Preparing new and legacy entertainment for global audience distribution has grown increasingly complex between the advent of remote workflows and the growth of media file sizes. Add security demands into the mix, and post production and digital media processing services, like those provided by IDC, are imperative. The bi-coastal company serves clients worldwide. IDC-LA sat down with us recently to talk about their efforts to automate data processing, making content delivery and organization more efficient and economical for customers. Continue reading for highlights from our conversation with IDC-LA COO Rosanna Marino and Director of Production Engineering Mike Tosti.
Tell us more about IDC.
Rosanna: IDC was founded in New York in 1984 and in 2019, expanded to include an office in Los Angeles, where Mike and I work. It’s an exciting time for our business in this city, and we’re proud of the team and infrastructure we’ve built. We operate collaboratively with the New York office, but also work with our own client base and structure. Our LA facility is home to a beautiful digital intermediate (DI) theater and Dolby Atmos suite, where we mix for clients. We also handle massive volumes of media processing, leaning on our stellar team as well as cloud-based tools and automation technology to streamline the work. Our work spans episodic series and films, and we do a lot of master QCs. Another facility might be working on color and then send us the master file for a final check. A lot can happen in the render that is easy to miss. Our job is to find any issues and fix them before the file gets delivered to the client.
Across projects, how much media are you processing on average a month?
Rosanna: We live in a world where it seems there’s never enough content to satisfy consumer demand. As a result, new content is always being made, and more content providers are working on getting legacy content up on platforms for video-on-demand (VOD) viewing. Although the amount of data we’re processing each month varies, it’s not unusual for us to deliver more than 20,000 files a month to clients around the world using different platforms. Thankfully, picking the right tools and technology to enhance our business has helped us meet this demand and compete with bigger players, all with a smaller footprint.
What makes IDC unique from other players in the space?
Rosanna: We don’t believe there’s one set way of doing things; instead, we aim to strike the right balance between thinking out-the-box and not reinventing the wheel. With simplicity and efficiency key, we’re continuously looking at new technologies like AJA Diskover Media Edition software that allow us to do things differently in a more streamlined way. Our approach to hiring is also unique in that we bring people on board to fill a specific need. We hand-picked everyone on this team for their specialties. With the help of Ryan, our Director of Emerging Formats, we’re also working to automate tasks
What aspects of the job is IDC automating and why?
Rosanna: When projects come in, they go through a series of steps that will never change. Upon an asset’s arrival, we need to know where it lives and its contents. Using an intelligent workflow that we’ve built with Diskover Media Edition and MediaPulse, we’re able to automate this process. As a file arrives, we know it will land in a set folder, and we create a proxy. If the proxy passes, then it automatically goes into another folder, where another proxy is created. If the proxy fails, the system just stops. Our workflows dictate the initial path a file must take until a person steps in to set up profiles, create files, or complete QC.
Please describe your workflows in more detail.
Rosanna: We create profiles and access them in our Telestream Vantage system, which helps accelerate turnaround. To expedite media processing, we also use the Colorfront Transkoder, which is helpful when working with data-rich content. We use Diskover Media Edition in different ways depending on the client. As clients are onboarded, they work with Ryan and Seth from our team. Ryan designs a custom workflow on the operational end for us while Seth collaborates with the client, running through file specs and breaking them down with Ryan.
Mike: Most client files come in electronically and are fielded to a landing zone. The appropriate team members are then notified. Depending on where the files land, an automated backup might be generated in the cloud for disaster recovery. Our producers then use Diskover Media Edition to ensure files have arrived, signal to the team that it’s time to move the files to their next locations, and notify the appropriate team members of their arrival. We knew Diskover Media Edition would be a great fit from the start, with the built-in automation tools and ties to MediaPulse. It’s more than lived up to our expectations. The software has made file scanning so quick, and it automatically indexes all our file systems every 30 minutes.
How has implementing these workflows changed your day-to-day?
Rosanna: Our customer service reps would be working blindly without them; they’d have to constantly ask the client where the files live. We have all the file information we need in a centralized, easy- to-access location – from the audio configuration to its contents. Whereas before, finding the file, sending it to an operator, pulling it up, and finding the required info took a lot of back and forth; it’s streamlined operations.
Mike: Prior to these workflows, I handled data management and was constantly getting notes from the team to confirm receipt of files or ask where they were. Those notes largely disappeared when we installed Diskover because of the software’s extensive ElasticSearch capabilities. It also allows us to pull up media information like run time, bit depth, and frame rate, so teams can easily review metadata associated with the files they’re working on.
What role does ElasticSearch play in the workflow?
Mike: On the backend of our Diskover Media Edition index, our file system is scanned, and the contents are put into ElasticSearch. It’s an extensive, powerful search engine that lets you search for just about anything, from tags to file names or parts of file names. You can even search for a client, and the software will present everything from that studio or client, and you can narrow those results. The software is also scanning our cloud for disaster recovery, so our client service reps can search the cloud index, easily find an asset they need, and send in a work order to pull it back down from the cloud.
How is AJA Diskover Media Edition different from other tools you’ve used?
Rosanna: Customer service is huge for us. AJA and Diskover are continuously improving the technology and are transparent about the product roadmap, so we know what to expect. We’ve found it so easy to connect with the Diskover team, share input that will benefit us and all users, and see progress. The conversation is two-way; they’re willing to explore new requests with us, which is impressive and rare today.
What industry shifts in recent years have impacted the way your team works?
Rosanna: Clients are entrusting their vendors to be their eyes and ears; there’s less in-person oversight than before. Pre-pandemic, clients would often pop in for a progress check, or we’d fly talent to the client’s location. Much of that work – including editorial sessions and spot checks – is now done remotely. Because of all this new technology and remote working, from an operational standpoint, our tools must be efficient and secure. Any technology we adopt must be safe for the work that we do and our infrastructure. We also do yearly audits, participate in neighborhood video calls on the subject, and host a lot of security awareness training, so the team is up to speed on the latest security matters.
What trends are you following?
Rosanna: We’ve seen many clients evolve and buy each other out in the last few years and expect the trend to continue, so we’re keeping a close eye on mergers and acquisitions of studios and content platforms in the M&E space. It’s important for us to have our finger on the pulse of this growth, as it ultimately impacts our business.