Metadata Consortium

With a title like Metadata Working Group you can imagine what their presentation might be like. Do you think there might be Powerpoint involved? Suffice it to say that this is not the most visually satisfying presentation here at Photokina. But, like hooks in an art gallery, without metadata there might just be blank walls — or blank screens.

So metadata might not be sexy, but for those of us concerned about making use of our pictures both new and old; through many versions of software and many types of applications — some that are still an idea in someone’s head–we should pay attention to this group.

By now we’ve heard about metadata, it is nearly always defined as data about data. That is a cute phrase, but in my experience when I say that some people nod in agreement, others just nod off. Metadata is pretty much all the information about your file that doesn’t show up in the final print. What lens was used, whether the flash fired, and even GPS information might be in the metadata.

The Metadata Working Group is a consortium of manufacturers including Adobe, Apple, Canon, Microsoft, Nokia and most recently Sony. They have come together to create essentially a committee that is tasked to come up with guidelines for manufacturers to use when dealing with metadata contained in image files.

If you want the technical version of their goals: “Preservation and seamless interoperability of digital image metadata. Interoperability and availability to all applications, devices, and services.”

It is not uncommon to have metadata handled in completely different ways by different companies, sometimes because that is the way they want to do it, and sometimes the file format requires it. For example, metadata in a JPEG file is not handled the same was an in a TIFF.

Back to the presentation — at Photokina today, the Metadata Working Group presented version 1.0 of their “Guidelines for Handling Image Metadata”. This is 42 page document chock full of flow diagrams and charts that essentially outline how various devices should deal with metadata.

This is a difficult topic to understand, even during the Q&A of the presentation, when the gentlemen from Microsoft and Adobe got on stage to answer questions, you could hear how reporters were trying to understand what this group is trying to do.

The first thought is that this is a new file format–it isn’t.

Isn’t this like Adobe’s DNG file format? No it is not a file format.

Is it a metadata standard? Nope. As the title of the document states these are guidelines — simply that.

This is version 1.0 and the consortium of manufacturers is small, so don’t expect it to happen over night, but it is a step in the right direction. If you want to learn more about the group and see what the guidelines look like:

The introductory pages aren’t too tough a read.