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The DPP - Business benefits of IMF - Part 2

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

What problems does IMF solve? 

The benefits of IMF relate to the efficiencies it delivers to the content supply chain. IMF makes it easier for broadcast and online content owners, producers and distributors to exchange high value media around the world.
To illustrate how IMF does this, let’s look at three key problems in the versioning process, and how IMF solves them.
We’ll begin with the way that localised versions are currently created and modified over time.

Problem 1: Multiple Copies are required

The example above shows international versioning, but it could equally apply to a single region where multiple copies are needed.
The process starts with a single master. One copy is made for each region.

From the region specific version, further compliance versions are made – these may be generated by different teams and can therefore be very hard to match back to the regional version. From the compliance versions, subtitling and audio dubbing is added. 

These different versions may not be stored together. It becomes difficult to track assets and versions because there is no relationship between them. Finally, the localised copies are distributed to multiple customers, and this generates lots of deliverables. 

What does this mean for our business?

We are paying to store a huge number of versions unnecessarily. Lots of complex asset management, often between incompatible systems. Processes are often duplicated, due to the large number of versions.

Solution 1: IMF makes versioning lighter 

Versions contain mostly the same components as the programme master. They typically have a few small additions. In the example below, a French master has been created by adding a local language track to the UK master. A version complied for the Middle East has also been made by making a few small changes.

The darker green area demonstrates the content that is the same across all versions. The lighter boxes demonstrate where localised content is added or subtracted from the programme master to create a new version. 
As you can see, all versions are nearly identical with the exception of very small changes.

IMF allows us to only save the changes to each version; it references the majority of content from the programme master. This reduces the need to store multiple full length copies of the finished programme in different languages or compliance edits.
At the end of the IMF mastering process, we have replacement scenes, new localisations and the necessary controls to know where to put them.

By storing only this information at master quality, we save a huge amount of space compared to storing high quality versions of everything. It’s also now much easier to rebuild a programme should a change become necessary. 
This significantly reduces storage costs and removes complexity from asset management and processing.

Problem 2: Loss of Knowledge over time

The second problem is the loss of knowledge that occurs throughout the asset life cycle.
Over time, more and more versions of a programme are created as it sells internationally. The number of assets continues to increase, but knowledge associated with the original piece of content is difficult to retain. One of the big problems of the media industry today is that there is no way systematically to store the knowledge associated with a master asset. To put it more precisely, knowledge is not so much lost as scattered.

Once intial work has been completed, it is difficult to gather knowledge about a programme, since production teams tend quickly to disperse onto other projects. The need to try and gather information about an original asset once the production team has dispersed can slow down speed to market and programme sales fulfilment.

Solution 2: IMF is faster
 
IMF solves the problems caused by loss of knowledge because it has the concept of systematic preservation of knowledge, passed on from the master edit all the way down to the various versions. IMF allows the creation of versions linked to the original master version. A description of any changes, and instructions for where to put them, are held in a control file called a CPL (Composition PlayList). This enables us to create new versions faster, which increases speed to market.

Problem 3: Loss of Quality 

As content is transformed through each stage of the localisation process, the quality of the asset can be affected.
Today a programme asset might change frame rate multiple times before its final delivery. There are also likely to be changes in codec, bit rates, definition and colour space for different versions, on different platforms and devices, in different territories. Together, all these changes will begin to degrade the overall quality of the programme.

Solution 3: IMF maintains quality 

IMF is designed to use mastering quality codecs. This keeps all video, audio, subtitling and metadata in the highest quality throughout the localisation process. The master is maintained at a single frame rate, in a single high quality codec, and at a single resolution. This safeguards the quality of programme sales fulfilment.

Additional benefits from IMF 

In the process of solving the three key problems outlined above, IMF brings some further benefits:
 
A reduction in storage space and costs because there is no longer a requirement to store numerous localised files. 
Content becomes easier to manage because there is now only one master asset for each programme. 
The systematic preservation of knowledge means it is now easier to identify the consequences of any changes made to the media
Content reversioning becomes easier and cheaper.

Conclusion: The business benefits of IMF

Because IMF allows different iterations of a programme or series to be created from one core editorial asset, the distribution of multiple versions is greatly simplified. IMF makes it possible to improve efficiency by: 

Eliminating unnecessary creation of multiple versions, and by reducing QC and archive storage requirements. 
Automating the content supply chain. 
Becoming, over time, the global exchange format for the sales and acquisition of high quality content.
Allowing programme masters to be held at the highest possible quality, enabling future sales fulfilment at UHD resolution, or higher.

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