Production Technology

Software-Defined Workflows

Supporting the Creative Process with Software-Defined Workflows

Part of the 2030 Vision is to remove burdensome, repetitive and mundane tasks by automating and delegating them to software processes. There are several benefit to this. Most notably it frees up times for storytellers to do what they love – being creative, and also cuts out unnecessary complications often found in moving files or metadata, checking transfers occurred correctly, calling other departments for status reports or vendors to check orders. Our objectives with our Software-Defined Workflow (SDW) projects is to enable flexible, dynamic workflows that can be changed and modified whilst making productions dramatically more efficient.​

These are some of the most complex problems we’re solving because they require a number of pre-requisites. We’ve explained many of these in our paper explaining Software-Defined Workflows. The first we’re tackling is communication. All workflows require communication and over the course of 100 years we have developed a distinct language for the film making process with unique words, definitions and parlance. We also have “regional dialects” within departments which add their own take on a word (pardon the pun) and all of that needs to be understood in a broader context of the content being made.​

If Software is to ever have a chance of understanding our workflows then first we need to teach it to understand and communicate the nuanced language of production. Realizing these new workflow systems requires improved communication and interoperability. MovieLabs has other related projects to help get there.

In particular, we need three things:

  1. An Ontology for better communications among people and machines . We have released and will continue to develop our common Ontology for Media Creation that provides clearly defined terms for the concepts and elements that describe production workflows and assets. These can be used for better communication between people and departments who use different or vague terminology. And for SDW, it provides a foundation for designing data models, schemas and APIs.
  2. Visual Language for diagramming workflows. We have released a visual language that can be used in workflow design and user interfaces to aid in human communication of sometimes complex and nuanced workflows.
  3. File naming for better exchange of assets. Filenames are often an important point of interoperability. The elements that go into a file name are conceptual and benefit from formal definitions, which is one of the goals of our Ontology for Media Creation. In one specific case, MovieLabs collaborated with the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at the University of Southern California to publish best practices in VFX image sequence naming. The specification covers plates, comps and other frame-based image sequences. It serves as a tool enabling greater interoperability across the many vendors and organizations involved in VFX production.

Specs & Resources