Blog / Foundations, Metadata

Curation and Project Metadata

Peter Krogh
Tue Jul 14 2020

The curation that you do to your media library database, or the work you do in project software, will also generate some type of metadata, but this may be hard to access or make use of in other applications. Ideally, your library would keep a record of all InDesign documents in which a photo appears or all Premiere Pro documents that use a particular video file. At the moment, this is only available in a handful of enterprise creative environments. Most people will have to use collection information that is created manually to keep a record of which files get placed into projects.

Curation metadata

Let’s start by loosely describing what I mean by “curation.” I’m using it to mean the selection process: where files are sorted, chosen and sequenced. This could be for use in a project of some kind. It could also be part of a general editing process to craft photos and video clips into a story of some sort. At its heart, it’s about the selections done to tell a story or highlight the best media.

Curation metadata in a collection typically expresses some kind of relationship between objects. “These 20 photos tell the story of an event,” or “these are all the best photos of our facilities.” Curation may simply involve adding photos to a collection. It could also include sequencing multiple types of media.

Most of the standard metadata we’ve been looking at is used to describe an individual file. None of these schemas describe relationships between multiple independent objects such as individual photos or video clips. Nor do these schemas provide a durable way to record usage information. In most cases, this is a database function, and there is limited ability to export or embed the curation work into a file’s metadata.

Most collections management applications have some form of “collection” that can be used to manage the selection and curation process. Here’s a view from Adobe Lightroom which shows the various curation efforts related to a single project. This is really valuable information - basically adding “intelligence” to your collection as you do the curation. You’ll want to figure out how you can preserve it and make use of this work over time.

Making curation durable and portable

There are several approaches to making your curation work portable.

  • Your application may create application-specific metadata to record curation, which may be migrated to other applications through scripting.
  • You may be able to “hijack” another field to write the curation metadata (e.g. all images in a collection get a particular keyword.)
  • An application may be able to pass curation information along by means of an API.

Transferring your master curation work from one program to another is both difficult and likely to be incomplete, so it’s best to do as much of it in a single application as possible. This argues for choosing library software that can support robust curation processes, and for staying with library software for long periods of time.

XML Project files

Some project software can save edit decisions to XML for portability. Camtasia is a program I use for screencast video editing, and its project file is an XML document. Both Final Cut and PremierePro offer the capability of sharing their timeline information with the other by means of a “standardized” XML file. While these are not typically used to scrape into a catalog to record usage, they could be. In the figure below, you can see how a clip is identified.

When you open up a project file in a text editor, you can see that some of the relationship information is saved. In the above example, the clip is identified and its place on the timeline is recorded by an “in” and “out” point. This standardization approach allows certain characteristics of a project file to be understood by multiple applications.

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