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2 Things Rafael Nadal can teach us about file based workflow.

2 Things Rafael Nadal can teach us about file based workflow.

2 Things Rafael Nadal can teach us about file based workflow.
Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2 Things File Based Workflow EnterpriseI love tennis. I remember being able to play and I remember what winning felt like. Ok, so junior tennis in Melbourne in the 1970s is a long long way from the Australian Open, but watchingRafael Nadal in the last couple of rounds of the tournament reminded me of a couple of things that I come across a lot while at work:

1. Things go wrong 

I hope you saw the close-up of Rafael's taped fingers and bleeding gaping wound on his left hand. Now this is not the first game of tennis that Rafael Nadal has played, so I am guessing that he probably takes care of his hands and he is usually capable of finishing a grand slam without falling to pieces. He plans his matches but still, things go wrong.

When you're putting together a file based workflow, even one that seems to have been stable for a while, there will always be surprises. You might get a toxic file, there might be some tiny change in software upstream that propagates through your transcode and edit software until some tiny perturbation changes the display of a caption on-air. Impossible? I don't think so.

Why is this? It's mostly because no-one really understands the tiny end-to-end dependencies of all the cascaded elements that go into today's systems. They are still quite young andworkflows are still evolving to find the best working practises. You might get the video-audio chain perfect but a small metadata error could damage the output file - this is especially true when delivery specifications are not intrinsically testable.

What's the solution? Assume that things are going to go wrong and ensure that you have systems in place to correct for the small percentage of errors that inevitably occur in file based workflow. You need to be able to measure those errors and be sure that the error rates are constant in a steady state system. If you on-board a new supplier or a new customer, then checking the change in error rates will tell you how much trust that new supplier or customer should be given.

2. Don't quit 

Nadal was in a lot of pain in the final, but he toughed it out and got a lot of respect. Ok, so he lost the match in the end, but he put up a good fight and he put himself in a mental position where he knows he will win again. He took positive action on the court to try and remedy the problem with his back and mitigate the losses that it was causing him.

We often see this in our day jobs. Things go wrong. We see many behaviour patterns in people in projects. Some try to ignore the problems, some get angry and allocate blame, some realise that things go wrong and work the problem with their suppliers until the situation is resolved. The strategy that seems to be the most reliable is to work the problem. Identify the desired outcomes and figure out how to get a resolution. Tackling symptoms rather than causes often leads to losing the battle. If the symptoms are that files from a particular supplier break your workflows, then fixing the root cause of the problems is nearly always the best strategy. Work with your supply chain to help them fix their problems and everybody wins. Implement a fix-up workflow yourself and you are spending money to fix another companies problems - it might work in the short term, but not in the long run. Manufacturing figured out this simple supply chain equation years ago. Let's hope the media supply chain figures it out too :)

I won't be able to teach you how to play tennis like Rafael Nadal, but you can get tips on building a fault tolerant transcode farm in our enterprise white paper.

'til next time....

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Posted by Bruce Devlin

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