Data without order is just noise. If you’ve ever had to recover audio or video from a file when you don’t have the format information, you know exactly what I mean. Obsolete software, undocumented systems or simple data loss can lead to hours of analysis and experimentation. And, in every business, time is money.
That’s why MediaInfo is a thing. Given a media file, MediaInfo will parse the contents, providing rich information about formats, containers, codecs, bitrate and associated metadata, among the many details that modern media containers can have. This information can be presented in human-readable form or in forms that can be used by other tools to process the data they’re given. Little wonder that this tool has become a mainstay for professionals dealing with multiple content types.
MediaInfo has two remarkable attributes: it’s run by a small team of six people, and it’s open. Anyone can use it, and anyone can contribute to it. MediaInfo has been going for decades, growing to include new formats as they became available and demand for them grew. It was pretty cool that the tool already had some existing support for the Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby E codecs that had been added independently from us. When we saw that, we wanted to work with MediaInfo to make the support as comprehensive as possible.
Meeting of minds
Our involvement with MediaInfo kicked off when we met lead developer Jérôme Martinez at IBC a couple of years ago. We told him we’d like to help expand the handling of Dolby formats for both audio and video, including Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. We spent about a year on that project, and everyone involved was very happy with the results. We also offered support for the latest evolution in our audio codecs, Dolby AC-4.
Some people ask me why we’d back independent software that lets people use our codecs. Simple. We get more support for our formats – and everyone who uses MediaInfo either in their work or as part of a larger product can get free, high-quality Dolby AC-4 support without hassle.
The workflow was straightforward. We said which parts of the standards we’d like to concentrate on and provided the support needed, short of writing code, including test materials to verify that MediaInfo was handling the format correctly. We allocated a few weeks of an engineer’s time to really run through the Dolby AC-4 support, check for all the innovative concepts such as multiple presentations, and work through any issues.
It was far from a one-sided conversation, though. In listening to the feedback from the developers, we learned how to improve the standards to better align with real-world requirements – a virtuous loop. For us – and our users – to get the most out of MediaInfo, we knew we had to commit to it.
And we did. We were truly invested in the quality of the tool. After all, it could do a vital job that we’d have to work very hard to replicate on our own. This was, and is, a really good, productive and effective collaboration, and one that benefits the whole industry.
We’re certainly going to continue this open-source approach in the future, such as with new formats like ADM BWF, the Audio Definition Model (ITU-R Rec. BS.2076). That’s a master file format used to deliver immersive and next-generation audio from a post-production facility to a broadcaster or streaming service. An industry-standard tool like MediaInfo will make it much easier for people involved in that process to find, identify and communicate issues upstream and downstream. Now we know the best way to provide that capability.
Open collaboration, open standards and open tools combine so well that we can get on with our job, which is to innovate and enable new uses of digital media to deliver compelling experiences.