With today’s digital film cameras, a lot of data is produced and recorded on set. Most of the time the actual image and sound data is accompanied by various kinds of metadata. Some of this metadata is broadly available, such as the running time code overlaid in video monitors. Other metadata is not presented so prominently – especially when the benefits of carrying this information further on are less obvious on set.

In this article we will have a look at different types of metadata, discuss how they can be managed on set, and show how they affect the work in post. The different sections of this article discuss metadata used for identifying and further describing clips, technical metadata about camera state, the difference between static and dynamic metadata, and metadata about the VFX-related context of a clip. We outline how different camera manufacturers are saving the metadata differently and what on-set software can do to help with that.

Let’s start off with a definition: “Metadata” in the context of a film production is data that provides information about the recorded media. This metadata can for example be used to identify recorded clips, carry technical information about the state of the camera, and may be captured for use in later visual effect work. Metadata comes from different sources and can be beneficial for various purposes on the film set set as well as later in post production.

METADATA FOR IDENTIFYING CLIPS

A typical movie production can record a huge amount of clips per day. The first task that metadata is involved with is identifying these clips in further (post-)production steps. Cameras save the recorded clips with different file names – which already represents the first metadata for a clip.

Camera manufacturers today tend to use a common file naming system consisting of a camera character (“A”, “B”, ..), a card number, and a clip number on that card. In addition to that the filename my contain additional information such as date of shooting, or a camera identifier. Although this scheme becomes adopted more and more, there are still cameras, that just name their clips with not much more than a sequence of numbers, which can lead to duplicate filenames during the course of the production.

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