News Exchange: sharing tomorrow’s story

Stuart Almond, Head of Marketing at Sony Professional Solutions on DPP’s News Exchange group focus on the crucial importance of metadata in a changing world.

On air and online

A reporter rushes to her next assignment. Checking her smartphone, she’s briefed on the story, the location and who she’s interviewing. This information is transferred wirelessly – along with an ID code and other metadata about the story – to the camera in readiness for shooting.

After completing the interview, the journalist augments these details, tapping keyword tags, permissions and other metadata into her phone to assist colleagues back at base. It’s more informative and reliable than scribbling handwritten notes on a tape label or tiny memory card. All this valuable metadata relating to the story is automatically married up with the media files… and everything’s transferred straight back at the studio, where the package is ingested into an NLE and assembling the story can start immediately. Minutes later, the interview’s on air and online.

Broadcasters, news agencies and vendors have been sketching the finer details of this scenario for the last couple of years. And as the efforts of the DPP’s working group on News Exchange enter the implementation phase, we’re now a step closer to seeing it realised as an integral part of every reporter’s daily workflow.

More channels, more outlets and time-poor millennials

The way we create and consume news is certainly changing. Against a backdrop of more channels and more outlets, time-poor millennials – more than 60% of 16-24 year olds, according to UK regulator Ofcom – favour the internet and mobile over traditional TV and radio bulletins.

This shift has placed new pressures on broadcasters and news agencies, who face the technical and financial challenges of generating more content at greater speed for a larger number of predominantly online platforms.   But at the same time, it’s not a simple migration of audience habits – it’s not a simple ‘lift and shift’ of workflow delivery – as a key audience above 40 still predominantly demand the ‘traditional’ linear news delivery through a TV.

Staying in business – and giving audiences the timely news fix they need, whenever and wherever they need it – clearly demands evolution towards a smarter, more streamlined workflow from initial planning through to capture, field production, submission/ingest, publication and archive.

Against this backdrop, the DPP’s News Exchange group is focusing on the crucial importance of metadata (and its efficient management) to support the exchange of material in a chiefly location-based environment.

What’s the problem?

So what’s the problem? Every newsmaker wants to attach persistent metadata to content, tracking it through an end-to-end production workflow. It sounds straightforward enough, but the absence of established specifications has proved to be a challenge for broadcasters. And it can be a particular headache for freelancers who may have to serve a number of different platforms.

As the group notes, broadcasters and agencies welcome the development of a new minimum specification for exchanging content and its associated metadata. Ideally implemented at an international level, this schema will facilitate faster identification, rights informed exploitation and standards based automation, discovery and re-use of captured assets throughout the news production workflow.

One key objective is agreement on a metadata specification for file-based exchange between DPP broadcasters, agencies and news teams. Supporting this, the group is actively engaged with ENG camera, NLE and MAM vendors such as Sony to define a common set of metadata fields for acquisition and in-the-field editing.

What metadata really means in a news production

In particular, DPP members have been looking closely at what ‘metadata’ really means in a news production context. On a general level this includes story title and description as well as free-text tags like ‘hurricane’ or ‘election’. Added to this, rights information could include the content originator, copyright holder, and usage restrictions as well as data about category, genre, version, language and clip duration. This is complemented by more technical information, ranging from an asset’s unique ID to contextual identification of the camera or capture device, audio/video file formats and associated low-res proxies.

As a practical solution, Sony has been working with the DPP who has taken the existing IPTC NewsML-G2 standard, adapting it into a specification that’s fine-tuned to suit real-world news environments. This allows the production office to create a basic set of editorial metadata in standard format. Sent wirelessly to producers in the field, this metadata can be injected via an app into a camcorder (or in future, injected directly), where it remains attached to the content throughout the entire journey of the clip back to base – including editing, sharing, storage and more.

The group’s work is already moving into its delivery phase. And to demonstrate the possibilities of News Exchange, at IBC this year Sony was delighted to host a multivendor proof-of-concept in collaboration with other DPP members. Participating companies included ITV, Avid, Dropbox, Sony, Telestream and the DPP.

Stay tuned

The demonstration showcased the creation of metadata compliant with the DPP News Exchange specification by an Avid iNews system in the ITV studio facility in Leeds (UK). The metadata was delivered to the Sony stand in Amsterdam via Dropbox, picked up by Sony’s Content Mobile Browser app and loaded wirelessly into a Sony PXW-X400 XDCAM camcorder.

Footage shot on the camcorder plus associated metadata was sent from the Sony stand back to the ITV facility in Leeds.  It was incorporated back into ITV’s news production environment via Telestream Vantage and Avid Interplay.

The group’s efforts are focused primarily on news, where the requirement to share, search and understand rights around content is acute. However there are plenty of other use cases – including documentaries and general field-based production – where a standardised schema and supporting workflow could prove equally beneficial. Stay tuned: it looks like metadata is becoming as big as the story itself.