LOS ANGELES, CA—John Koscheka, senior vice president of worldwide fulfillment and digital services at Twentieth Century Fox, in a recent webinar hosted by MESA, discussed the challenges facing the media and entertainment industry as it moves to a fully file-based workflow. Fox was previously shipping approximately 65,000 broadcast elements, via FedEx and DHL, to its 550-plus customers worldwide, according to Koscheka, but has converted more than 170 (representing a reported 80 percent of its total distribution volume) to its FoxFast digital delivery workflow.
Add in the DVD preview screeners that also had to be mailed out, said Koscheka, and “over the course of a 20-year span, we’re likely in the ballpark of hundreds of millions of dollars in distribution costs.” Setting up file-based workflows costs a fraction of that, of course. Fox began looking at digital delivery in 2008, he noted. A white paper released in April 2009 laid out the proposed scheme and set a mid-2011 date for the completion of the transition to digital delivery.
The delivered file formats are MXF-wrapped, XDCAM (MPEG-2 including Layer 2 audio) on the HD side and IMX50 (SMPTE 356 M D10 at 50 mbps) on the SD side. “What we don’t currently do is attach metadata with the file so we can do automated ingest at the receiving end,” he said.
The challenge of traditional delivery methods is not only cost, however. In some parts of the world, packages can be held up in Customs for weeks on end. One Fox client, located in Southeast Asia, who has a relatively slow 5 MB/ps connection, is “able to initiate their downloads while the rest of their network is minimized. It might take a while, but it’s sitting there in the morning as opposed to waiting two to three weeks to get it through Customs,” he commented.
Localized language versions are an important part of the picture for a media company that delivers globally. Offering one example, Koscheka said, “Fox International Channels, our partner in Italy, was airing a subtitled version of Glee within one day of the U.S. broadcast last season, and a fully dubbed version within eight days. We needed an efficient way to work with the localization vendor in the market and get the specific individual assets back that they are creating for that version.”
The solution was to create a tool called EditBay within FoxFast. Continuing the Italian example, he said, “The dubbers can come into the Fox- Fast EditBay, look at a proxy video file with the English inserts, and they’re able to mark up in and against that screen file what the appropriate Italian text insert is. They submit their job, and that’s delivered back to our team at Fox Media Services as an XML file.
“Separately, we’re bringing back the Italian dubbed audio, electronically, and all of these components are stitched together on our side as a final composite Italian version that then is ported back to our delivery system and is able to run through the normal digital delivery channels.”
Of course, managing versions for multiple languages could become very cumbersome. “It’s very critical that you consider the localized version as part of your ultimate workflow without having to go outside of your normal operating procedures,” stressed Koscheka.
“Tied to that is the management of our localized files and our technical team behind the scenes doing our encoding and building our digital vault,” he continued. That team is led by Steve Rosenberg, SVP, media, post-production and technical operations, 20th Century Fox.
“Instead of taking every single language version that you might create, they are managing content by way of ingredients,” detailed Koscheka. In the Italian example, “You have the original English version, a separate Italian main, and end-texted elements and inserts. All of these can be stored as separate ingredients, and as you deliver to the end-user, all of this content gets stitched together on the fly as it’s delivered to broadcasters. Just from an economics position and storage perspective, this entirely minimizes our storage requirement to maintain files by not storing individual copies of everything.”
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