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Everything you need to know about metadata management

Metadata is fundamental to managing digital assets. That’s particularly true for video, where it supports the ability to index, retrieve and monetise content. As a media manager, how do you simplify metadata, implement a strategy, and use it to add value to your video?

By: Dominik Elmiger


Metadata is an essential tool for managing digital assets. Whether it’s EXIF data embedded in a photo, file information in a document, or tags applied to a product information pack, metadata helps users find the assets they need.

Metadata is, literally, data about data. But while it’s often produced automatically, getting the most from it means careful management. Metadata management entails the careful curation of metadata to ensure its completeness, and to maintain its consistency throughout workflows that may comprise multiple tools.

When it comes to video, metadata helps users and systems quickly find footage, or specific moments within it. And metadata provides technical and structural detail on assets, helping tools recognise and process content. As such, it’s key to unlocking the full value of video assets, and streamlining the workflows involved in archival, retrieval and production.

Types of video metadata

By its nature, metadata can represent almost anything, but it typically falls into a few widely acknowledged types:

  • Administrative metadata – data such as date, data type or location, which might underpin a ‘filing system’ for assets.
  • Descriptive metadata – data that helps identify, describe or retrieve an asset. This might include title, creator/author and keywords, along with versioning information.
  • Structural/technical metadata – detailed technical information on an asset, such as its file type and size. In video, this will usually include information on the source equipment, dates, times and location.

Other sub-types or specific applications of metadata include for rights management or preservation. Metadata can also help track usage and consumption, measuring viewing, circulation or watching of a video. Given this diversity of purpose, it’s perhaps unsurprising to find there are many metadata standards.

How metadata works in video

As with other media formats, some metadata is automatically generated and applied to video by the equipment that creates it. This data encodes key administrative and technical information about an asset, such as when, where and how it was shot, but it doesn’t do much to describe the content. Historically, it’s been common for editors, archivists and others working with video to address this by manually adding other types of information.

Such ‘human-authored’ metadata can greatly enhance the searchability and visibility of video content. For example, it might include time markers that record the build up, scoring and celebration of a goal. It could include commentary or captioning, or the simple application of descriptive keywords and other tags. Taken together, this richer data set makes it easier not only to find video files, but to jump to the key moments within them.

There’s almost no limit to the detail that manually created metadata can contain, but adding it is a labour and time-intensive process. This mismatch between the desirability of comprehensive metadata and the difficulty in producing it is one of the driving forces behind new and innovative approaches to automatically generating richer metadata. These include fast emerging AI-driven routines that, for example, transcribe spoken content, or identify faces within footage.

Given metadata’s open-ended potential, it’s important that media managers develop a DAM metadata best practise standard for effectively managing it. This means identifying the information that needs to be stored with assets, both for stakeholders involved in their production, and those who might want to licence, buy or consume them. Invariably this means developing a schema to be applied to video metadata, enumerating data types and requirements, along with considerations such as whether a particular field is mandatory.

Effective metadata management also means having the tools to quickly add and update metadata and to retrieve and present video content based on it. While adding metadata is often done in authoring and editing suites, more powerful, purpose-designed tools can be found in video storage systems such as a digital asset management platform (DAM). Batch edits, automated tools and powerful extraction routines during content ingestion are just some of the ways a DAM can help media managers implement their metadata strategy.

How metadata adds value to video

Adding metadata to video assets, and having metadata-aware tools to search, monetise or playback those assets, can transform the value of video resources. At its most basic level, comprehensive and granular metadata supports creatives and other stakeholders as they work with video, reducing the time they waste looking for content, or finding the right moment in lengthy footage.

Similar benefits apply to distribution partners, customers or even end-users, who gain the ability to quickly find, preview or compare assets based on consistent and accurate data. For rights owners, metadata supports the ability to create self-service storefronts, where partners can find, review and even license content directly – again, reducing the workload for internal stakeholders.

A self-service portal, providing easily searched, license-ready content. Discover how Imagen’s powerful metadata features support LADbible’s content licensing business

Metadata also supports greater use and re-use of existing video assets. For example, by making files easy to find by theme, location, subject, keywords, dialogue or other criteria, it’s easier to identify suitable archive footage. Supporting the ability to find and re-use existing footage helps accelerate video production, and cuts the waste from needlessly re-shooting footage already in the library.

Metadata is an essential tool for managing video. Having a metadata-aware platform to store, retrieve and present video is a prerequisite for implementing a metadata strategy, and to maximise the value of your new and existing video assets.


Discover more about video metadata, why it’s important now, and what the future holds. Download our video metadata report.

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