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The DPP - The Business Benefits of IMF - Part 1

In the pages that follow, we look at what IMF is, how it works and what it does.

Introduction

New mastering formats don’t come along very often in the media industry. So when they do, they need to justify the investment and change management required to make them the new way of doing things.
IMF is such a new mastering format. It has existed for a while as a mastering standard suitable for premium content. But now it is also being developed as a specification for broadcast and online. And that means IMF will be used throughout the industry. It will truly be a new way of doing things.
 
So this specially prepared document is designed to explain why this major change is worth the trouble. In fact it goes further. It explains how and why IMF will deliver savings in time and money – as well as ensuring better quality content.
 
In the pages that follow, we look at what IMF is, how it works and what it does. We also explore the problems it solves, and the specific paybacks you can expect if you adopt it. In short, it makes the business case for what we believe is the key enabler for the new world of high quality global content.
 
The Need for a Global Exchange Format
 
IMF will not change the world but…
It will make exchanging content easier and it will save you time and money.

Why do we need a Global Exchange Format?
 
We are part of a fast growing and increasingly global business. The sales and exchange of programmes is set to accellerate over the coming years.
 
It is estimated that:
 
Worldwide OTT (over the top) television & video revenues will reach £37 billion in 2020.
Pay TV revenues and OTT revenues combined will reach £205 billion by 2020.
China & India together will account for half the global pay television subscribers by 2022.
SVOD (subscription video on demand) will generate half of the OTT revenues by 2022. The remainder will be made up of ad supported video on demand, TV on demand and download to own purchases.
 
What problems will IMF solve?
 
PROBLEM 1: Creating multiple copies of a TV programme has consequences. These include duplicated processes and Quality Control (QC), and the need for more storage and additional asset management capabilities.

PROBLEM 2: In a flexible production market, as production and technology teams move onto other programmes, information and knowledge associated with the original piece of content is difficult to retain.

PROBLEM 3: As content passes through each stage of of localisation (with associated compliance processes and format changes), and moves from system to system, the quality of the original asset is impacted.

The localisation process is particularly complex.
 
It varies from organisation to organisation but, for a typical programme, this is the order of events:
 
1. Ingest the master
2. Localise a version for a territory or region
3. Complete the audio dubbing and subtitling
4. Create a self-contained programme file for the region
 
But it doesn’t end there. As assets continue to be exploited over time, there may be new customers and territories with further requirements for additional languages, titles and credits. Some assets will also require maintenance further down the line. This could include changes to music for licensing or rights reasons, or changes made due to cultural sensitivities.

To solve these issues, we need a solution that
 
- Reduces duplication, which means less storage and a lighter storage footprint overall.
- Preserves Asset Knowledge, which speeds up the localisation process and increases speed to market.
- Maintains Mastering Quality, which ensures customers receive the best quality content.

The Solution

If we can use a standard mastering approach throughout the localisation process, which manages the way we create and store versions, it’s possible to avoid duplication, preserve asset information and maintain the highest quality.
We are proposing the use of a global exchange format that will
 
Create operational workflow efficiencies in the content supply chain. This standardises the production and transformation of programme assets internationally. It also enables potential automation of processes.
Handle complicated multi-platform multi-versioning for delivery to a range of different devices.
Standardise distribution formats.
Make international sales and distribution more efficient.
 
Our proposed solution is IMF.
 
 What is IMF?
 
In order to explain IMF in real world terms, there is a perfect metaphor in the shipping container. Just 70 years ago, the movement, sale and exchange of goods was based on hundreds of labourers lifting parcels, barrels, boxes and crates in and out of boats. It was normal for a ship to spend more time in port being loaded and unloaded than at sea. Goods were also highly prone to accident, loss and theft.
 
The shipping industry faced a similar challenge to the media industry today. It needed to move away from hand-cranked delivery systems, full of error, loss and unpredictability. The solution was the shipping container. Shipping containers enabled the standardised movement of goods. They all had the same dimensions, and enabled the creation of new, standardised technical tools. A container ship could now be offloaded in a matter of hours. Containerisation also enabled interoperability in onward transport methods (with trucks and trains designed to carry standardised containers).
 
IMF is the shipping container for media. IMF (Interoperable Master Format) is a container of different content elements (audio, video, language, subtitles etc) that can be re‑packaged for different outputs.
IMF is an internationally recognised SMPTE standard that can be used for the interchange of file-based, multi-version, finished audio-visual content. Sky and Netflix already mandate IMF as a delivery format.
 
We are modifying it so that it also works for broadcast and online. We are working with manufacturers of tools to ensure that it’s easy to create an IMF package. Importantly, we are not trying to re-invent the wheel.
 
IMF is based on the tools and technologies that the feature film industry has successfully used to create and distribute international versions of their films for at least five years.
We are making content exchange easier by modifying this existing standard so that it works for TV and online.
 
Read part 2 about the benefits of IMF soon on DPP Film Tech App.

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