Complex Networks began as a magazine from street fashion icon Marc Ecko in 2002. As it followed the shift away from print media and into the digital media landscape, it grew and evolved into the perfect snapshot of what a modern entertainment company looks like.
We’re a global youth entertainment network with unparalleled reach to millennials and Gen Z across big pop culture categories including streetwear and style, food, music, sneakers and sports.Complex Networks
Ben Nelson, manager of Post & Studio Operations, and Jermaine Harrell, the manager of Media Infrastructure, shared their story about what they’ve done to make their valuable archive more searchable and accessible to the people at Complex Networks.
Post & Studio Operations ManagerComplex Networks
Media Infrastructure and Technology ManagerComplex Networks
Ben spoke about the size of their content operation.
“Complex Networks has multiple verticals; Complex, Complex News, Pigeons and Planes, Sole Collector, ComplexCon, Complex Shop, and First We Feast. It’s a pretty big operation—at least post wise. We tend to have upwards of 45 editors working on projects at the same time.“
When Complex Networks began the transition towards video, those who were leading the magazine took on new roles. Media management solutions grew out of necessity. At times, a single person may have memorized where a video was located, but soon they found solutions to organize and share media with their editors on site.
In these early stages, there was still no tagging, searchability, or standardized way of naming files. The first MAM solution at Complex Networks was brought in with high hopes, but soon proved that it wasn’t intuitive or suitable for productions in progress. They began to search again, but most other traditional solutions were either bespoke, only on-premise, lacked versatility, or couldn’t stay within the budget.
Most of these other asset management platforms seem like they’re more than management — it's like ownership. You can't interact with your assets outside the context of the asset management platform. After they ingest your file it can be difficult to know exactly where it’s located, what it’s named, or how assets are structured.Ben Nelson, manager of Post & Studio Operations
As they were exploring some proof of concepts, iconik was brought to their attention. iconik offered a completely new approach to media management and offered the flexibility they had been searching for. It was also suited perfectly to the production workflows at Complex Networks.
To start, some custom development was required to integrate iconik with the existing solutions at Complex Networks. Along with this, they would also need help with the initial setup and workflows. iconik invited its integration partner, CineSys.io, to come alongside Ben, Jermaine, and their team to help with these things and to offer continued support.
“With iconik's open API and flexible architecture we were able to integrate all of Complex's various file systems and custom transcode processes into the overall workflow design. Both of the creative teams at CineSys.io and Complex were able to glue all the pieces together for a truly successful media management environment.”- Matt Timmons, Digital Architect, CineSys.io
The immediate benefit of managing 800TB of assets in iconik was rediscovering content. Having it all indexed and searchable in one place will allow Complex to find and reuse videos that some of the team have never seen.
Ben explains why their video archive is so valuable and how difficult it used to be to find content.
“We tend to utilize our library of footage a lot. We have so many interviews with celebrities, lots of B-roll, news clips from around the country, and food clips. Before iconik, it was a constant issue to have producers and editors request library footage and now know how to get it.”
Over the years, Ben has developed a file structure for Complex that has added a powerful level of organization. That same structure is preserved as iconik collections. Complex has also had a dedicated person tagging nearly 3 million assets. Information, such as show, episode, people, and camera shot have all been carried into iconik. In the past, a person with a media request was prepared to wait for it to be retrieved, but now they are pleasantly surprised at how quickly they can get the media they need to continue editing.
Ben shared a recent story that illustrates this perfectly.
“I had a producer from Sneaker Shopping, one of our top shows, call me up. They were making a documentary about Pop Smoke, who’s no longer alive, and one of his last interviews was with us on Sneaker Shopping. They wanted all the raw footage to see if they could use it for the documentary. He knew I was working remotely and said that he totally understood if this would take forever. I just typed in ‘Pop Smoke’ and sent it to him within a couple of minutes. He couldn’t believe it.”
As more people were brought in to work with media at Complex Networks, iconik transformed onboarding, which used to be a time-consuming task, into a simple process.
Ben explained what it’s like to bring new editors into iconik.
“Onboarding has been a big win for us. After our initial training with our post team, we set up an internal wiki for how we work and how to use iconik, but we can still work with an editor who hasn’t been onboarded to iconik. It’s pretty easy for us to just send an iconik link and say, ‘Here’s your stuff. Bring it into your project with the Adobe panel.’ People are usually able to figure it out from there.”
When the marketing team needs artwork or branded content, iconik allows them to be brought in with the right group permissions to be able to view all their assets in one easy, unique place.
The distribution team at Complex is also starting to use iconik to help them distribute content to third parties. Before, there was no tool to help them with this. Now, Complex Networks can give its people access to the media they need to create content that will grow the company’s brands.
Five years ago, Complex launched an IRL cultural festival, ComplexCon where last year 70,000 people attended. It was also the first time the Complex team could upload event content from onsite. Before, they had relied on temporary storage that was set up in a temporary post-production room, then had to ship the high-end edit blankets to another location. iconik allows Complex Networks to be decentralized. No matter where new content is ingested from, iconik will make it available to anybody at any time to edit and release as fast as they need to.
As the events of 2020 began to unfold, everyone began to see that the timing of implementing iconik—after years of hunting for the right solution— was, as Jermaine put it, “insane.” By the time New York City was restricting movement to suppress COVID-19, Complex was ready to work remotely with their media in iconik.
As the Complex Networks media team has established its workflows, the iconik API has proven to be a powerful way to get stuff done. All iconik customers have access to the same rest APIs that the iconik team uses. They can use this to tie into third-party tools or execute any iconik task without using the user interface. Here are a couple of ways they have used the iconik API.
Editors used to have to ask Ben and or the post supervisor to get on Signiant Media Shuttle and send the assets to where they were needed. It didn’t require much time but was still a manual task. Ben added two custom action buttons in the iconik interface to download via Media Shuttle or upload via Media Shuttle to save time.
Now, the team is exploring an integration with the Getty Images API to work around a manual process that requires the Complex Networks Legal team to define usage rights. The integration would utilize a webhook every time a new Getty Image asset is added to iconik. Using the standardized names of the files, this would pull metadata from the Getty Image API so editors can see usage rights in the iconik metadata.
The content pipeline at Complex Networks is always full with editors creating relevant, new media. Over time, Jermaine began to notice the post-production team was recalling older assets from the cloud to recut older shows, which resulted in rising egress fees. Considering that this would continue, Jermain and Ben reevaluated whether they would remain with their existing cloud storage provider.
It was around this time that they were approached by Backblaze about transferring their archive over to B2 storage to reduce the egress cost for large transfers. Once the assets were transferred, the next thing to consider was transcoding. They made a plan for transcoding 650TB, with 70% of that being video. 14 iconik transcoders and a few weeks later, the process was finished.
Complex Networks is “Where Next Begins”. These recent changes in how it manages media have positioned it to tell more of the stories millennials are interested in—with less time and resources. iconik has brought together more creators and teams to share the company’s media, maximizing the ROI of each asset. Wherever the creative team needs to work, iconik will be there as a bridge connecting them to each other and their media.
Here, you’ve read about how versatile iconik is. If you have a challenging media management situation, request a demo and let us help you find a solution just for you.