MovieLabs, a technology joint venture of the major Hollywood movie studios, has released a visual language guide and a suite of design elements to help developers and producers create and communicate workflows in a visually consistent way that can be implemented and understood across the industry. Building on the Ontology for Media Creation (OMC), the Visual Language for Media Creation (VLMC) provides robust mechanisms and conventions for human-to-human and machine-to-human illustration of elements in a media workflow.
The current lack of a common visual language causes a high level of inconsistency across visual elements in production workflow diagrams and application dashboards. Inconsistency often leads to miscommunication or lack of understanding, with extra time spent learning how particular ideas or concepts are expressed by different producers, vendors, talent or tools. To help resolve those inconsistencies, MovieLabs, with input from technology partners across the industry, and the major Hollywood studios (DreamWorks Animation, Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros) have devised the Visual Language.
The Visual Language is a voluntary system that uses consistently defined shapes to convey key elements in a workflow (participants, assets, tasks and infrastructure), allowing developers to illustrate, for example, how different tasks are assembled together in a workflow. The illustration can then layer in users who carry out those tasks, or pivot to the assets operated on in those tasks. The language can also help illustrate the operation of scheduling systems that describe the participants in a production (users, departments, vendors or even automated processes), how the participants interact and engage, and the allocation of infrastructure required for participants to complete their tasks.
The MovieLabs Visual Language includes documentation, visual elements (in various file formats), best practices and examples. It also includes a first wave of icons for commonly used industry terms which may not be well defined in typical icon libraries, e.g., scene, take, slate and prop. The downloadable package is intended for communication of workflows by those creating services and software developers to integrate into applications. The entire package is available under a creative commons license allowing any organization to download and implement in applications and services, as well as modify the package to enable skinning of visual elements for specific use cases. The package will be updated periodically to expand the library.
Richard Berger, CEO MovieLabs, said: “Technical diagrams can differ greatly between organisations, and sometimes even within the same organisation. We found so much confusion and wasted time happening when describing workflows created by different contributors. We designed the Visual Language with the input of the industry to establish common conventions for describing and literally drawing workflows. While we were primarily focused on media creation, we have found it to be useful for diagramming a wide range of workflows including distribution. It’s an important step for the industry to get on the same page on how to communicate consistently.”
There are three key elements to the Visual Language:
Bill Baggelaar, EVP & CTO, Technology Development, Sony Pictures Entertainment and EVP & GM, Sony Innovation Studios, said: “We are all familiar with the term ‘snowflake workflows’ in production and the challenges that it presents, but the Visual Language for Media Creation is able to provide a standardised way of expressing those workflows, so that we can remove the ambiguity from the ways people like to express the methods of production. By providing a consistent and robust model for workflow design, everyone can be on the same page quickly.”
Shadi Almassizadeh, Vice President, Motion Picture Architecture and Engineering, Walt Disney Studios, said: “We were frustrated with the lack of standard conventions for workflow representation. When looking at applications from different companies, many hours have been wasted learning new visual languages each time. By standardizing how we all draw these diagrams, we can cut down on ambiguity and inconsistences and focus on other substantive issues.”
Tony Guarino, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Technical Operations, Paramount Pictures, said: “This visual language is extremely simple and yet powerful. We have found it to be an effective way to express a wide range of our workflows and having a unique set of iconography for the creative industries at last allows us to use common shortcuts for regularly used items of equipment, tasks or participants in our diagrams.”
Annie Chang, Vice President, Creative Technologies, Universal Pictures, said: “We hope any company building software or services for the M&E industry will find the visual language a useful way to create common tools, dashboards and applications so that all users can immediately understand user experience components without needing to learn visual cues over and over again.”
Renard T. Jenkins, VP, Production Integration & Creative Technology Services said: “Using a consistent visual language to communicate our workflows will make it much easier on all the various organisations working on the production. It is really important to avoid miscommunication so we can enable creatives to spend more time doing what they do best.”