​A Producer’s Guide to Storage - part 1

As production company’s deliver more and more of their content to UK broadcasters as files, it is asking a great many questions about their company wide asset management policy. The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) is supporting indies with guidance on how to store master files and valuable rushes in a cost effective, well-organised and commercially useful way. Whether you’re designing your own in-house archive or paying someone else to store your material, the questions you’ll need to ask are the same. The following is part of the DPP’s guidance which works through some of those questions.

Broadcasters may or may not compel producers to keep their masters: but just as with tape masters, it is almost certainly be in a company’s interests to maintain a copy anyway.

The primary reason for this is that you can’t rely on the broadcaster to preserve your content. Many broadcasters delete their copy of the file after their rights windowexpires, and, just as with tapes, there’s nothing to oblige them to provide a copy of your programme back to you at a later date. The same goes for distributors. Don’t make any assumptions about how they’ll store your masters or how long they’ll keep them: look at your contract to see what they’ve committed to do. Ultimately if you own the Intellectual Property, it’s for you to decide how best to keep your master material safe and accessible.

Master is in itself not an entirely straightforward term. In a file-based world, the copy of your programme you send to the broadcaster in the AS-11 DPP format is your delivery master: the one used by the broadcaster for transmission, and for their own storage. In the event any late changes are made to your programme, or if you have different programme versions as part of your deliverables, you may also have different delivery master versions.

But you will also have an edit master: the version of your programme as you completed it on whatever editing platform you were using. If you wanted to re-edit the programme at a later date, you would probably want to use this master, together with your original EDL.

So you will want to consider what to do with delivery masters, delivery versions, and edit masters – as well as rushes and other programme elements. You are likely to need to store each of these types of material in different formats. You might keep your delivery master as an AS-11 DPP file; an edit master in its edit format; and rushes and programme elements in the medium in which they were originally created.

What is a store?

It’s very common for people to refer to any storage arrangement as an archive, but strictly speaking it almost certainly won't be. Archives – tape or file – are actually very rare. The word archive means not just a store but a rigorous set of policies and preservation standards that are formally, and internationally, defined.

But if what you want to do is simply store your programme or other files in a place that’s secure and where you’ll be able to get them out again in many years time, then what you are after is probably best referred to as a library.

Work in Progress Store (WiP):

A WiP holds and manages media which enables productions to edit and post-produce programmes. Once the edit is complete and the programme successfully delivered and signed off by the broadcaster, this material is likely to be moved out of the WiP. The performance of WiP storage may vary according to the task. Is it serving multiple, simultaneous edits or just a single edit? How close to transmission deadline is the show being cut?

Generally speaking however WiP storage is high performance, and expensive.

Production Library:

A Production Library holds any digital assets (rushes, edit projects, ‘wavs’, stills, audio, key production paperwork, masters etc.) which are by-products of the production process. Library material is held close to production teams so it can be exploited commercially or creatively in the future. It will be relatively quick to access compared with an Archive, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be instantly to hand. The Library is likely to be accessed frequently for quick re-versioning or the re-use of memorable sequences or shots. However usage won’t be as constant and time-critical as the WiP. Costs will be met by the production company and weighed up against the commercial and creative value of keeping the material in the Production Library. These costs may be charged back to a programme or series, or may become part of the company overhead.

Archive:

An Archive is where a company or group keeps its valued material and makes sure it is safe for the future. It is also sometimes referred to as the ‘deep archive’ or ‘preservation archive.’

An Archive should hold finished material and any other material (rushes, edit masters, stills, audio etc.) which the company decides to retain, or it is legally required to retain. A company could decide to keep all finished programmes and rushes, but it is more likely they will decide to retain only those that have potential re-use value. Requirements of Archive storage will change relatively slowly. The greatest area of innovation and change will be in functions which enable people to search and access the material.

What should I keep?

At the beginning of the production process, you will need to consider the type of programme you’re making, and the kind of life you want it to have. Will it be sold internationally, or just be shown in the UK? Are the rushes likely to have re-use value within other programming? Are you likely to re-version or update the show at a later date?

Thinking about re-use may encourage you to shoot differently, with a view to the longer term value of the rushes. It may lead you to log high-value material carefully and to ensure that this information is created in such a way that it can be stored with the material in the longer term.

And if you think you’re now getting into a degree of complexity, you’d be right! If you are creating a log, then you are creating metadata. As soon as you start creating metadata you need to know it will remain accessible and readable when you share or keep it. Make sure you get some expert advice.

Above all, be honest with yourself. How often have you actually re-used footage? When have you ever really had time to hang around on a shoot to capture extra GVs? If you don’t do these things now, you might want a policy of saving no rushes at all! It would certainly avoid a whole lot of hassle and cost. If you do want to store rushes however, they will need to be carefully logged and catalogued if you want to stand a chance of finding them again. The key point here is if you’re going to do it, you’ll need to do it properly.

Continued in part 2.

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