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Case study: Storytelling in the age of video

How iconik helped global entertainment network Complex Networks make its archive more searchable and accessible

Complex Networks began as a magazine from street fashion icon Marc Ecko in 2002. Now, it’s a creator of diverse and dynamic video content, telling and sharing stories for millennials and Gen Z’ers across the world. As it’s followed the shift away from print media and into the digital media landscape, it has grown and evolved into the perfect snapshot of what a modern entertainment company looks like.

Complex Networks’ vast audience is aggregated from multiple verticals across pop culture spheres, from First We Feast, focusing on food and culinary trends, to Sole Collector, its platform dedicated to sneakers and ‘the leading authority on sneaker news, release dates and culture.’ All of these verticals (seven in total) make for a huge post production operation, with upwards of 45 editors working on multiple projects at one time. 

Having started out in print media, Complex Networks’ transition to video was gradual, matching the overall cultural preference in youth audiences towards video-based content. Its approach to media management was as gradual, with solutions and infrastructure growing out of necessity at the time. In some extreme cases, a single person was memorising where a video was located; but this quickly became unworkable and solutions were put in place to organise and share media more efficiently with editors on site.

However, these solutions still didn’t allow for much functionality in terms of tagging, searchability or standardised naming conventions. As its video archive continued to grow, and the company’s drive to produce more and more engaging video content did the same, it quickly became clear that something needed to be done.

Flexible and Versatile

With so much post production activity, Complex Networks knew it needed a solution which would allow editors to seamlessly tap into post production workflows. At the same time, working with so many editors meant that the chosen solution had to be easy to use, with a simple onboarding process. If editors needed to spend time learning how to use the solution managing the media, then they had less time to create the media itself. 

Searchability was much needed, with so much legacy footage in Complex Networks’ valuable archive. Editors were constantly requesting library footage, such as past interviews with celebrities, B-roll, news clips and so on, and were wasting valuable time waiting for it to be retrieved. In some cases, editors were often surprised by some of the footage in their archives and weren’t sure what exactly existed within the vast catalogue of items. Making its content accessible was a priority for Complex Networks, as it was hoped this would lead to a higher return on investment (ROI) of existing content, as well as faster production workflows.

Maintaining ownership over its content was a big consideration for Complex Networks, something which many MAM platforms were unable to offer. In these solutions, there was very little ability to interact with assets outside of the platform itself, and after ingest, assets were difficult to locate. On top of this, many of these traditional MAMs were bespoke products which inevitably carried a hefty price tag.

Taking A New Approach

iconik is a completely new approach to media management, offering flexibility and accommodating heavy production workflows. Soon after engaging with iconik, it became apparent that it was a perfect fit for Complex Networks’ needs.

The immediate benefit of managing 800TB of assets in iconik was the discoverability of content, which soon became indexed and searchable. Legacy footage is now readily available to be reused by Complex Networks’ teams.

“It’s amazing seeing assets within iconik that I haven’t seen since starting at Complex Networks, or from even before I was at Complex Networks—back before there was any organisation whatsoever. It’s all there now,” says Jermaine Harrell, manager of media infrastructure 

Now, editors and producers can request footage and receive it in minutes, significantly speeding up the production process. Enhanced searchability also maximises the re-use of assets in the Complex Networks library, increasing the all-important ROI. 

Easy sharing and the capability for remote collaboration in iconik has made media more accessible and workflows more flexible. Editors can access files via a web link or  Complex Networks’ SAN, which they are then free to retrieve and work on via their own chosen editing software, Adobe Creative Cloud for example.

Hybrid Cloud and proxy workflows within the iconik system are also allowing teams to work with media from anywhere, something that the Complex Networks team did not envision needing so soon after implementation. Just as New York City was restricting movement in response to the spread of Covid-19, Complex Networks was up and running with iconik, and editors able to work from home to ensure business continuity.

iconik is enabling us to work from home in a time where we don’t have a choice. Editing at home is going to have the same experience as editing at the office, which is just going to enable us to have much more freedom and allow us to quickly and cost efficiently produce meaningful content,” adds Harrell.

Complex Networks had noticed that Cloud storage costs were spiralling, as post production teams continued to recall older assets. As part of its implementation, iconik was able to work with Backblaze to provide Complex Networks with a solution to reduce the egress costs for large file transfers. They have now transcoded 650TB of assets which are available cost-effectively from the cloud in B2 storage.

“This was a really exciting deployment for us because of the versatility that Complex Networks desired from a media management solution. iconik has risen to this challenge and now works like a bridge between Complex Networks’ media archives and its people who are creating memorable and engaging stories from the media library. We’ve always said that video production is like storytelling, and now Complex Networks can continue to tell great stories, in a more time and cost-effective way,” concludes Parham Azimi, CEO, iconik.