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Digitizing Media for Metadata Rich Production,
The Rapid Transit Approach

Brooks Harris, Ed McDermid, Apr 2010

Digitizing and distributing media files for production is the ugly side of digital production; wrought with compatability limitations and idiosyncrasies. Digitizing media is rarely an 'editorial' process, but too often must be done in an edit room, or othrwise require an editing system to digitize media.

Migration to 'digital; production held such promise, and has provided many real advantages, however incompatibility of digital media formats has plagued the industry. The dominant media formats for production have been proprietary, often forcing custoners into dedicated single-vendor solutions. Redundant post processing and transcoding of digital media adds time and cost to most media workflows. Ironically, returning to baseband still is frequently the most practical and cost effective solution for interchange.

Current industry trends are leading toward services oriented architectures that are intended to enable greater flexibility, scalability, and utilize commodity hardware. These changes increasingly defy the prevailing proprietary solutions approach. For media encoding the goal is to avoid creating a new production chain for each new output format, and instead developing an architecture that can be extended as new requirements arrise. This trend creates additional challenges where existing processes cannot be upgraded or replaced. Technologies that help bridge between existing applications and new architectures are needed.

In recent years the vision of an ‘agile’ encoders and decoders has largely been realized, however significant problems remain. Ultimately the hardest problems to solve have had more to do with metadata rather then image or sound processing. For example, Avid based systems MXF or OMF media that is nothing unusual and can be encoded by any number of vendors. However creating MXF/OMF media files that the Avid system can use effectively is only truly available by digitizing with the Avid, or importing into an Avid editor. Its the metadata contained in the MXF/OMF media files that is at the root of the compatability issues. This is valuable metadata and key to the power of the Avid. Effective metadata management can solve many of the problems that arise when media must pass through a variety of stages of production. By preserving available metadata throughout the workflow, assets accrue additional value. Preserving source metadata can enable users to preserve and track ownership, clearances and usage rights information. Source metadata also enables re-conforming from primary sources to insure best quality through automated re-digitizing or re-linking.

Rapid Transit OnePass has been architected as a digitizer solution for customers who have high volume digitizing requirements. For customers that need to incorporate Avid editors into a larger workflow and need proxy media for networked and database collaboration applications. The Rapid Transit OnePass Digitizer is available as a stand alone application or as a middleware toolset. It is a scalable digitzing solution for delivering media files ready for use on the most common editorial systems including Avid and Final Cut Pro. Designed to support OMF, MXF and QuickTime formats with metadata, Rapid Transit delivers media that is recognized as ‘native’ media by the editorial systems thus requiring no import process. The middleware architecture of Rapid Transit is intended to support custom interfacing as required for the customer’s production environment. Software services and APIs provide a basis for integration tailored to customer’s workflow. Services may encompass system control, data transfer, image processing and metadata. Utilizing these multiple API layers, integrators and systems architects will be able to effectively incorporate Rapid Transit digitizing and transcoding capabilities into the larger workflow. A wrapper layer accommodates the multitude of interfaces required whether SOAP based SOA environment or through Sockets. The Metadata API enables effective mapping and management of metadata and the media it represents. 

OnePass supports delivery of media to the most common editorial tools without requiring use of the edit room to digitize the media. OnePass can digitize OMF media for Avid Meridian systems, MXF for new Avid products, as well as QuickTime for Final Cut Pro. It can be configured to CONCURRENTLY encode in multiple formats so that parallel production can take place on otherwise incompatible systems. Rapid Transit can also encode from multiple sources concurrently addressing the needs of high volume ingestion for production.

Rapid Transit OnePass can run as a stand-alone application or as part of a multi-node, fully-automated services architecture controlled through its API and SDK. As part of the transcode process, Rapid Transit handles a wide array of critical operations including SD/HD conversion, logo insertion, color space conversion, Film to Tape correction, deck control and more. Rapid Transit can be run via its user interface or via an XML-based API that is included with the product.

Maintaining metadata integrity is a core focus of Rapid Transfer. Unique is it ability to create MXF/OMF media files that are recognized as ‘native’ by Avid systems; delivering metadata that is fully compatible. The metadata API enables integration of Avid products into third party asset management applications and heterogeneous production environments with significantly increased interoperability.



Rapid Transit OnePass provides OEMs and integrators with the crucial tool to bridge the gap between customer workflows and existing Avid systems. When used as a middleware offering with a hardware digitizer and customizable metadata and control APIs. Media digitizing includes OMF media recording with integrated metadata coordinated with Avid compatible EDL, ALE, and OMF composition metadata. Rapid Transit can also concurrently digitize QuickTime proxy media and Web streaming media. For customers who use both Avid and media management systems or if they want to make media available for browsing across the organization, they can encode multiple instantiations of media assets, with associated metadata appropriate for both systems.

The advantages of using Rapid Transit OnePass to digitize for delivery to the Avid editing system are many. Rapid Transit makes it cost competitive for services companies to deliver digitized media to the editor instead of tapes. With Rapid Transit multiple sources can be digitized concurrently saving time. The user interface is very simple and the operator does not have to know how to navigate the full Avid user interface translating into potential labor savings. Rapid Transit enables users to remove large digitization tasks from the Avid editor. Whether it’s an editing bay that is booked by the hour, a rental system or an in-house resource, Rapid Transit lets users move non-editorial task to a lower cost workstation freeing up the editing bay, reducing overall cost.


Rapid Transit includes an easy to use GUI. This allows for basic operation of the digitizer functionality. Although the GUI does not take advantage of the full set of Rapid Transit features, it does provide a very simple and effective tool for digitizing media; with a user interface that requires little or no training.


Like the hardware required for the editing systems with similar digitizing capabilities, Rapid Transit OnePass incorporates a hardware digitizer to ensure quality and performance. A dedicated multi-core Windows PC with appropriate system and storage capabilities and including one or more digitizer cards. The Rapid Transit Hardware has capabilities similar to the Avid Mojo. Unlike the Avid, this enables this solution to function in a services based environment, and without the uncertainties associated with asynchronous, software only solutions.

The media I/O capabilities are basically the same as you would have on a typical editing system; support common composite analog, s-video analog, component (YCrCb and RGB), or SDI serial digital. The 48K audio sample rate is locked to the video clock. 8 channels of embedded audio are available per SDI video connection as well as 4 channels of analog audio. Rapid Transit also includes both VITC and LTC support and 422 VTR control.

Rapid Transit middleware is designed to deliver the greatest value when integrated with other applications, extending the capabilities of a facility while working in the background, within the context of other applications, or through automated processes. The middleware is typically licensed to the end-user in conjunction with appropriate integration services. It may be deployed by a systems integrator as a component of a larger solution, or integrated into an existing facility by the in-house engineering or IT team. In either case Rapid Transit integration services can be provided by a qualified 3rd party facilities integrator or with integration services from Rapid Transit.

Avid, OMF, Open Media Framework and Media Composer are registered trademarks and MCXpress and MCXEDL are trademarks of Avid Technology, Inc. All other trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.