Netflix Debuts Open Source Tools for IMF and Image Testing

Netflix has long collaborated with rivals, most notably on cloud computing open source projects. Now, it’s released “Meridian,” a 12-minute movie that acts as test footage to allow hardware manufacturers, codec developers and engineers to evaluate imagery. The company is also releasing open source tools to encourage the use of the Interoperable Master Format (IMF), developed as a standard by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers for exchanging master files between studios, distributors and services such as Netflix.

Variety notes that, “in a global media business, Hollywood is often producing dozens of versions for each movie,” which is a labor-intensive, error-prone process. As Netflix director for content partner operations Chris Fetner explains, misidentified masters often happen “because of some error in the processing pipeline that can potentially affect large parts of a studio’s catalog.”

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The IMF solves that problem by combining the “raw video file with a set of instructions” regarding region and other criteria.

Fetner reports that only “a small percentage” of movies delivered to Netflix adhere to the emerging IMF standard, mainly because there are no “widely available tools” yet. Netflix hopes to remedy that situation; one of the tools that it is making available will allow studios to create files for Apple’s iTunes store from IMF masters.

“The studios that give us content have a lot of other business problems to solve,” said Fetner, who notes that Apple does not yet support IMF.

Whereas Hollywood is often loathe to share its tricks of the trade, “in Silicon Valley, companies have long realized that rising tides often really do lift all boats,” and that accounts for the growing popularity of open source tools. Netflix, so far, has created over 150 open source projects.