The power of teams
I love F1 racing, but what amazes me is the agility and discipline of the pit crews in doing their job. A ‘simple’ pit stop will expose a crucial point of failure in a system that typically involves many mechanics doing many things together and well.
The speed of a pit stop has traditionally been hampered by the manual front car jack, but a tiny modification that provided a 90 degree swivel on the jack made all the difference. It allows the whole team to perform safely and get the jack man out of the way of a screaming engine launching at over 700 kilos inside a two second stop; it makes all the difference. (For more on this, click here to check out Analysis: the secrets of a two-second F1 pitstop)
It’s the same in our business; things can go swimmingly well if everyone is doing their bit and all the working parts are in place. But what happens when the flow of work stalls due to a problem? Alarm bells go, everyone’s on alert and work halts until the problem is fixed.
When customers contact us with a problem, we have to do a quick analysis, find a solution and provide a new release. That’s our pit stop.
The Japanese system of Kaizen – literally ‘improvement’ – refers to a culture of progress that affects all the functions and involves everyone. Kaizen, in addition to our own philosophy of agile development, regular meetings between the customer, design and the test teams, allows us to create a winning product. We have created a streamlined process of communicating the customer’s problem to the design team. It’s all about involvement, isn’t it?
We recognized a long time ago that the design process isn’t a stand alone function. A dramatic aide to our ability to provide these solutions is the customer interaction. Customer interaction allows us to provide a better solution. We need you to give us the objective truth!
Whilst we may not (yet) have the glamour of an F1 team, we don’t lack the passion or purpose or skills. By working with our customers as part of our team, we can achieve something extraordinary.
Metadata is the glue that binds media files together. Clients tell us that whilst they process huge volumes of work through the Emotion Engine, they would like help with metadata in the file domain. It is a critical area for them and (in their words) it is “the thing that cannot be ignored” in the quest for better automation.
Given that Engine can already ‘sniffs’ files for some file information and audio related parameters, it seems reasonable to ask us to go an extra mile and scrutinize the headers for additional, relevant data.
So, we built Examine which allowed one client to identify files with Dolby E essence that was not labeled as such in the file description metadata. Some decoders would have failed to decode the file. We allowed Examine to ‘sniff’ a few frames of audio and test for presence of Dolby E and once we detect its presence, our Dolby decoder can successfully decode the audio. Another client had a need to identify the program configuration inside the Dolby E file (2+2 or 5.1+2 etc), so we allowed the Examine function to read the Dolby E metadata and provide an xml report for their MAM system. We have lots of ideas for Examine and we would welcome user comments and feedback.
The end of heavy lifting
Our mantra since day one has been, “What people do with tapes, they will want to do with files.” So we’ve developed Engine from an automated loudness application to include: Dolby E encode, decode, and track mapping, comprehensive reporting, in multiple watch folders.
Early adopters had shown determination and pieced together a number of applications and scripts to produce a working, but inelegant, maintenance intensive solution. That’s what people did. But we wanted to take it much further and now what we offer is a much better solution.
After lots of user feedback, agile development, and daily demos, Engine has been installed and is widely accepted in the industry as a user-friendly, scalable and reliable file-based automation tool. No longer do you have to laboriously grind through every file to manage the loudness or repeatedly configure track configurations. Emotion takes care of all the heavy lifting whilst you focus on creative work.
Late Summer and most of Autumn 2015, we put the finishing touches to Version 6 of the Engine. This is a major release and is now available as a complete, modular, stable and a feature-loaded resource which includes: upmix, downmix, audio extraction, audio replacement, AD Mix, Examine, improvements to Dolby encoding and decoding (guard band correction, detection of Dolby E without the presence in a metadata headers). As if that wasn’t enough, we also decided to include support for workflows that have multiple inputs and multiple outputs. Whew, that was hard work!
As any professional craftsperson knows, the finishing of a product is critically important. We take great pride providing a complete and polished solution, providing an application that solves the operational needs, without compromising any of the engineering quality. That said, we still see new requirements in terms of operational and technical needs, so whilst our product is beginning to mature, it’s by no means the end. Tell us where you want to go next and we’re up for it.
And by the way, in early January 2016, Version 6 will have even more. Watch this space.
Perhaps it isn’t the end of heavy lifting after all?