iXML AMA Plug-in: User Beware

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For those who know me, I am a big fan of metadata and all the useful and innovative functionality that be done when well designed and implemented. So I was quite happy to hear that Media Composer v7 was going to support iXML. For more information on iXML, see the organization’s web page at: http://www.gallery.co.uk/ixml/

iXM provides for metadata extension schema to the Broadcast Wave BEXT Chunk. Media Composer has had very good BWF support for a while, but did not support iXML to capture the additional metadata offered by the specification. Some of the metadata is redundant to what is in the BEXT Chunk such as scene, take, track comments, etc. iXML includes information such as actual timecode rate settings (rather than just samples from midnight), timecode/offset of clap, pullup/pulldown information, etc. Support for both BWF and iXML is a powerful combination for many post workflow configurations.

When I realized it was being done via the AMA plug-in architecture, I went “uh oh…” But I held out hope that a single interface would combine the current functionality of BWF import and the additional metadata of iXML.  And this is an improvement over the QuickTime AMA plug-in taking over for audio only assets losing all the metadata in the BWF file. So it is getting better. Unfortunately in this first release of the AMA plug-in for iXML, many of my workflow fears were well founded.

I am not saying that it does not have its place as is – but it is a very specific one; quick access to the audio is a nice thing to have – although importing audio assets was never a lengthy process as it is with video formats and transcoding. If you know for sure that the sample rate is correct for the project frame rate and you need the immediate access to the audio, it can work. I can also see it being used for songs and SoundFX libraries and such, but it doesn’t support metadata such as MP3 tags as that is a different specification from iXML and would most likely be a different plug-in offering.

I did a very easy and quick test with the reference BWF/iXML file that can be downloaded from the iXML web page. I imported as well as AMA link using the plug-in. What I found was that the AMA link provided only one more field’s worth of metadata and it was mapped incorrectly as a combined comment rather than a True/False column heading as it should be.  So from a metadata perspective it’s pretty much a wash. The Avid Read Me for the iXML plug-in states that “all relevant metadata is supported”, but no indication as to what that might be, and to whom. What it can’t do, which is supported in the BWF is the ability to pullup, pulldown, support combining of monophonic recordings, etc. It also does not convert correctly when timecode rates are different from the project type, and the settings for timecode and metadata behavior are somewhat obfuscated from the user and there is no warning something was done. Good workflow solution design takes into consideration, not just the perfect scenario, but also all the instances of when things go wrong; either because of human interaction or faulty equipment.

The hope was that the benefits of both BWF and iXML would be part of a single operation, but that is not the case here. I would advise staying away from the iXML plug-in for this version as it can lead to more problems than the few benefits it provides. And being an AMA plug-in, there is the hope and promise that it can be updated outside the Media Composer release cycle.

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