Interoperable Master Format (IMF) Ready Cloud MAM (Media Asset Management)
IMF is a packaging and distribution standard for the file-based interchange of multi versioned finished audio and visual works. Technology now exists to support the ability to package content, as Primary or Supplemental/Delta IMF packages. Each Supplemental/Delta package containing a Composition Playlist, represents finished work that is logically pieced together with localized audio/video/text elements to develop region specific masters for video streaming service/linear broadcast platforms. The standard is derived from the DCP (Digital Cinema Package) packaging standard that is used in packaging and delivery of finished works for cinema playback.
Given the extensive interest and adoption of Cloud infrastructure for content processing needs, content owners are now looking for solutions that allow them to manage the complex needs of IMF packages on the Cloud. While the IMF package essences may reside in Amazon/Azure, what is needed is a cloud platform that allows users to work with IMF Compositions over streaming proxies and perform:
- Upload (Complete packages, Partial/Delta packages, only updated essences)
- Download (Complete packages, Partial/Delta packages, only updated essences)
- Distribution of IMF Packages (Complete packages, Delta packages)
- Distribution of Rendered/Transcoded Output (Video files instead of packages)
With 4k and 8k fast becoming a reality, the stress on infrastructure (storage, transcode, networks) to handle such large files will only grow in the future. Standards like IMF are expected to play a key role in ensuring that storage and networks are used optimally to meet fast turnaround times with these large files.
IMF-Ready Cloud MAM
So what’s technically needed to support the above IMF usecases in a Cloud ready MAM?
- Uploads: When importing IMF packages on to the Cloud, smart ingest mechanisms are need to ensure that only updated essences are being transferred. Hence a re-upload of an entire IMF package should result in first determining the precise delta in the package based on ‘file check sums’, followed by their transfers.
- IMF Based Cloud Player: IMF has the ability to define new masters by preparing a playlist using logical references of the underlying content. Since a number of downstream use cases are expected to be executed from the MAM, a preview/playback of the compositions playlists using streaming proxies is a basic necessity. Such playback needs to be frame accurate with all the playlist elements (audio/video/subtitles/captions) over streaming proxies.
- Downloads: When downloading IMF packages from the Cloud to a WIP (work in progress) area of an editor, the system needs to be smart enough to first determine the precise delta and then perform smart downloads of only the specific essences.
- Package Publish: For B2B package exchanges, the system needs to have the ability to transfer IMF packages from the Cloud to any of the destinations using standard BPM (Business Process Management) workflow configurations. Typically, users would search/preview the IMP compositions in the MAM and then distribute them either as separate Supplemental/Delta packages or as one complete distribution package.
- Rendered Output: For B2B exchanges that require the transcoded video and siders in the target technical specification, Cloud-based MAMs need to have the ability to prepare, package and deliver the generated video and its autore-timed subtitle/caption files (side cars).
What Makes IMF Support in CLEAR™ Media ERP Unique
While CLEAR supports the aforementioned functional and technical expectations of the IMF standard, listed below are some of the unique capabilities in CLEAR that differentiate it from other COTS (commercial off the shelf) solutions that exist today.
- IMF support in CLEAR is built on top of the Distributed Workflow capabilities of CLEAR Media ERP. Distributed workflows ensure all publishes/distributions can be extended to remote locations, public cloud infrastructures (Amazon/Azure), customer premise locations etc. This capability is now extended to support the packaging and delivery of IMF Packages.
- CLEAR’s IMF Player has been built specifically to preview/playback/review/distribute IMF compositions using the standards tools of CLEAR. The IMF composition playback works off the streaming proxies of the underlying essences (video/audio/subtitles/captions).
- CLEAR has the ability to re-time subtitles/captions given an EDL. The EDL can be in FCP.xml/CMX 3600/IMF-CPL form. While most COTS products like Telestream /Colorfront /Clipster do provide the ability to render out the video, they don’t have standard APIs to generate the re-timed subtitle/caption files.
With 4k, IMF and Cloud technology gaining increased emphasis in Media and Entertainment (M&E) organizations, specialized solutions like CLEAR will help content owners, studios, distribution servicing vendors, video streaming service platforms etc. to run their library, mastering and distribution operations in the most cost effective way. Adoption of standards like IMF will ensure that far fewer copies of content are created, exchanged and archived.
While the world has seen the benefits of IMF in the B2B space, a streaming IMF player provides the case for the adoption of IMF in the B2C space. DCP changed the world of cinema playback, and IMF with a streaming player has the potential to disrupt the way we perform VOD playback. It will result in:
- Far fewer copies of content in the world
- Centralized streaming over CDNs (content distribution networks) by content owners
- A whole new breed of solutions to help monetize such centrally streamed content, originating from many different video streaming service platforms
- Centralized rights management for video streaming service platforms by content owners
- Control over piracy
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