The BBC is experimenting with iPads to speed production and better incorporate metadata at the point of acquisition for use throughout the programme’s lifecycle, writes Adrian Pennington.
The focus of the Automated Production project at BBC R&D and demonstrated at BBC R&D North, is to use data and networking tools to power programme workflow. Alongside major pieces of IT research for post production and playout it is an attempt “to take it back toward the cameras and to the people making the programmes,” explained Lead Technologist, Jon Rosser.
In the demonstration of a Portable Production Tool, video was captured to a server and connected by WiFi to an iPad or multiple iPads on which a bespoke Final Cut Pro-style app allows production team members to view proxies and annotate and share that material instantly. It has been trialled on BBC3 sitcom Mongrels.
“The app allows quick rough cut topping and tailing if necessary. The beauty of this is that all the data is stored locally on iPad while the video is held on the server. Every time you connect to the server it updates,” said Rosser.
“The challenge for production is how to generate sufficiently rich metadata when it has become very easy to film and far harder and more time consuming to log it. We’re looking at speech detection, speech to text, to help here. We are interested in the production planning phase because a lot of rich media is generated there without being captured for potential future use.”
As an example of that, BBC R&D has just launched Snippets (pictured), an internal project which matches subtitle metadata against all BBC programmes recorded over the last four years.
“Snippets is a tool to search four years worth of media by audio, video and now subtitle transcript. A click on a text search will bring you to a series of timecode matched clips for that search,” explained Paul Golds, Research Engineer.
“The power of this is that when you are trying to put together a pitch, or show a rough cut to an exec, you no longer need to spend the time or expense to find and digitise tapes. You have visually rich material straight to the desktop.” A further extension is to apply this resource to public search of BBC archives online.
“With an IP-enabled production environment we can move away from analogue and very bespoke, expensive equipment to using commodity devices,” said BBC North R&D project director, Adrian Woolard (pictured top). “Our work is an extension of DMI [Digital Media Initiative] and Fabric by looking at how IP can enable production and how IP-enabled production can feed back up the chain to archive and everything else in between.”