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SMPTE’s IMF continues evolving

Nov 30, 2020 By Michael Darer

As the media and entertainment industry becomes more and more global, the challenge of creating and managing the number of different versions of a piece of content is growing rapidly. At any given time, a single piece of content can have dozens of versions to support all the formats, languages, and local regulations. This is why SMPTE published the IMF (Interoperable Master Format) standard. For Signiant, with so many of our customers using our software in their localization workflows, it has been interesting to watch the adoption and evolution of this standard.

The evolution of the IMF

Since its debut, the IMF has undergone a fair amount of evolution, impacted both by the changing conditions of the industry, and the input and actions of many organizations within it. In 2018, the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) formed an IMF user group, with a membership of 107 companies (including the likes of Disney, HBO, and Netflix) and growing. This collective has participated in educating many throughout the industry about the IMF and its intricacies, hosting tutorials and Q&As at major M&E trade shows such as NAB.

The willingness of SMPTE and its partners to invest in the IMF standard and keep up with industry dynamics is key to garnering adoption. After all, expansion and globalization of the industry are what inspired its creation; if it remained static as those forces continued to shape media it would quickly defeat its own purpose.

In June of 2020, SMPTE announced a number of revisions to core IMF Standards Documents focused on adapting to compliance implementation realities, ensure consistency for end-users, and introduce new support features for technologies such as timed text. As reported by Sports Video Group, Bruce Devlin, standards vice president for SMPTE stated: “IMF is maturing as a standard, and revisions to SMPTE IMF standards documents reflect increasing adoption of the standard and learned wisdom through operational practice across the theatrical and broadcast communities.”

This past April, at the remote NAB Show, HPA’s user group hosted a nearly two hour deep dive into the format, highlighting new products designed to integrate with the IMF. In this way, industry stalwarts not only watch IMF adapts to a changing climate, but as the standard itself drives innovations in media technology, with a wide range of businesses seeking to enhance the processes of adoption, validation, and implementation.

While the IMF standard is quite powerful in solving important and complex problems, it’s not very user-friendly. For creative end-users who need to work with the standard, that can be a hurdle to adoption. That is why Signiant added IMF support to Media Shuttle to make it much easier to navigate an IMF package and extract just the files required for a specific version. To learn more about Media Shuttle’s IMF support, check out this article and to keep up with the IMF standard, join the user group here