The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) – in addition to recognizing excellence in filmmaking at the Oscars – supports the art and science behind movies. A key part of this is its vast content library and film archive – a collection of priceless content that’s not available anywhere else in the world and preserves the industry’s rich and storied history.
Alongside a huge archive of films – both in digital formats and on traditional filmstock – AMPAS keeps archived footage and programming of the Oscars itself – adding another 50TB of digital files from each years’ awards. The academy is also due to open the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in 2019, another project which will utilize the archive, using historical film content for its exhibitions.
AMPAS’ home – the Pickford Center in Hollywood. ©A.M.P.A.S.
Challenges for AMPAS
AMPAS needed a new way to manage all of these assets. It had to put in place a system that ensures easy accessibility in the future by digitizing, logging and attaching metadata to content from 25 separate databases. It needed a way to manage assets that was fast and efficient and could execute certain functions automatically. The system also had to have a hardy metadata workflow for better search and find functionality once digitization was complete.
“We quickly realized that our goal with the platform wasn’t simply to address the issue of managing a lot of digital assets. It also had to let our users add the right metadata and logging information while constantly monitoring files to make sure they remain intact and usable in the long-term. The assets we’re looking after are incredibly valuable and if people aren’t able to discover them in the right way, then their value can’t be fully realized.”
AMPAS worked with IPV to develop a system that would let its teams quickly and easily search, find and discover assets throughout its archives. It knew that creating proxies of its assets was the best way to manage its large amount of content. Because IPV is the pioneer of proxy-based workflows, Curator was the perfect choice for the new system.
“The use of proxies in our archive isn’t to be underestimated. We’re managing hundreds of files at once – some might be up to 400Gb,” added Kite. “Making proxies of these files was the best way to create an archive of assets we could easily download, edit and use. It also allows us to reduce additional unnecessary re-processing of these important film assets.”
The system that combines IPV’s Curator and an OpenText application uses proxies to minimize files sizes during file management. This allows the Academy to manage its archive using low-resolution versions of content that take up just 2% of the original file size.
It picks up an asset and an operator decides whether it needs to be preserved. The workflow then automatically creates the proxy and processes the contents’ associated physical metadata which includes things like title, format, length and the year it was produced. The implemented system quickly began the ingest process and manages approximately 500TB of AMPAS’ data.
Curator is also used to add more metadata to the collection of historic film content. This is done by attaching informational tags to content which AMPAS uses to more easily search and find assets once they’ve been inputted into the system. Tags can cover a range of things, from the actors – or objects – that appear in a scene to what color shoes someone was wearing on the red carpet.
Having in-depth metadata like this produces better search functionality so that staff and editors can easily find the best results. For example, 2017 saw Donald Sutherland awarded the Academy Honorary Award at the Oscars so AMPAS’ editorial team needed to create a highlights reel to play during the ceremony. With a collection of digitized assets that are correctly tagged, all an operator needs to do is search his name and every piece of content they own in which Donald Sutherland appears will be presented.
They might then find something they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of and use it to create the most engaging content for audiences possible. At the same time, it speeds up the production process significantly and creates an archive that’s futureproofed.
How AMPAS benefits
- Flexible & API-driven – The implemented system is completely customizable and configurable. The flexibility of the platform meant AMPAS was able to easily integrate it with other management systems.
- Proxy-based workflows – IPV’s proxy-based workflows have helped AMPAS to more easily manage huge files without needing to move high-resolution versions. When implemented, it’s able to reduce file sizes down to 2% of the original.
- Automated functionality – having an open platform meant that AMPAS was able to write specific script that automated certain aspects of the Curator system, helping it save time and resources.
- Conforming multiple formats – One of the main goals of the project was to bring together multiple archives of content. Curator enabled for everything to be conformed, no matter what file format the original took.
Conclusion – pushing the boundaries of the technology
AMPAS’ new system needed to be able to easily manage a large number of disparate assets, often of enormous scale. But it also needed to have multiple elements – a hardy proxy workflow, adaptive software services, the ability to look after multiple formats and to be open for simple integration with a number of other systems. Above all, it needed to provide an intuitive and collaborative user experience for anyone managing content.
Every function our system needed to perform was incredibly important. To address this need, we’ve built a workflow that is completely tailored to meet our unique requirements.”