Workflows at Scale: BuzzFeed Harnesses the Power of Frame.io’s API

Workflows at Scale: BuzzFeed Harnesses the Power of Frame.io’s API

We’ve written a lot of articles that guide you through the workflows of individual projects. And while some of them are quite large in scale (think Mission: Impossible or Avengers: Endgame), the challenges a single project faces are very different from those of enterprise-scale content creators, who turn out huge quantities of time- and content-sensitive material on a daily basis for websites, social media platforms, or broadcast TV.

Large-scale and enterprise-level content creators face a number of common pain points, such as setting up highly complex workflows that involve contributors across the planet, managing the security of thousands of assets simultaneously, tight deadlines (particularly with news-based content), and the challenge of maintaining high-quality video through it all.

So how do content creators transition from a small, boldly unorthodox paradigm to one whose scale and volume requires finely tuned efficiency? Today we’re taking a look at one of our biggest customers, BuzzFeed, and the different ways they use Frame.io and our public API as an integral part of their workflows and infrastructure.

BuzzFeed – Controlling Chaos with Frame.io’s API

As a leading independent digital media and tech company that delivers news and entertainment content to a global audience, BuzzFeed publishes 500+ new pieces daily. They’re the #5 most-watched publisher across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, garnering 3.7 billion views per month.

Sarah Semlear, Director of Post-Production, and Ricky Klopfenstein, Post-Production Engineer, walked us through BuzzFeed’s post-production pipeline and the ways Frame.io specifically helps them “control the chaos,” during their session at our NAB 2019 booth.

The Tech

BuzzFeed stores all footage onsite at their facility in LA, while they’re editing, using a Quantum StorNext NAS. They also copy all video assets to a Synology backup server every 24 hours. However, some of the teams, who do more of the “run and gun” type of productions, work mostly from portable hard drives. All that to say, their post pipeline isn’t entirely cloud-based.

Their editing platform of choice is Premiere Pro, where they can use the Frame.io integration to streamline review and approval. BuzzFeed’s strategy is to thoroughly vet videos prior to launching, so they rely on copious and accurate feedback. “Let’s put it this way,” Sarah says, “If the feedback doesn’t show up during the initial review and approval process, it’s going to show up in the comments section on YouTube.”

With 150+ team members and over 500 collaborators who are getting input from several (to dozens of) additional stakeholders, Sarah notes that Frame.io is essential to keeping feedback organized—and the constant stream of time-sensitive work moving forward. The on-boarding process is simple even for those who have never used Frame.io before, and it’s especially easy and intuitive for external clients (who may be less tech-savvy) to view presentation links for branded content.

The Favorite Enterprise Features

Frame.io’s enterprise-level features, along with the flexibility to customize functionality with the API, are key to solving the kinds of challenges that system administrators face. This helps BuzzFeed improve both their productivity and the bottom line.

One feature in particular that BuzzFeed has found invaluable is the account dashboard view. On this page, teams (which BuzzFeed breaks out by departments) can be viewed at a glance, which makes monitoring the number of projects in play, managing storage allotments, and controlling permissions a breeze.

The staff team members’ permissions and access are easy to manage because they remain relatively constant. However, because there are so many freelance collaborators, the fact that Frame.io makes it simple to add or delete users and to control access and permissions is an important feature.

buzzfeed fio teams

Which is where the Frame.io API comes in. (Our API was recently made public. Click here if you’re interested in learning more.) The API allows Ricky to develop his own custom integrations with BuzzFeed’s internally developed software and to access Frame.io’s database to obtain customized analytics. His approach uses the API to take information from Frame.io and then pulls it into his own database using SQL to return smaller, more specific results.

buzzfee sql

For you techies in the audience, Ricky explains his workflow: “I go from Frame.io, and then export the data to Google Sheets, because that has easy integration with the rest of Google, and [from there] I go from Google BigQuery into Mode Analytics or Google Data Studio. But, if you have a development team, you can go straight into your own API-compatible database

Ricky, a self-described control freak, cites a number of ways in which Frame.io helps BuzzFeed keep the system from getting cluttered, both in terms of users and storage:

  • He can pull useful analytics such as the most common aspect ratio (1080×1080 because Tasty, BuzzFeed’s food network, delivers in that format); frame rate (23.98 fps); and the average length of clips (1.4 minutes).
  • BuzzFeed shares 5TB of storage, and the API helps Ricky gain visibility into which teams or users are using the most storage. That helps him enforce team maintenance by alerting team leaders when they’re about to fill (or exceed) their quota.
  • Ricky also has set it up so he can see, in a graphical view, who is using the most storage space, who has the biggest files, and what the longest file durations are—which makes it easy to see where he can get “the best bang for his buck” when he needs to free up space.
  • He can identify who the heaviest users are to ensure that they’re being efficient and not, for example, uploading large ProRes files or unnecessarily using Frame.io for archiving material.
  • He can see a graphical view of inactive users, which enables him to see how long it’s been since a particular user logged in, and to delete them to reduce clutter.
  • One of Ricky’s favorite time-savers is the Asset Lifecycle feature (a standard enterprise product feature), which allows him to set timetables for placing older files in a “recycling bin” for 30 days, after which time they are automatically deleted.
  • He can automate functions that reduce the time an employee would have to spend doing them manually, like pre-setting expiration dates for presentation links or having them become inactive when the files are deleted.

As Ricky notes, it takes an initial investment of time to implement these sorts of customizations, but the resulting functionality quickly recoups the up-front investment and streamlines the entire post-production process.

For large-scale creative organizations like BuzzFeed, the flexibility that Frame.io enables is essential to their workflow. The improved review and approval process works across all of their different production scenarios, and the data they collect through their API customizations ensure that they’re using Frame.io as effectively and efficiently as possible.

“Users cost money, storage costs money, clutter costs money, and the time I spend administering all of that costs money,” Ricky says. “So once I’ve automated tasks, it reduces all of that.”

For creators who need to respond to the ever-changing demands for content, being able to easily adapt their tools to fit their workflow is key.

If you would like to learn more about turbo-charging Frame.io to boost your organization’s productivity and efficiency, visit docs.frame.io.

Thank you to Lisa McNamara for contributing this article.

Lisa McNamara is Frame.io's copyeditor and a frequent contributor to The Frame.io Insider. She has worked in film and video post-production approximately since dinosaurs roamed the planet.

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