Create: How to Capture Metadata and Documentation

There are many ways to capture metadata about your video at the point of creation. Information can be captured in an automated or manual fashion, and can be embedded in the video file or recorded in a separate document. Different methods have different safety and security risks and logistical requirements.

The basic ways to capture information about your video are:

Camera settings 

You can enable and embed metadata with your camera settings.

Depending on your camera, you may be able to embed the date, time, geolocation, creator's name, and other metadata in the video file. Check your settings to see if these features are turned on and if they are correct. Also, if you have options for recording format, select the highest quality ones that your camera allows.

  • Advantage  Embedding information in the file metadata means that the information stays with the file, as long as the file is unaltered.
  • Disadvantage  You cannot hide this information without encrypting the video. If you do not want your location known, for example, geolocation metadata is a security risk.

Just some of the metadata captured by your camera.

To see what metadata your camera has embedded in your video files, use MediaInfo ($0.99, GUI version) to display the metadata.

The free version of MediaInfo displays metadata embedded in video and audio files in the command-line.

Exiftool is another command-line tool that displays metadata embedded in photo and video files, and allows you to add metadata to photo files.

Record on-camera  

You can record important metadata in the video itself.

While recording a video, speak into the camera; hold a sign in front of it (similar to the idea of using a slate or clapboard in a film); or film things (like signposts, clocks, recognizable landmarks) to capture key contextual information in the video itself. If you have a choice of recording formats, film in the highest quality that your camera allows.

  • Advantage   The information stays with the video, even if the file is transcoded and loses the metadata embedded in the file.
  • Disadvantage   Someone needs to actually view the video to find this information; the information is not searchable unless someone transcribes it.  You may also need to edit the video before sharing it if the information has security restrictions.

Record on-camera, in a separate file  

Similar to the method above, except you record the information in a separate file by stopping and starting the camera, or using a different feature (e.g. a Voice Note on your mobile phone).

  • Advantage   Almost as easy as the method above, and eliminates the need to edit the video before sharing if the information has security restrictions.
  • Disadvantage   You will need to make sure the two files remain associated with each other later on; and someone still needs to view or listen to the additional file to get the information.

Enter in a pre-formatted template 

You can create and enter metadata into a preformatted template.

Create a template using a spreadsheet or other application with columns or fields for each piece of metadata. Fill it out electronically (e.g. using a computer or tablet), or print it out and fill it out by hand.

  • Advantage   Prompts you to enter key information. If entered electronically, the information can be easily searched or brought into other applications later on.
  • Disadvantage   It can be cumbersome to have and fill out the template in some recording situations; you also have to make sure the document remains associated with the video. If entering electronically, your device needs to have the appropriate software and template loaded.

Enter in an electronic text document

You can enter data in a text document.

Enter metadata using any text editor available on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

  • Advantage   Uses available tools at hand. Choose an application that allows you to save/export your document as plain-text (.txt) from your device.
  • Disadvantage   A device is required; as with using a template, it can be cumbersome to fill out; and you have to make sure the document remains associated with the video.

Enter in an email or online document  

Similar to the two methods above, except you fill out the metadata online or send it to someone (potentially with the video file).

  • Advantage   Metadata can be sent to a safe location.
  • Disadvantage   The video needs to be matched with and remain associated with the document.

Hand-write on paper

You can write down metadata by hand.

You can simply write down information on paper (use a printed, pre-formatted template if possible). Metadata in any form is better than none at all.

  • Advantage   It does not require a computer or other device.
  • Disadvantage  Your notes need to be physically transported or scanned to be shared with anyone, and may subsequently need to be transcribed.

Collect related documents

In addition to capturing metadata in the ways above, collect any existing documents that relate to the video, such as production notes, consent forms, or logs.

  • Advantage   These documents can contain valuable information about the video and the context of its creation.
  • Disadvantage   You need to make sure the documents remain associated with the video. See the “Transfer” section on information packages.