Database as Film Deliverable?

How long will it be before studios start requiring a database as a deliverable item?

Stanley Kolowski's funhouse.

With digital acquisition comes an increased stream of data- not only picture and sound data but metadata from every device and department. This is significant within a production, but increasingly studios and networks need access to this metadata as well, to sort through the volume of material afterward that they get delivered, for legal, compliance, promotional and other internal purposes. As one studio VFX guy said to me the day before a huge 160 day digital shoot was about to kick off, “Are you ready to drink from the firehose?” The data stream is huge, persistent and keeps on a-comin’.

We’re also seeing each of the studios and networks building in various ways their own asset management/ digital rights management systems at various levels. There is an acknowledgement now of a lifecycle of data that exists within any one production, across multiple productions, and then is needed after production to sell, market, distribute and archive the films for future sales cycles.

Remember, organising the data manually into hierarchies is so 1999- there’s no longer any way of getting an intern to sit down and file this type of data into an asset management-like hierarchical system and expect to keep up. There’s so much data that the poor intern could go her whole life and not catch up with the data coming in every day, let alone historical data that was there before she started. It’s more about preparing this data to be fed out to a few different systems, so that data can be formatted in ways suitable for the end use. The studio exec will be pulling the data available on the studio system into a local, department specific application, which formats in relevant ways.

Looking forward, it’s obvious that some kind of database/ xml stream will be put onto the contract deliverables list to producers, alongside the physical and Ip deliverables required, which will post the data and metadata onto a studio ┬ásystem. The studio system will be able to track data from it’s inception on set right through ideally to point of sale over IP, delivering into someone’s house from a shopping cart.

The studio system would not just be one huge, honking software program, but a platform of related software products that are all open and interoperable, and created for the studio to develop it’s own digital strategies under. The advantage this has for a studio is huge- with everything speeding up, becoming more fluidly digital, there is a need for systems not people, to track this data, and the requirement will come from the studio to production to supply this in pre-formatted ways. And once this is a studio requirement, it’ll be very quickly commercialised as a service first of all, then as a commodity adjunct to the existing gear hire and workflow requirements of production to their vendors. And it will be smart vendor companies that will develop turnkey products in this domain, to enable the formatting of individual, gear-specific formats into a standard data stream, ready to import onto the studio data and asset management system.

Like cities giving access to bus and train timetables creates a whole slew of apps for the consumer to navigate their city, once this kind of data is available to studio personnel, there’s no telling what new applications they will need to navigate this ocean of data. All I know is that there are huge opportunities for the right companies and partners to help them deal with this new problem, one piece of the puzzle at a time.