Take 1 at MESA 2020

12th March 2020

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On the 26th February Take 1 COO Stephen Stewart was centre stage during the MESA Content Management Workflow Forum. The full recording of the ‘Adapting to Changing Customer Needs’ Panel can be found below, along with a full transcript of the conversation. 

Jim, Interviewer

So, we are the final words between the glass and the audience. Jules we met you earlier, say hello again, and then we’ll work along the panel.

Julian Day

Julian Day from Zoo Digital, Director of Business Development.

Jim, Interviewer

Pelle?

Pelle Naucler

Pelle Naucler from Plint Business Development as well.

Jim, Interviewer

Tell us a little more about Plint? We haven’t heard from you today.

Pelle Naucler

Plint is a lot of things really. It’s a localisation company, but it’s also a software company developing tools for workflows, workstation, automation, and all the other cool stuff we’ve been talking about here, earlier today.

Jim, Interviewer

Okay, thank you. Stephen?

Stephen Stewart

I’m Stephen Stewart, COO of Take 1, look after product operations and technology.

Jim, Interviewer

Tell us a little more about Take 1? We haven’t heard from you today, and you’re relatively new into the role Sir?

Stephen Stewart

Yes, two month anniversary today.

Jim, Interviewer

Congratulations.

Stephen Stewart

I’ve got a background in broadcast operations, broadcast production, as well as running localisation teams. Take 1 probably moves a little bit wider either way than the standard localisation. We get involved at the production company level, right the way through to delivering post production scripts to platforms and broadcasters. We run a combination of AI with human finishing,

Jim, Interviewer

Okay, thank you. Andrew?

Andrew Verkade

I’m Andrew Verkade, I’m Director of Client Services at Deluxe.

Jim, Interviewer

Okay thank you. We have heard a little bit more about Deluxe earlier, and I’m sure we will come back to some of those areas. It’s been an interesting day guys, hasn’t it? Have we learnt a lot? What will be key takeaways, what will be the highlights? Julian, you’re not allowed to mention the opening discussion. Key highlight for you Jules?

Julian Day

I think again, it’s the amount of collaboration going on. The ideas of how we can get new people into the market and into the business. I’m concerned about the idea of turning off talent, with AI, if it’s not marketed to them in the right way.

Jim, Interviewer

We’ve just heard in the previous panel, the content owners are taking full responsibility for the lack of talent. Nothing more to be done.

Julian Day

True.

Jim, Interviewer

Pelle, what’s in your notes page for must dos and follow ups tomorrow?

Pelle Naucler

Wow. I did miss Jules and Maz opening today, but that’s usually the highlight of every MESA conference.

Pelle Naucler

I found the little block on sustainability extremely interesting, especially the second part where the downstream effect of media. Since we’re all talking about all this processing power going into AI, and going into all the systems and platforms that we deploy, it’s good to know the actual cost, especially when it comes to sustainability. I think it was [Danesh], I’m going

to find him later, and have a chat.

Jim, Interviewer

Good. Stephen?

Stephen Stewart

It was a combination of acceptance that all us as vendors, are now working together. We have done that behind the scenes, and now it’s coming out, the Maz and Julian session with Mark. Everyone mentioned it. And Kier at Deluxe, creating that marketplace that we all work together. So what I think it does is it means that we can improve the quality, because the

production companies and the content owners are effectively working like integrators, they’re choosing best of breed people to work with, and then we in turn, are choosing best of breed services, AI platforms, talent. So it almost becomes a concentration of quality across the Eco system. For me, that was one of the key things.

Jim, Interviewer

Andrew?

Andrew Verkade

I think what was really interesting for me was looking at how the actual sessions have changed over the past couple of years. If you look at about two years ago, we had someone like [Yota] who was the only person here talking about machine translation. And yet, this year, we had three panels completely focused on it, all of the vendors are speaking about it, and

the conversation has completely shifted.

Jim, Interviewer

I think that’s a very good observation and I’ve said it a number of times before that, the year that we had that first discussion on machine translation, we got a lot of feedback saying that should have been the start of the day, rather than the end of the day, and that should have been the focus. One of the takeaways for me today has been on timelines and windows. Stephen I know

this is something that you’ve been doing some stuff because as windows are getting compressed, it’s putting pressure on. Tell us a little bit about some of the stuff you’re doing in that area?

Stephen Stewart

Yes, and this is where it comes together with the conversations we’ve had today about the use of the Cloud, the use of multiple workforce so, pressure on time. I’ll give you one example, we’ve got a client we’re working with at the moment, a big news organisation. They have a English language programme, and they want it on their Spanish language platform within 90 minutes of it

coming off the air in the UK. By making sure that’s in the Cloud, by using multiple transcribers in the first place, and then multiple translators, we can turn that around quickly. I was watching my phone today, so today we did that in 85 minutes from it coming off air on the broadcaster to it being delivered back to them, fully QC’d, high quality. The accuracy thing I think is somethingthat Jay mentioned that’s really important because, you can talk about 99 percent here, 99 percent there, but actually, one word inaccurate can have a massive impact to a reputation or a regulation. So actually, it does have to be 100 percent. I think the fact that you need to do it fast, using the Cloud, splitting it up, and then making sure it’s accurate, by using a combination of

human finishing, along with machine translation and AI, using that combination, that works. That’s not science fiction anymore, it works. It worked this afternoon, it’ll work tomorrow.

Jim, Interviewer

Excellent. Julian, I think you’ve been at all of these events, so following up on Andrew’s point, have you seen them change? What will be the highlights of the evolution of the discussion over the years?

Julian Day

I think obviously and adoption of the Cloud by everyone. We were very early adopters of the Cloud. A lot of people then told us that it would never work, and so that’s why we’re in the localisation business. Seeing now that everyone’s on there, and starting to get the benefits from it, is a big change, and very encouraging.

Jim, Interviewer

Pelle Cloud, other technologies, they’re all close to your heart? What will be the key ones?

Pelle Naucler

A year ago today, I suppose, on last year’s Content Workflow Management Forum, we presented a Cloud solution together with Viacom. We’ve had a year now to fine tune the ins and outs of that, together with Viacom, and seeing the benefits that you can have, especially with shrinking timelines, with sales into global platform deals and so forth, and how we

can transform a localisation business by using Cloud and automated workflows and such has been mind boggling, really. For us it’s the Cloud. AI, we love it, we use it for robotics and other things. As Jay said, a lot of localisation is going towards more sentiment in translation for instance, and then AI might not be the perfect vehicle. But it’s certainly coming, of course.

Jim, Interviewer

Is that something you’re hearing more about from the marketplace Andrew? Is there pressure on vendors to adopt these technologies or are people quite happy to sit and watch them evolve and wait until you say yes, we’re really confident and we’re really ready on this?

Andrew Verkade

It’s not really pressures about adopting machine translation or ASR, it’s more the conversation we were having before about quality and speed with lower cost. We have to look into what tools we can use to enable us to actually hit those goals. We’re still not there to get 100 percent. We’re still around about 30 percent efficiency gain, with using all of those tools. It’s not going to get rid

of the humans, we know that. And so really what we need to look at doing now is educating our talent base, so that they’re more talented at doing post editing instead of actually translating. And so if they can do a really good post edit of a file quicker, then that hits all those goals that we need to do.

Jim, Interviewer

Okay. Stephen, AI machine translation? All stuff that’s close to your heart I know. Where do you see it sitting, and how soon do you see it impacting on the business, from where you sit?

Stephen Stewart

It’s impacting on business today, but not all AI engines, not all machine translation engines are equal, in the way that we were talking earlier. Not all translators are a specialist in particular genres. So I think the secret to keep being up with the technology is you pick the best of breed AI engines, or machine translation engines for the job you want to do. But that 15 percent

gap that was being talked about, that’s the bit we fill with human intervention, human finishing. It’s a bit like a machine translation or ASR is a bit like a rough cut edit. It sort of gives you an idea, a bit like James’s email, but you don’t get the finished article. So finishing it properly is what people expect, but using that to become efficient in other places in the workflow. We’ve focusedvery much on localisation, but we found that some of our clients have had non media grade automatic speech recognition done, which saves them a bit of money right there. But then they’ve employed assistant producers or researchers to go through that and then correct it. So, when you look at that, it’s probably, use the ASR, use the machine translation, finish it with humans,and the total cost of that, especially if you can reuse that data, that Tony was talking about. We don’t store our initial transcription as an old fashioned word document, we store it as XML. So if we then need to use it for one of our clients as a post production script, we can just format it and QC it. We could use that data once, so that makes it a bit more efficient all round, and it

speeds things up, and the quality is there as well.

Jim, Interviewer

Yes. Julian, we heard in the previous panel I think ITV, Warner, BBC, none of them are quite aligned on how soon we’re going to see this technology really kick in. You’ve been in the industry a while. How do you see it?

Julian Day

Certainly as … was saying, it’s not there yet, in our view. We are looking at it and using it as assistive technologies to empower and support the creative talent. As a cost, you can’t really bash that down too much, so where you can save money is on administration if you can use software cleverly to consolidate that administration. That can save time

and potentially save money as well. It’s definitely assistive for us. We’re very mindful as well of the creative talent, like subtitles and so on. It’s a skill, and they developed it, and it’s also a very vocal community. Are they going to take kindly to being post editors, and probably wanting to be paid less? They won’t want to be paid less, but the customer will want them to be paid less… James.

You have to be careful about that.They come on the stand every year at IBC and lobby. It’s supporting the creatives, as far as we’re concerned.

Jim, Interviewer

Yes, absolutely. Pelle, one of the other things that we’ve talked about is the changing ways in which content is delivered, the changing ways that consumers are wanting to access content, the huge explosion in OTT. How is that impacting on your business?

Pelle Naucler

Massively, I would say. We’ve seen immense growth the last few years, and a lot of that is driven from OTT. But we’re also seeing the challenges that are, I wouldn’t say old business, but broadcast business has in managing the new landscape really, of distribution … perhaps, hundreds or thousands of end points compared to just channel business before. We’re in

a position where we help them, from systems perspective, workflow perspective where we can facilitate a lot of automation and that. In doing so, I think we save more time and money for our clients, when it comes to speeding up the translation process and the like. We’re in the middle of it, there is a bunch of … raining down this year and next.

Jim, Interviewer

Andrew, how is OTT impacting on your sector?

Andrew Verkade

Good. I think what probably all the vendors are seeing right now is a bit of a boom on the catalogue content, so as all these new platforms are launching, everyone’s trying to clean up their archives, and it’s a good opportunity for AI vendors even, to be looking at how can we leverage that and analyse this content to see, is it suitable for these platforms? What we’re doing now is,

we’re pulling all of the audio files in, is it suitable, does it need a quick offset, what do we need to do to make it work on different platforms? It gives us the ability to quickly work through that content and move to the next project. Using the AI to enable these new OTT platforms is something that’s really helpful for business.

Jim, Interviewer

Okay, thank you. I want to come back to the word collaboration. I know it’s a word you used a lot last year Julian, when you and Maz were presenting. Stephen, you’ve seen few changes. Are you poacher turned game keeper? Or game keeper turned poacher, having left the BBC and joined the other side? Let’s start with you Stephen, how do you see collaboration in this sector

and how important is it, and how is it changing?

Stephen Stewart

I think it’s critical because if we all work nicely together, it just creates that good part of the industry. The vendors working together can mean the content owners, they can definitely localise, and they can definitely do access services. We haven’t talked too much about access services, but that’s a form of localisation. By working together, we can just make sure that we up the

quota, and we make localisation access services more affordable, but more practical. It helps adjust the talent shortage and the studio shortage so, rather than competing all the time, collaboration is critical. But I think collaboration goes one step further as well. We find that when we move and collaborate with the production community, and something James was saying thatlocalisation has been seen as a bit of an afterthought, when you collaborate at that level, they start understanding some of those key things. That can help all the way down the chain. One example being, if we get for instance the audio stems from the production community as part of the package that we’re using, that makes ASR a whole lot more accurate, so we can do that. At the very farend, something that I think Mark said about ASR isn’t great on final programmes because it’s fully mixed with lots of explosions. I think something we can potentially add there is that if the ASR can’t hear the words of the finished programme, then maybe we can give the broadcasters a bit of an idea that they’re going to get some complaints about the audibility of their mix.

Because if the ASR can’t hear it, and some of the audience can’t hear it, I think collaboration beyond the vendor community at both ends, I think is going to be critical.

Jim, Interviewer

Okay. Julian I know it’s a subject close to your heart. How do you feel that we’re benefiting from collaboration?

Julian Day

Well I think the customers can benefit big time through our ZOO studio project management platform and customer facing project management platform. Customers can create orders and assign vendors, so they can assign some stuff to Zoo, other stuff to [Pixologic] or STI or individual studios in territory. Deluxe as well, we’re integrated with all these guys. They’re

integrated into our systems, we’re into theirs, so data and milestones, information, flows through. But the customer’s got one place to go, to track all their vendors that are working on the project. It’s much simpler for them, but we’re all working together. They don’t feel, if they’re working with Zoo, that they’ve got to do everything with Zoo. They can, as you said, choose who’s

best of breed, or who they particularly like in a certain territory. We are all working together for their common good, and it works. We’re doing it, we talked about it last year, it’s in operation right now.

Jim, Interviewer

Pelle? Collaboration? Are you happy with that? Comfortable with that? Are we benefiting from that?

Pelle Naucler

Yes, I think we are. As Julian just said, they have a studio, software. Deluxe have a spare one. Take 1 has a spare system and we obviously have ours. I think the next step is probably looking at the [interal] operability between systems, so we can have content flow safely and securely through systems without getting these bottlenecks,

and then it really will benefit the end customer.

Jim, Interviewer

Andrew, I know the presentation earlier on was largely about collaboration and the benefits thereof. Expand on that for us a little bit? Where else do you see collaboration taking us in the future?

Andrew Verkade

In the … side it’s really again, probably going back to the point of education, so working with the other content providers and vendors to educate both the translators, look at how we can again, re-skill them, make sure we retain key talent because looking at … getting new talent in, a big problem we have is losing some of that really strong

talent. They’re seeing their rates drop, they’re seeing the workload change, and they’re also seeing a lack of a future. So if we can provide that vision to them and show them that, with post editing, there is a future and you can thrive with it. It helps to retain that talent in the business. On the content owner side, really what we’d be looking at is, how do we educate the staff thatthe AI machine translation is not that silver bullet right now. Guaranteed there’s a sales person somewhere that saw the Amazon research paper that came out about synthetic dubbing, and now thinks, I can double a project in 24 hours for a hundred quid. We need to make sure that that’s not the case now, and that people still understand that there is a long way to go, we need

to still be very involved in the process.

Jim, Interviewer

Okay. I have two final questions, and I’m going to ask them in reverse order. Final question, what are you going to have to drink? Before that, what would be your priority? What would you love to see happen I the next 12 months, two years that will help drive the industry forward? Who wants to take that one first? Pelle, what’s your hopes and aspirations for the future?

Pelle Naucler

Wow… That we all play well together and we have fun, and that we continue in development of technology and services, and just sheer greatness continues. That’s it really.

Jim, Interviewer

Good. Julian?

Julian Day

I think across the board both vendor side and client side, just an openness for looking at change and new ways of working. Different options, it doesn’t all have to be the same.

Jim, Interviewer

Andrew?

Andrew Verkade

I think, where we’re seeing it going now. What’s really exciting is, the growth of high quality content. With all those platforms and all that coming, that’s really what I’m excited for, to see that goal.

Jim, Interviewer

Stephen?

Stephen Stewart

I think it would be to echo what Jay was saying about making sure we can get to 100 percent. Maybe not contractually but for the viewers, get the quality up. Work together, and work with the clients as we’ve started to see, so that we can run proof of concepts, do them quickly, make sure that they work, or decide that they don’t work. So, just very quick turnaround stuff on proof of

concepts fail fast as they say. And then, see how we can improve the ASR. But keep the talent, because the talent pool is what’s going to make the accuracy there. And make them as involved in the solution to a problem, rather than a remote pool of talent that we don’t have to deal with, so I think that sort of collaboration.

Jim, Interviewer

Okay, thank you very much. I think and hope you will all agree that’s a good summary of the day’s discussion. So please join me in thanking all of the panel for that summary.