Customer story: Norwegian Film School

Customer story: Norwegian Film School

“It’s a major step forward from how it used to be and I can’t see us ever going back to the old ways of doing things. In fact we’re looking at ways to utilise ContentAgent’s automation capabilities still further in the future.”Aleksander Stalsberg, Principal Engineer, The Norwegian Film School

ContentAgent’s API utilised to automate complex processes saving considerable time and effort for staff and students.

In the age of readily accessible file based content, extensive growth in consumer and pro-sumer camera formats and increased connection speeds, facilities are required to handle and track an explosion of content in increasingly varied formats.

In many cases, this increase in workload is taking place without significant additional expenditure, leaving facilities to feel the pinch. Nowhere is this truer than in the educational sector, where universities and film schools endeavour to deliver a professional experience at a fraction of a commercial budget.

The Norwegian Film School, part of Lillehammer University College, has engineered a unique and cost-effective solution to handling the ever-increasing volume of file-based media by building a portal for content delivery and management based on root’s ContentAgent. The school has harnessed the power of ContentAgent’s API to save both time and money whilst dramatically increasing its daily throughput.

Principal Engineer, Aleksander Stalsberg, who headed up the project for the school, describes some of the issues that needed addressing.

“Our students make a lot of different content. One group can be making a documentary, while another say, is on a full studio production. Some material needs archiving while some may be just for screening. One minute we can be dealing with 4:3 anamorphic PAL, the next we’re looking at a production in 1080p25. We’re trying to get the students to follow a specific naming scheme in order to be able to archive effectively but that had proved a source of errors and complications. Similarly, the metadata, sent by the students to us by email, was also problematic. In practice we were manually sorting though the files, naming them correctly and ensuring the correct versions of the files were in the right place – an extremely time consuming task.”

“At that time we used to have a collection of presets set up in Premiere Pro with the Adobe Media Encoder to export the master version of a production at Bluray quality. Having to set these up and update them across 30 editing stations was equally time consuming and prone to error. We also needed smaller versions for streaming and final versions for uploading to Vimeo and the like. Overall this was a very laborious process and we were determined to find a solution.”

“We wanted to automate as many of the manual processes as we could and, at the same time, eliminate as many sources of errors as possible.  Besides automating the numerous transcoding tasks we needed a tool that would tie in the metadata, ensure naming procedures were followed and deliver files to the correct locations. Clearly we wanted the new system to be able to handle the wide variety of file types we work with.”

“We looked at a number of possible solutions before opting for ContentAgent. This enables us to set up any number of automated workflows – taking one specific file as an input, and passing it through a network of nodes to examine, transcode, rename and store the file as we want it. It also lets us produce multiple different outputs of the same source file, leaving the students to export a single master file while ContentAgent makes several different outputs, exactly to specification ContentAgent also helps us with the screening versions as we use the easily set up Watchfolders function to automatically run a particular file in a pre-set workflow. This allows our students to have a temporary version of their media to get feedback from staff without the need to lug around external drives or laptops.”

“That took care of a lot of the original issues but we decided to take it further. We wanted to create a metadata template to be associated with each file put through ContentAgent and the ability to attach a separate .zip file for any relevant documents or images.  I set up a webserver that the students can access on our network. The students go through the menu to find the correct form to enter names, classes and assignments along with the production metadata. The form is validated by the server to ensure all the required information is included. That way, we are sure to get all we need before anything is done by ContentAgent. The form also includes the facility for attachments if required.”

“When the form is successfully completed, a request is sent through the API to ContentAgent, which picks up the designated files, transcodes to the prescribed workflow and inputs the metadata. ContentAgent then provides us with a master file for a digital archive or tape, a file to view in classrooms, a web version, and possibly a trailer or a .zip-file for our archive, all renamed based on the metadata in a way that is searchable and sortable. Even better, we had ContentAgent make an .xml file that contains all the metadata given by the students, which in turn can be used by third party software for whatever we want.

“Students can check the progress of their work through a status screen that also utilises the API, sending a query to the server to get a list of current and previous processes back from ContentAgent. In such a way, students can monitor the progress of their jobs in the server queue. We also plan to implement an automated email notification to staff, advising that a particular student has delivered a production successfully.

“As far as we’re concerned on the technical and operational side, ContentAgent has really saved us a great deal of time and effort. Equally importantly our students also very much appreciate the streamlined approach now possible. We’ve gathered a multitude of their hand-ins into a single, easy- to- complete form and now they’re able to keep track of their productions, both during processing and in the archive. It’s a major step forward from how it used to be and I can’t see us ever going back to the old ways of doing things. In fact we’re looking at ways to utilise ContentAgent’s automation capabilities still further in the future.”

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