Navy stores metadata in multimedia files

The Navy Video News Service has a new approach to storing metadata, embedding the captions and other pertinent information directly on a photo or video.

Where is the best place to file metadata about a multimedia file, such as a video or photograph? Why not on the file itself? This is the approach that the Navy Video News Service is taking by embedding the captions and other pertinent information directly on a photo or video.

"We believe in work once, [and] profit from your work forever," said Damon Moritz, video program manager for the Navy Video News Service.

At the Government Video Technology Expo 2008, held earlier this month in Washington, Moritz gave an overview of the how the Navy's news service offers up videos, photographs and press releases to the media, through its Media Lighthouse site.

The news service is the primary point of contact for media outlets that wish to use photographs or video of Navy activities. Media personnel can peruse the site themselves, looking for the photo or video that best fits their needs. The site features a visual directory; a pop-up display can display the video or photograph being considered. And the downloadable files come in multiple formats.

With a staff of seven, the department tries to streamline to workload any way possible. And one technique that Moritz has found that helps is to embed metadata directly in the files, instead of keeping it in a separate database.

The department uses a digital asset management system, from MediaBeacon, that supports Adobe's Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP). XMP allows multimedia files to also store a strings of text that can be used to describe the content of the file.

"We use XMP, where we actually embed the data into that file. So wherever that file travels, the data goes with it," Moritz said.

This process saves the trouble of coordinating files and their metadata from a third source, such as a database. It also minimizes the number of times reporters call back asking for a caption for a photo or video. And once a file is labeled, then personnel won't have to write another caption for the file sometime in the future, should the link to the metadata get lost. Even if the server crashes, the backup files will have all their metadata place, so restoring the site should be minimal work.

"We're talking about doing a lot with very little effort, maximizing effort from work that has already been accomplished," Moritz said.