Ingest is essentially the process of accepting content as it is moved from one system to the next step. Ingest is important, because content production chains are typically distributed. The systems can be located at remote locations and connected by a network of some sort, but the separate components might just as well be software components running on a same computer.
Taking the footage from raw captures to the finalized product efficiently requires glitch-free integration. The better information can be preserved the easier it is to manage the process. As far as technology goes there are three main components that need to be defined; network, protocol and metadata. Whichever the platform one key requirement is availability of ubiquitous network resources. Protocols and metadata transmitted using them act as the glue between the components.
Moving video content around can be done through real-time or off-line data transfer. Real-time transfer has been historically been used much more prominently as the demands for network capacity have just barely been met. We are moving to an age where video on almost any resolution can moved around much faster than it plays out. Internet Protocol (IP) is the key breakthrough in media technology and allows using additional protocols to carry the metadata across the chain.
It is highly likely that also video will follow other media formats to be shared through IP-addressed network protocols. The flow of content can be controlled by setting these addresses. Today’s networks reach sufficient network speeds for moving from streaming transport protocols to file sharing. This data can be fetched or pushed. Manual processes tend to rely on fetching. To automate the process a typical solution is to check a list for availability for new material periodically.
If the components are located on the machine the key to interoperability is the operating system support. The most basic implementation would rely on file system and manual settings for directory structure. Trouble with this solution is the inherent problems with multiple file access. Other operating system interfaces exist. For example Microsoft Windows includes the DirectShow API which allows connecting filter components effortlessly.
Independent of the choice between file system, API or network based solution; metadata is needed to be equipped for fluid content movement. The protocol on top of transport layer can be used to describe the data transfer, content itself and integrity. There are variety of XML-based description languages such as ATOM API and RSS that can be used. Another option is to embed the metadata into the files themselves. On the digital work flow integrating MXF (exchangeable format) is one solution.
Content formats tend to be one tripping point. Both systems need to be able to use the same kind of codec. Differences in compression could require transcoding component that can be accessed by the goal system. The solution to the problem is portable formats. The content compression needs to be open or at least easily accessible, but also the metadata needs to be readable. Important thing is that open source availability guarantees future use. Thus open source formats are great for archives. It is possible that compatible players may not be available for propriatory formats in the future. Another selling point for using requires the investment for compression licensing on all physical machines.
Open video codecs are rare, but there are some like BBC’s Dirac. There are plenty of standardized solutions about, but licenses need to be paid to rights owners. One such example is de facto industry standards such mpeg-2 that has been used a lot both in capturing as well as delivery of video content (DVD and DVB). For more dedicated uses other standards. DPX file format was for example common in digitalized cinema. Due to large barriers of entry these formats have held their ground quite long.
Video productions have democratized a lot already due to many propriatory formats licensed cheaply in quest for supremacy. Microsoft’s Windows Media and Apple’s Quicktime have been battling it out in web video, but it seems that Flash is actually leading at the moment. This Adobe’s Flash video technology (codec licensed from On2) is winning the game on the web. However HD physical mediums, capturing and electronic distribution are likely to use another closely related, but standardized format. It seems MPEG-4 AVC is going to become the next generation codec of choice.