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Unfortunately, as a result of its increasing importance, metadata requirements have got very complicated. To quote Niall Duffy, the managing director of the media technology consultancy Mediasmiths, “you’ve currently got people who for very correct reasons want to come up with very structured metadata models because from their point of view that is essential for building any sort of long- term archive. But from an archive user’s point-of-view the more fields there are, the less they’ll find as it becomes too confusing for them.” Having lots of metadata fields to complete also makes data inputting nigh on impossible and unrealistic for human beings. And, in fact, when you look closely into how researchers actually use metadata and what they look for, what you find is that searches revert back to what we all know best: a Google-type search. With that in mind, metadata should not be about increasing the number of fields to improve archive or asset search. Instead it should be concerned with thinking about how people actually seek out content. 48 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE The ideal scenario, it would seem, is for footage to be given a small set of structured metadata fields that allow for things like categorization and process automation and then a large unstructured data field that is automatically generated, user generated or based on tagging. This approach would allow researchers (human or otherwise) to ‘discover’ based on their own requirements rather than the restrictions of the metadata fields. In short, less is definitely more when it comes to metadata. To my mind, in order to make this work, metadata therefore needs to be dealt with further up the production chain. It cannot be left to the archivists or the data wranglers. Producers need to take responsibility for it and that doesn’t mean reminding a runner or a camera assistant as an afterthought. If that happens, and the importance of metadata is not asserted, you get poor metadata. And programmes and footage with poor metadata will have a limited archival afterlife. So, there you have it: what we need is a new format for archive preservation and a different approach to metadata. It’s not sexy. But it is big. And it is clever. When it comes to archives and storage, metadata rules. I wonder what subject is up next? Tape library Image courtesy of Object Matrix