The Power of Wildcards 7 min read

The Power of Wildcards

Wildcards, or more appropriately “path wildcards”, are representations of metadata fields that can be used as a placeholder for the specific metadata of a certain type of asset. 

If you’re now thinking, “Wait a minute, that all sounds a bit too abstract”, this article is for you! In the following, we’ll break down this useful concept and make it real tangible by giving you reasons for and practical examples of using wildcards in your workflows. 

First, we’ll share some tips & tricks to set you up for a smart way of using wildcards. We’ll then take a look at all the places where the wildcard concept is used within the Pomfort ecosystem. Lastly, you’ll get three concrete examples of using the path wildcard builder. 

As wildcards are part of pretty much all Pomfort applications and services and further constitute a very powerful tool for automating file paths and names, it’s worthwhile to make yourself familiar with the concept. So, let’s go!

Get the Most Out of Wildcards: Tips & Tricks

Let’s take a look at some interaction tips & tricks that might not be so obvious at first glimpse.

GENERAL INTERACTION

Generally, the wildcard path can be created by typing and using drag and drop to move wildcard tokens from the list into the path. The exemplary line below provides a preview of the resulting path.

The Power of Wildcards
A path wildcard window and the available wildcard tokens

WITHIN THE EDITOR 

You can use a slash “/“ in the path to create new paths automatically.

The Power of Wildcards
See the “MyCustomFolder” folder created with wildcards inside Silverstack

Also, simply add a prefix or suffix by combining wildcard tokens with typed elements (e.g. “_vfx”).

USING PRESETS

Within the offload wizard, you can copy and paste a wildcard path from one destination to another, which is also possible via shortcuts.

The Power of Wildcards
Copy and paste in the context menu of offloading destinations

When working with wildcards in the Silverstack offload destination or the Livegrade clip identifier, recently used wildcard paths are saved and can be selected from the gear menu for reuse.

The Power of Wildcards
Saved wildcard paths are selectable from the gear menu

Additionally, don’t miss the special options that some wildcards provide: For example, date wildcards offer different date configurations that can be selected within the wildcard tokens.

The Places and Purposes of Wildcards

Across Silverstack and Livegrade, but also in Shothub, the concept of wildcards is used in various places to serve similar but not quite identical purposes.

In Silverstack, path wildcards are available for the following purposes:

  • Offload & Backup: Use path wildcards to build the destination path
  • Transcoding: Use path wildcards to create folders in the destination directory or set new filenames for the transcoded clips
  • Burn-Ins: Use path wildcards to build image burn-in combinations from available metadata
  • Export of Stills: Use path wildcards for creating destination folders and still file names
  • Reporting: Use path wildcards to create destination folders and report file namesExport of ALE for Avid Media Composer: Use path wildcards to create the “Name” column of the ALE

In Livegrade, path wildcards are available for the following purposes:

  • Custom Clip Identifier: Create your individual naming pattern based on wildcards to create unique Clip Identifiers per shot
  • Export of Stills: Use path wildcards to create destination folders and still file names
  • Saving Shots: Choose a wildcard(s) preset or customize the path and naming scheme to export looks and reference images from your shot library (Additionally, the same presets for file naming are available in ShotHub when exporting CDLs from your Livegrade cloud project.)

For a deeper dive into how wildcards can be used in Livegrade, take a look at this previous blogpost.

Three Examples of How to Use Wildcards

As seen, there are many areas for using wildcards within Silverstack and Livegrade, which gives you a lot of freedom to create individual workflows and meet the custom requirements of different projects. In all mentioned places, the wildcards are used similarly. Now, we’ll look at a few examples that focus on their usefulness for various activities.

1. Offload clips in Silverstack

By default, the offload wizards use a wildcard setting shown as “Preserving Folder Structure” in the destination path. This means that the path wildcards “Bin Name” and “Folder Structure” are used to create a 1:1 copy of the source folder structure, which is usually a good starting point. Additionally, you can edit the bin name without touching the wildcard configuration, as this might be needed.

Opening the path wildcard editor enables you to access and change the default configuration /“Bin Name”/“Folder Structure”/ or to create a new wildcard path from scratch. For example, “Project Name”/“Bin Path”/“Folder Structure”/ as this meets Netflix’s requirements. 

Within one project, you might need to adapt the wildcard path for offloading, for example, when multiple cameras are involved using different folder structures. Therefore every wildcard path used for offloading is saved, and the recent paths can be re-activated at any time.

The Power of Wildcards
The offload wizard and the path wildcards in use are shown in the destination path column of the offload destinations

2. Creating Reports in Silverstack

Choosing a destination folder and file name for reports basically works as in the offloading or transcoding wizard, which means it’s also a combination of a fixed and a variable wildcard path. First, a location is defined as the “parent” destination for the exported reports. That “parent” path can be extended by combining wildcards with slashes (“/“) to create new folders and a custom file naming scheme based on one or more wildcards. That way, you can collect reports in a structured way separately or add them to the offloaded media assets by using a wildcard combination corresponding to the offload wildcard paths.

3. Combine and re-use wildcards

There is a specialty within Livegrade, as each shot in the project gets a unique “Clip Identifier” that is composed of wildcards. Additionally, the “Clip Identifier” can be used as a wildcard itself when it comes to exporting stills or look files. Transferring look information with a consistent and proven naming convention is essential for a working color pipeline. With the “Clip Identifier”, you have a two-step naming scheme to serve various processes.

For example, by defining an appropriate wildcard pattern for “Clip Identifier”, the grading information is suitable for the look matching process in Silverstack. In addition, another wildcard combination for exporting looks is chosen, as “Camera”-“Scene”-“Clip Identifier”, so that the created files (CDL, AMF, etc.) are named as required for the final post-production. These wildcard paths can be copied into a text file, and recent wildcard combinations for “Clip Identifiers” are available across projects, which is helpful for setting up the workflow and documentation.

The Power of Wildcards
Defining a naming scheme for the look export using the Clip Identifier wildcard among others

All in all, the concept of path wildcards stretches across the Pomfort ecosystem to provide you with a powerful tool for staying organized within your projects. 

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About the Author
Selina is a product manager for Pomfort’s on-set systems. With many years of practical experience in post production she knows how to develop workflows for ever-changing needs, and appreciates when smart on-set information management supports all production steps.