One aspect of the invention is directed to a system and method for a digital capture system, such as a digital encoder, having an embedded real-time content-based analysis function in the capture device to extract metadata from the digital signals. In one embodiment, metadata (descriptive information about the digital content) is formatted and stored separately from the content. In another embodiment, the metadata may be formatted and combined with the digital content in a container format such as MPEG-7, QuickTime, or FlashPix. Digital encoding mechanisms, both pure hardware and hardware/software combinations, convert an analog video signal into a digitally encoded video bitstream. The system extracts metadata in real-time during the encoding process.