Media management

Media organisations are investing in two technologies that are changing the way their assets are handled — media asset management and archive management solutions

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By  Peter Branton Published  March 12, 2006

|~|cabsatfrontbody.jpg|~|Without archive management in place, someone must physically take the journalist’s EDL to be prepared for air, to find the right video and then put that material into the VTR or an edit system to create the on-air programme.|~|In recent years, broadcasters and other media-oriented firms have reorganised and rebuilt their facilities to accommodate the growing volume of content they handle. The shift from analogue to digital operations and the move toward tapeless operations — gradual for some and rapid for others — has opened the door to numerous operational improvements, and two notable technologies are changing the way media assets are handled in such facilities. Digital or media asset management (DAM or MAM) and archive management solutions make it possible to leverage media assets in new ways with far greater efficiency. However, for those companies that haven’t yet made the investment, the functions and benefits yielded by these solutions may not be entirely clear. In understanding what differe- ntiates digital archiving and digital asset management, it is important to realise that a television media asset management solution is an end-user application. Consider, for example, the journalist working in the news production environment. DAM or MAM provides the interface used by the journalist to access and work with media. Archive management, on the other hand, acts as middleware, a layer connecting the journalist and the archives. It performs critical operations as it runs invisibly in the background. While a broadcast facility cou- ld run with one or the other of these systems, each performs a separate set of functions valuable in themselves, but even more so when working in combination. Effective media management begins with ingest. MAM applications allow broadcast facilities to ingest content and then manipulate that content in several ways. The ingest process is critical because the more functionality involved in this process, the more possibility there is to add metadata, which in turn makes for much more powerful search capability; not only textual, but also audio-visual. As video content is ingested, it can be enriched so that, at the end of the day, associated frames, a storyboard, and metadata can all be stored in a local database. The MAM software can extract frames from the video to create a series of video segments. By taking the first frame of each segment, the system assembles a storyboard reflecting the ingested content. The MAM system can also extract metadata depending on what has been ingested. As a result, the user ends up with several levels of information — representative frames sorted in sequence and metadata describing the video. Most of the time, as part of MAM and the ingest process, a low-res proxy copy in a format such as Windows Media 9 is created and saved in addition to the broadcast-quality version. At the end of the process, users can browse and search through proxy material using keywords. A simple double-click on a representative frame, and the corresponding sequence plays out in low resolution. Browsing is the second key element of a MAM system. Depending on how sophisticated that MAM is, the journalist, or other user, can perform visual and audio searches. Some MAM applications today make it possible to highlight a frame, say a factory in green landscape, and then search the facility database for video with the same look and feel. The browse interface is where journalists will do most of their work. Say, for example, that a journalist was trying to present video illustrating a national sports event. The MAM interface allows the user to bring several frames up on screen, click on them to review segments and their content, and then choose the video to use in the final programme. Because users can also select portions of video using timecode, they can create an edit decision list (EDL) laying out the material to be prepared for air. While the MAM application enables the user to create a rough cut or EDL, the process of accessing media from the archive remains a manual process if a digital archiving solution has not been implemented. Without archive management in place, someone must physically take the journalist’s EDL, or list of material to be prepared for air, to find the right video and then put that material into the VTR or an edit system to create the on-air programme. In a typical television station today, one sees an immense volume of video, mostly stored on tape in a warehouse or similar area. Each time a journalist requires access to a specific piece of content, he or she must look at a list of footage, identify possible matches, and request that the corresponding tapes be physically transported out of storage for review. The worst-case scenario may involve putting a stack of tapes through the VTR for review until the right content is uncovered. Clearly, this can be a very inefficient process. The inconvenience of this process has led many broadcasters to implement MAM solutions, but without a digital archiving system. Actual access to broadcast quality video from archive is still a manual process. ||**||Streamlining|~|cabsat2body.jpg|~|While media asset management provides the interface used by a journalist to access media, archive management acts as middleware connecting the journalist and the archives.|~|An archive management solution can take on some of these tedious manual tasks to enable a more efficient, streamlined production workflow. Once a journalist specifies the ‘who’ or ‘what’, the archive system can supply the ‘where’ and automate the ‘how’. When the user identifies the type of content needed, the archive system can manage delivery of that media. Archiving is about communicating with the MAM application and automating the storage or retrieval of content from the automatic archive system, or tape library, with a robot accessing and loading tape into a tape reader. Archive management interfaces between MAM applications and the storage infrastructure where the digital content resides. The archive management application will locate the appropriate content within the digital tape library and load that video onto the facility’s online resources so that it is accessible for final packaging of the on-air product. When a MAM application and digital archiving system are used together, the MAM supplies the EDL compiled by a journalist to the digital archiving system, which in turn locates in the archives the desired video and extracts just the portion of video needed based on time codes. Once that content has been located, it is automatically moved to the playout or edit system at which it will be prepared for airing. Most archive management software today can interface to all the leading MAM applications on the market. The broadcaster can implement this type of system and then make decisions about how much to invest and what level of functionality is required from a new MAM system. The main function of MAM solutions is to provide the journalist, editor or other user with easy and efficient access to material within the facility’s archives. The prospect of implementing a complete MAM application can be daunting, and there are other solutions that enable access without the same degree of functionality such as archive management software. While this is not a replacement for MAM, it can be used transitionally along with the archive management system to help users evaluate their needs, educate themselves, and determine the added functionality that would be required to streamline the organisation’s use of media. Digital archiving solutions typically can support either a tape-based system or a completely digital (disc-based) system. There are several options available to the broadcaster. To get rid of some storage shelves, a facility can choose to digitise all of its content and move everything to tape, disk or DVD. It doesn’t really matter which of these storage media is selected, as a good system is versatile enough to handle all of these, both analogue and digital, in the appropriate formats. The ability of the archive system to migrate material from the format of the day to future formats also is key in maintaining the value of a broadcaster’s archived content. The MAM market often proves difficult for broadcasters looking to upgrade and more fully automate their facilities. A MAM application can be very complex and very expensive, and the cost of automating asset management rises with the additional deployment of an archive system. The expense of a MAM and digital archiving system can be balanced against the efficiencies they bring to an organisation, as well as cost savings in other areas. In fact, for many broadcasters, the most difficult part of implementing these solutions actually is the shift from existing operations to new workflows enabled by this new end-user application. As an application used throughout the facility, the MAM system brings a lot of change to an organisation or TV station. The significant human impact of this change is not to be underestimated, and the adjustment period can be a long one. Not only are users changing their processes and ways of working, but also their ways of thinking about the meaning of different roles and work within the organisation. Today, there are essentially three categories of customers. Most companies or stations that adopt both MAM and digital archiving solutions at the same time tend to be pragmatic, looking for a fast return on investment (ROI). The cost is higher and the change more dramatic, but it is easier to implement both at once, and if the organisation is fairly small, the human impact is lessened. The earlier the MAM interface and archive are put in place, the more time users have to become familiar with technology.||**||

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