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What does digital workflow mean for the creative industry?

As technology trends advance and reliance upon IT infrastructures increases, what effect will this have on the creative industry? With information moving towards the digital domain, Jonathan Morgan, co-founder of software developer Object Matrix, looks at the demise of tape-based archiving and the natural succession of the digital workflow.

There seems to be a number of potentially confusing technology trends currently circulating business IT, such as ‘cloud computing’, ‘virtualisation’ and ‘Software-as-a-Service’, which will all have a big impact on IT infrastructures. It is important to recognise these trends and understand what they can mean for business. ‘Digital Workflow’ is one such trend which will totally change the way advertising and creative agencies store their projects.

The more traditional workflow relies on tapes to store information. Projects are recorded onto tapes and then stored in a vault to be used again if necessary. However, this tape-based workflow is becoming increasingly redundant, as the reality of an online and on-demand world takes affect. Editors, producers and especially clients want their projects immediately, which is not so easily arranged if the clip required is stuck in a vault hundreds of meters under the streets of London.

A digital workflow basically describes the network and IT infrastructure employed by a company to carry out everyday tasks. In a digital workflow assets are created digitally and then edited and processed on the network without the need for creating real-life tape copies. Whereas once the “tape workflow vs digital workflow” arguments raged, the fact that many manufacturers are entirely dropping tape-based camera ranges in favour of digital based ones is forcing the issue. With a digital workflow, there simply is not a tape to ingest or to put on a shelf anymore.

An integral part of any digital workflow is where to store assets when they are not currently being used. A nearline archiving facility prevents the need for a tape library by creating a secure database for old projects which can be accessed quickly and easily at the click of a button. This means that all assets are still live and can be accessed immediately rather than waiting for days for the right tape to be found.

This ability to re-purpose and revisit old projects is invaluable to creative agencies. Having complete access to all previous material can provide inspiration and stimulate ideas for current projects. Editors and producers can see how previous campaigns were run and how to change or replicate ideas in seconds. Not only does this save valuable time and money spent searching for the correct piece of footage in a vast tape library, but it can also dramatically improve agency efficiency in the client’s eyes. More time is devoted to the actual campaign development, rather than administrative procedures.

There are some current examples of how re-purposing old material can benefit an advertising campaign. The latest Persil campaign, celebrating the washing company’s 100 years, snippets together a number of old advertisements. The campaign’s strength comes because it reminds the viewer that the company has a long standing relationship with the British consumer. Using a digital workflow and nearline archiving tool, this type of campaign is relatively simple to put together.

Another example of a re-purposing old material would be the recent EDF Energy ‘It’s not that easy being green’ campaign. This particular advertisement, declaring the energy providers’ plans to produce less carbon emissions, is a compilation of recycled film clips, including news clips, cartoon animations and sound bytes from political speeches. This campaign is a perfect example of re-using old material creatively.
The security settings of a digital archive can be customised with digital access keys, quashing any possible security issues. This means that specific users will only be able to access certain fields of stored information allowing agencies to give clients a log in code to see how their projects are progressing, for example.
The scalability of a modern digital archive means that large libraries of information can be collected. By using open standards and not tying the archive to proprietary hardware solutions, it can be simply expanded to whatever size is needed. There are no restrictions to the amount of information captured. Simple Google-type keyword searches can identify the correct assets to work with virtually instantly.
Therefore, in summary, a digital workflow is essential for advertising agencies to offer the best service possible to its clients. The value implications of keeping all assets live and just a mouse click away cannot be underestimated. Digital workflows are a paradigm shift that is revolutionising the way creative agencies conduct business not because tape cannot do a job, but because efficiencies, speed and revenue opportunities of digital workflows are essential to business survival and growth.

The author

Jonathan Morgan is Co-founder of software developer Object Matrix

(ITadviser, Issue 60, Winter 2009)



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