news team manages assets with smart metadata

Asset Management Tips: Helping News Teams Find Footage Faster

Susan Kuchinskas

August 5, 2020

There’s an intriguing shot lurking in the AP Archive: In January 1998, President Bill Clinton is glad-handing a crowd and gives a brief hug to a young woman in a black beret.

What might have seemed like an inconsequential clip when it was first logged later became pure gold all because someone took the time to tag it with that woman’s name: Monica Lewinsky. Good asset management saved the day.

When the scandal broke, you can imagine how broadcast news organizations burned up their media search tools, ransacking their archives for footage of the pair in hopes that someone tagged a clip properly. It’s a telling example of how the right metadata can reveal the juiciest content. If your team sees asset management as more of a hassle than a help, mastering your metadata may just change their perspective for the better.

Find Footage Faster with Smarter Metadata

You’ve got footage coming in and lots of it, sourced from all over the place. Your team needs to find the right clips, ideally in seconds—not minutes and certainly not hours. If you’re not working on an end-to-end system, those clips might be stored on multiple systems: one for scripts, another for video, and maybe yet another one for the archives. To add yet another complication, these systems may be on different physical machines, forcing news producers to scurry from workstation to workstation.

Detailed metadata is the key to making all this content searchable. While your tireless crew is busy ingesting, logging, and tagging footage, smart use of metadata is their greatest superpower. Enable these tactics to power them up.

  • Standardize tags. At a minimum, your team needs to know what tags they’re working with. Provide a list of your most commonly used tags, so that everyone is on the same page (quite literally) when they’re tagging. You can stay consistent by looking for systems that provide templates or prepopulate tags as you type, or offer shortcut keys or predefined buttons. And if your team searches for the same tags often, you can save those searches and make them public to certain people or anyone on the system.
  • Allow for flexibility. On the one hand, you don’t want to create a metatagging free-for-all. But a predefined set of tags won’t cover everything, which means you’ll inevitably need to expand your palette of tags in your media search tools. In doing this, you’ll need to decide who can add new tags to the system, and how they’ll do it. In a fast-paced newsroom, you may not have time to approve suggested tags, but consider implementing a process that lets you review and refine the tags long-term. And while you want to log the footage as soon as possible, it’s also important to enable tagging at every stage of production, all the way through to archiving, to make sure the metadata is pertinent to everyone who might need to find an item.
  • Let tech lend a hand. While embracing more organized metadata processes is a baseline for success, investing in the right tech can be a real boon for efficiency. A spate of new technologies can help automate indexing and tagging, according to TV News Check. Scene- and facial-recognition applications, optical character recognition, and AI-based phonetic search can all automatically enrich metadata. The richer the metadata, the more ways someone has to find a shot and help the team meet aggressive deadlines. On the horizon, AI is set to deliver even more capabilities, such as indexing footage in real time so that it’s discoverable at the frame level. The right tech can enhance your current in-house system and allow for a more natural search experience throughout the ingesting and tagging process.

Let the Excavation Begin

How would you rather have your news team spend their time—crafting compelling stories or performing search after frustrating search to find the right clips? There’s plenty of treasure in your assets, so don’t let it get buried in a pile of useless tags. Strong metadata practices paired with a system that lets a disparate team collaborate as one can help your news get on air, on time, every day.

As Kristan Bullett, managing director of Piksel, told the audience at last year’s IBC, “Everyone wants to save money, and everyone wants to move faster. So, fix the metadata.” ’Nuff said.

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Susan Kuchinskas Headshot
Susan Kuchinskas
Veteran tech journalist Susan Kuchinskas covers digital technology and media from the San Francisco Bay Area.

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