reuse digital files from the first.

Global research and franchise continuity

As studios and media companies maintain and grow centralized and curated content hubs, savings through efficiencies become the first ROI realized. Globally dispersed marketing teams have self-service access to relevant content. Metadata-based access controls and watermarking of files maintain file security, and integrated file transfer services such as Aspera accelerate the delivery of content around the world. By providing a platform for review and approval of digital files, version iterations are produced more rapidly and better products result.

Reuse of assets

From the studio’s point of view, there are significant savings to be had with access to what has been previously designed, built, shot and paid for: Stock footage, CG models of characters, their suits, background environments, props, buildings, cars, etc. can all be reused for any number of purposes, all tagged, categorized and made accessible through filtered searches and visibly represented by proxies.

Marketing and legal: Self-serve!

By basing access controls on metadata, asset management systems can seamlessly offer access to content based on a tag, a status or a user role. As a result, filmmakers and marketing departments automatically have access to completed concept designs, notes, comments and campaigns based on how those files were categorized. Legal has access to clearance notes and product placement contracts associated with digital content, and integrated expiration dates keep content from non-licensed use.

In fact, one studio in particular found its asset management integration policy saves it $1 million in workflow efficiencies for every production, and an additional $500,000 in savings just in reuse of assets from the archive.

Where does $1.5M in studio savings come from?

Remonetization of assets with reuse of VFX elements, stock footage, sound elements, etc., across new productions franchises and TV episodes, seasons and series

Management of contact sheets

Integrated watermarking functions

Categorized storage of unit production stills for cross-show sharing

Secure, tracked, watermarked and systematic dailies access for executives and vendors alike

Administered playlist requests with watermarking to feed the marketing workflow

Reduced cost of asset management and storage by third party vendors

Reduced cost and need for physical delivery of assets to third party vendors

Managing the creation, review and approval process for all TV spots and sizzle reels

Eliminates costs associated with physical delivery of scripts

Directing content reviews for marketing workflows including trailers and advertising campaigns

Secure, tracked and web-hosted MPAA screenings (sans screening room)

Central location for managing and tracking the creative review and distribution for all posters, billboards, standees, banners, graphics, one sheets, web banners and campaigns, etc.

Central location for managing and tracking the creative review and distribution for all publicity deliverables including magazine covers, conventions, newspaper articles, featurettes, internet releases, etc.

Efficiencies that reduce or prevent costs

Secure, in-house organizing and archiving of casting materials

Efficient identification, commenting, tracking and expiration of uncleared materials to prevent litigation

Mitigates production labor spent on licensing, marketing and promotions requests for assets by offering self-service access to the archive through access controls

Provides film and studio departments access to past shows for research

Streamlines communications among users by tying conversations, comments and documents to the assets vs. scouring email and file folders for past records

When control of assets is returned to the studio that has paid for them, the benefits of autonomy are realized in the bottom line. Studio Asset Management systems not only secure the studio’s IP, they make finding and reusing those assets possible, generating ROI that hasn’t been possible in years past.

The efficiencies offered by unifying asset management with a versatile taxonomy, metadata- based access controls, and a review and approval process are simply the million-dollar icing on the savings cake.


Click here to translate this article
Click here to download the complete .PDF version of this article
Click here to download the entire Spring/Summer 2018 M&E Journal