What is metadata? Basically, it’s data about data.

You may be familiar with meta tags used for web pages. Meta tags are inserted between the head tags which are at the very top of a web page. The information in this head area of your web pages is not seen by those viewing your pages using browsers. It’s read by some search engines to describe the content of the web page. There are meta tags for description, keywords, whether robots should index the page as well as other elements of a web page.

You can add metadata to documents, pdfs, audio files, photographs, zip files, and video.

Metadata for video is particularly helpful because video, unlike a document, does not include keywords as text. It is the keywords that computers and search engines use to search for content in videos. Clever producers use keywords in the name of their video files, but without some additional text, computers have a hard time understanding the content of a video.

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Metadata is itemized information about a file. It’s attached to the file and can include copyright information, author, keywords, file size, media format, people, place, closed captioning and subtitling information, and lots more. Whenever you copy, email, or publish your file, all its file information or metadata travels along with it.

There are two types of video metadata:

1) Automatically collected video metadata from software or a device like your video camera. It stores camera-created information such as aperture, shutter speed, GPS coordinates and more in the video file. The standard format is Exchangeable Information File Format (EXIF). Most EXIF data cannot be edited after capture. Two exceptions are correcting a camera’s date/time setting and adding GPS data.

2) Manually written video metadata which provides information about the video content. This can be transcripts of dialogue or conversations and other text descriptions. These text entries are understandable by computers and provide efficient searching. Gaining higher search engine visibility will bring more viewers and enable marketing opportunities.

Most of the current video metadata is the automatically created metadata. But manually written metadata created by humans is growing and becoming more important. Video metadata has great potential for marketing. It’s hard to imagine YouTube without the descriptions or metadata that describes any video. YouTube, like all video sharing sites, requires metadata for videos that are uploaded. The descriptions enable searches of video content and give users more information about a video.

Since logging footage is a customary part of video editing, you may as well put shot logs, ratings and lots of other information on each clip as metadata. This way your notes and descriptions won’t be lost when you move, copy or email a clip. Otherwise the typical log of video shots is only valuable to the person who knows the location of it.

Today all professional video editing software has access to metadata. Avid’s MetaSync and Adobe’s Bridge are two examples.

Avid’s MetaSync technology allows users to synchronize virtually any kind of metadata with video and audio content during post production. The MetaSync feature is now standard within Windows-based versions of Avid’s Media Composer and NewsCutter.

If you’re fortunate to have a newer version of Adobe Creative Suite, you already have an application called Adobe Bridge which is “the control center for Adobe Creative Suite.” This application enables file organization and provides the ability to add metadata to AVI and MOV files, but not to MP4 files.

Adobe Bridge is also included in Adobe Photoshop CS5, Illustrator, Flash, Premiere, After Effects and others. For a complete list see Adobe products with Adobe Bridge.

Adobe Bridge creates the data in XMP, Extensible Metadata Platform, which is based on XML. This has become the de facto standard for most embedded metadata. It allows the metadata to be stored in the file without making the file unreadable by non-XMP aware applications.

When this metadata is applied, you can find information quickly based on the keywords attached to it. For instance if you labeled a series of clips with the keyword B-Roll, you could find all of those clips easily by searching for the word B-Roll in a metadata program even if there were in many different folders on your drive. Just be sure to spell it the same way.


There are a number of free solutions for working with metadata in video:

On the Mac see MetaZ.

For PCs check out Daminion freeware

For Flash videos, you can use FLVmeta

Another freeware program that can write metadata for video files is called ExifTool.

Keep in mind that adding in-file metadata will only help with SEO when you are hosting the videos on your own site. If you upload your videos to a video sharing website like YouTube, your file will be transcoded by the platform and you will not retain any of your metadata. YouTube and other video sharing sites have their own approach to metadata. They have to. The videos wouldn’t get much play without metadata as a means to index and search videos. YouTube, Vimeo and many other video hosting sites have their own metadata fields and it is very much in your interest to fill them out using any keywords that are appropriate.

Here’s what YouTube says about using metadata for your video. “YouTube is the second largest search engine, so don’t get lost in the mix, let people find you. Our algorithms are good, but they can only read, they can’t watch your videos. So in order to properly classify your video and index it for search, we need your help.”

When somebody searches for a keyword or phrase in YouTube, YouTube crawls all the titles, descriptions and keywords on each and every video on the site and returns the most relevant results to the viewer.

In your YouTube description box ALWAYS place your hyperlink on the first line before the content. This makes it easier for the algorithm to pick up and it is believed that this linkage helps the search rankings of the referring site.

In addition to using metadata, give each clip a very descriptive name including relevant keywords. Names of clips are searched by search engines. The search engines cannot read video so the text is vital to being found.