Reducing Manual Metadata Editing: Four Approaches to Managing Slate Information 5 min read

Reducing Manual Metadata Editing: Four Approaches to Managing Slate Information
Update: 1st of October 2021; Added additional example products with integrations

When working with loads of metadata in fast-paced film production environments, every reduction of manual effort is helpful. Hence, it’s a common aim to track metadata in a way that keeps manual entries and maintenance to a minimum – at best, you find yourself entering metadata only once. 

Slate metadata provides important production context for camera clips and is tracked by various departments to serve their respective internal purposes. With slate metadata coming from different sources, it can be challenging to avoid its repeated manual maintenance. A first and important step can be taken in pre-production coordination, where you agree upon a metadata flow. Having these conversations saves time and helps to get closer to a shared truth about the tracked slate information.

In a previous article, we explained how to maintain control over metadata by sorting out different, at times redundant or conflicting metadata information with the help of Silverstack. This article slightly shifts the focus as we’ll explore how to avoid redundant information in the first place. In the following, we’ll discuss four different approaches for maintaining slate information:

1. Via Script and Continuity

Drylab’s Set Report and MovieSlate are examples of apps that collect information on set with an iPad. These apps offer export functions for slate metadata and other information. For example, you can easily export a metadata file that Silverstack then uses to automatically match the slate information to the clips from the camera card. Other applications used on set, such as QTake, also can provide such information to be imported into Silverstack.

2. Via Sound Files

Audio recorders allow you to enter slate metadata that gets embedded into the metadata of audio recordings. Silverstack can use the metadata from these recordings and makes it easy to copy slate metadata to the corresponding camera clips. When working with Silverstack Lab, metadata gets taken over during the automatic audio sync. Silverstack XT also allows you to take over slate metadata from audio to video clips, though without syncing them. Hence, you can take advantage of the work that’s already been done by the sound department by associating the slate information they entered with your camera clips. 

By the way, we already published a detailed article on working with audio in the Silverstack product family. Check out the article for deeper technical insights on this topic.

3. Via Livegrade

Livegrade allows entering slate info and other metadata on the fly during the shoot and lets you store it directly on shot creation. Although the DIT will not create a shot for each individual take, every scene might have an associated database entry already with look and shot metadata. 

Via ShotHub, you can easily match slate info and other metadata collected in Livegrade to the original camera clips in Silverstack between different workstations. 

Having to enter the metadata only once in Livegrade reduces the effort involved in managing the media in Silverstack. In addition, it is easier for DITs to enter slate metadata or comments directly on set while shooting takes place. In the middle of the action you are seeing the slate and receiving comments from the DP in real-time. When the camera card comes into Silverstack, it might already be later in time, and you might not recall all the specifics correctly. So taking over the metadata that you created live on set is a neat and very efficient solution.

4. Via QC in Silverstack

Last but not least, if none of the above approaches work for you, you can simply enter slate information manually in Silverstack. Silverstack offers some powerful features to make this process as easy as possible:

  • You can playback clips with familiar JKL controls that allow multi-speed and reduced-speed playback in both directions. Thus, you can easily navigate to the frame showing the slate.
  • A smooth scrubbing experience in the timeline helps you to jump to specific clip parts using your mouse.
  • The quick entry panels for slate metadata help you add slate metadata seamlessly while keeping the entire UI accessible and allowing you to work in full-screen mode. They also offer auto incrementation, which helps to speed things up.
Reducing Manual Metadata Editing: Four Approaches to Managing Slate Information
Quick entry panels

Following the described way for entering slate metadata into the system once gives you peace of mind. You already work inside Silverstack, and you can add further QC information right away. Silverstack then automatically processes that information and prepares it for export so it can be properly used in subsequent production steps.

Why All That?

Adding slate metadata to your production library has multiple benefits. For example, you can use it for burn-ins in your dailies transcoding from Silverstack Lab or include it in metadata ALE files for Avid Media Composer. 

In ShotHub, you will soon be able to benefit from smart groups, a concept you might already be familiar with from Livegrade. With slate metadata added, smart groups help you understand the clips’ production context with just a few clicks. Here’s a sneak peek:

Reducing Manual Metadata Editing: Four Approaches to Managing Slate Information
ShotHub smart groups preview (coming soon)

As outline in this article, there are a few efficient ways in which you can feed slate metadata into your Silverstack library. Depending on production requirements or given circumstances, you may opt for one or the other. However you choose to approach this process, Silverstack offers powerful tools that equip you with great flexibility and allow you to successfully contribute to the overall effort of reducing manual metadata maintenance.

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About the Author
Samuel is a product manager for Pomfort's on-set applications. Usually you can catch him working on new specs for the software products, writing documentation and shooting videos for our products – and sometimes writing blog posts about workflows and equipment.