Metadata and the importance of “tagging”

“Meta-tagging” is here to stay.. but what is it ? any why should I use it ?

First a bit of History

For years, people have organised data in a fashion similar to filing cabinets. Folders, files etc.. Now, while this was good for many years, the type of content that video has, doesn’t always fall into ONE category i.e. A shot might have children, and a sunset.. so, does it go into the ‘sunsets’ folder, or the ‘children’ folder… both ? No. So, this was a problem.

So for a long time the idea of having multiple tags has been there, but until recently, they have not really been used properly.

However, due to the upsurge of data capture, it is even more important to realize the importance of tagging, and finding a way to embrace it. For documentary film makers, and the slew of data, and quicker turnaround times. The importance of finding data quickly, instead of ploughing through everything to find what you want, is paramount.


Tagging has been around a while, but there are quite a few reasons why it’s not been completely adopted

First if all, in either OSX or Windws7 there is no simple & system wide way of tagging information over large volumes of data, one had to purchase something to give you basic functionality. There are free programs around that allow you to do this such as ‘Tagit’ that give you basic tagging functionality that I feel should have been there in the first place.

‘OSX Spotlight’

OSX 'Spotlight' window

Apple has ‘spotlight‘ and it’s great, but can be difficult of you’re using data outside of your mac. This is especially important if you are in an independent production where everyone might not be on one operating system. There could be a combination of Mac & PC’s and the ‘spotlight’ information simply wouldn’t transfer. Even between Macs in this situation , it would be awkward.

Also, you still need extra programs like ‘leap’ or ‘tagit’ (see my review) to get it done, but people have to go and find these programs, figure out which one is best etc. So, this has hindered it’s adoption.

Apple introduced tagging in iPhoto, however it gained little traction. Indeed, i can’t use it as I have separate libraries and the tagging list doesn’t transfer easily…it can be edited and hacked in there but not a simple solution.

iPhoto 'Keyword' window

Google developed an open standard to tag metadata called, “openmeta” and many companies have adopted it as well as the standard ‘spotlight’ tagging in OSX.

Now, it’s a bit of a hack in osx, but it works very well and will no doubt be ratified by Apple and included as standard in the near future.

The major benefit over ‘Spotlight’ is that it is

  • open standard development
  • works across platforms (OSC/ Linux/ PC)
  • works across programs

Open Meta in an editing environment

The benefit is simple, you don’t have to put things in a rigid hierarchy; you can search instead
Here’s an example: We’ve just shot a doc in Africa, the first thing I did was tag all the videos with things like ‘exterior’, ‘golden hour’, ‘medical clinic’ etc. Therefore after a while I can look for certain things, or even combinations of things, and my selection will be narrowed and shown.


TagBot Menu

TagBot browser interface

I started using ‘Tagbot‘ which is a great little program as it is based on ‘Spotlight’. I found this the quickest to tag things as the ‘quickview’ preview in ‘Leap‘ seems to have a bug and plays video quite choppy. However, I found that I started to get a huge amount of Tags and tagbot is a simple column, and so I ended up wasting time sliding up and down to find the right tag. It is essential that this is a nimble and easy process or PEOPLE WILL NOT DO IT. Tagbot is very quick and very fast to get going on. Now the real saving grace is that Leap can convert the OSX spotlight tags into ‘openmeta’ tags.. So I seem to find myself tagging in Tagbot, then when I’m done I use leap for searching.


Leap is from Ironic software and it a great tool. Whislt it does have a minor bug that will hopefully be fixed, overall it is a great performer. The main interface at first glance basically shows you what’s going on. Once I introduced it to my editor he just started working.. I occasionally heard him say “oh, man this is awesome”

The basic workflow is that you use leap INSTEAD of bins in Final Cut.

Main 'Leap' Interface

On the left of the interface you can see the varying size of text; this shows the relative amount of data for given ‘tags’. In this case there are lots of videos tagged ‘Mobile_clinic’ compared to other things like ‘Lab’ or ‘night’. This gives you a very quick overview on the type of data that you have. This is VERY handy.

'Leap' showing varying sizes of text indicating the relative amount of data. Here we see 'mobile_clinic' has a lot more data than 'Lab'.


  • I tag with ‘TagBot’
  • I search and review with ‘Leap’
  • I do NOT use bins in Final Cut (unless I’m using PluralEyes)

One other program mentioning.. only due to it’s bittersweet near perfection is ‘Tags’:


Tags: great interface. all tags on the left, 'refinement' section at the top, and the results and quickview window below that. It's PERFECT !, apart from one MASSIVE FLAW!

It is NEAR perfect: It’s interface is simple, clean and FAST. the quickview implementation is also very speedy. However, there is a massive and incredibly weird issue; You cannot DO ANYTHING with the results !!!! you cannot drag the resultant files anywhere or do anything with them.. apart from playing them.

Look ! I can select.. but THAT IS IT... no dragging for you !!!

So I really thought that this was going to be ‘the one’ but I was flabbergasted that this was the end of the road with my brief love affair with this program. I hope the developers realize that this would be very very handy.

One things that is great about ‘Tags’ is the updated ‘Spotlight’ like implementation:

It's a real shame I'll never use this.... goodbye my lovely 'Tags'

So there you have it. I hope this has brought to light some of the things I’ve found to be handy !! Overall I have found this to be an inexpensive solution for people who don’t have ‘Final Cut Server’. FCS is great, but pricy and heavy to boot (in terms of needing not just the program, but fast storage, and a separate machine to run server on)

So, all I can say now is…..START YOUR TAGGING !!!!!

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