Media Asset Management

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Media asset management (MAM) solutions are a key requirement and challenge as well for contemporary broadcasters as they need to balance faster workflows, greater security and easier access. Business models for broadcasters are not what they used to be. Yesterday’s broadcasters are today’s media companies or content owners and their success depends on uncovering new opportunities and outlets for programming and maximizing distribution. But supporting all these new outlets has been labour intensive and expensive. MAM systems have witnessed a great learning curve in the last few years based primarily on key broadcast technology landmarks and customer feedback.

Solutions Galore

Contrary to the one shoe that fits all theory, the system is customizable to suit the needs of the users. “The system is adept in resolving the contemporary challenges faced by broadcasters, since at the very core, the tool offers flexibility, controlled collaborative organization of content along with faster, easy, accessible productive workflows that integrate with third party systems, thus enabling media management from one source for a distributive network of other linked platforms.  The industry on the whole has evolved on the pretext of viewership choices, preferences and viewing patterns, which as compared to previous years, today presses a greater need for profuse variety, innovation and multitude of content across platforms,” explained Kulvinder Singh, Vice President – Sales, SAARC, Aveco. Therefore, a major concern that MAM systems have been able to address is ensuring very strict security protocols. “For decades, industry standards committees have been focused on developing a functional interoperability platform. SMPTE’s Interoperable Master Format (IMF) now provides a tried and tested media format, which allows media and entertainment companies to offer end-to-end IMF workflows that leverage IMF specifications without overloading processes with internal conversions or limitations in the content management structure,” added David Abel, Sales Director, Tedial.

Overcoming Hurdles

Today, running a profitable television channel is more difficult than ever and needless to say, the OTT phenomenon is keeping executives awake at night. Never before has there been such a pressing need for speed and reducing operating cost across the industry.  As the number of original hours of content is increases, so are the complexities in content operations including the number of versions, vendors, departments and staff involved. Moreover, for broadcasters with a wide international footprint, operations like Content Download, Compliance Editing, QC (Quality Control), Mastering and Archival are performed separately for each territory. In the absence of centralization there is no standardization of business processes and no transparency of operations taking place across the global supply chain. “New-age cloud solutions like Media ERP address these challenges by enabling broadcasters to automate not just within silos, but across the entire content supply chain. With end-to-end Work Order Management, pre-integrated with Media Asset Management (MAM), Media ERP ushers in operational efficiencies like never before. It allows users to manage assets (with associated metadata and essences), resources (including internal, freelancers and 3rd party vendors), tasks (including generation, timeline estimation, scheduling, assignment etc.) and orchestration of content workflows all on ONE system. With in-built Business Process Management (BPM), such solutions automate file processing, and provide real time dashboards to track the status of all tasks conveniently from a single user interface,” said T. Shobhana, VP, Global Head of Marketing & Communications, Prime Focus Technologies.

Changing Perspectives

MAM today has moved beyond the initial database and archiving solution. By 2015 forward thinking broadcasters recognized that workflow automation was the only way to address ever-increasing versioning and monetization demands, and the most reliable way to manage workflow automation is through metadata driven workflows orchestrated by a modern MAM system. “Today the broadcast community is expecting Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be married to their media management tools and archive systems in clever ways to optimize labour resources, increase efficiencies and extend the viability of their programming investments globally,” said Abel. Today’s broadcasters require speed, flexibility and ease of use from their MAM, they need it to tie together and integrate the workflow from Capture to Production, Management, and Delivery of their programming. “With the ability bridge signal-based architecture with file-based workflow, and while delivering powerful automation, transcoding, and editing across single and multiple sites, today’s MAM has grown past being just a database for archiving assets. Even archiving is now an integrated workflow that can often include moving assets to the cloud,” explained David Schleifer, COO, Primestream. The broadcasting industry has seen a tremendous change in media management, operational and automated workflows as well as distribution from one source to a multiplicity of screens and platforms.  What one can clearly note is that in the present day the splurge in viewership platforms is growing at accelerated pace directly proportionate to the corresponding demand of varied, quality content in line with the interplay of demographic and preferential factors that drive viewers’ content consumption. “In the framework of the said dynamics MAM serves a critical component for the broadcaster from ingest to play-out and archiving it serves as a complete management solution that enables not just viewing and archiving but a robust yet flexible media management interface per say review, search , management , archiving , automated workflow operations, review , publish , enhance productivity , content security, minimize the scope of human error by virtue of automated processes,  integration with other third party systems,  distribution  and deployment to digital and non-digital platforms,” says Singh.

Workflow Matters

Naturally CIOs and CTOs at broadcasting companies are using their MAM solutions to enable their workflows and make it more efficient. Users will always pick systems for “ease of use,” while executives should focus on user group task management and orchestration, automated ingest processes and distribution systems, and dashboard and reporting systems that allow CIOs and CTOs analysis of the key performance metrics for further refinement. “Modern MAM systems are written in HTML and are browser based and flexible tools that can be “skinned” for each user group, hiding the complexity of the underlying integrated systems. Examples of integrated and efficient workflows include automated ingest processes and the Tedial Evolution Version Factory, a single workflow that automates the delivery of one asset to thousands of OTT and VOD sites,” said Abel.

Integration Initiatives

MAM systems today have evolved to integrate sophisticated search features in the newsroom, especially with the exponential growth of content. Live events, up-to-the-minute news coverage and sports events require MAMs to provide multiple searches of the archive for relevant material at the same moment in time. Our MAM has evolved our search protocols to support live event capture and live AI integration, including multi-camera capture systems and 360-degree video for VR production. With the growing complexities of multi-platform distribution, broadcasters can no longer rest on existing and independently functioning systems that result in ‘Islands of Automation’. “The variety of technologies utilized to receive, prepare, QC and distribute content to thousands of locations presents an additional hurdle to operational efficiency. To achieve faster time to market with increased efficiencies, broadcasters need automation not just within their silos but across the entire content supply chain. They need an innovative technology stack that offers CLEAR solutions, CLEAR outcomes, CLEAR value and CLEAR results,” said Shobhana. When investigating a MAM, executives should analyse the Business Process Management system which typically runs the human based workflows to ensure that it is not constricted by a “single server” design and scales across virtual servers and software systems. Unlimited scaling removes all impediments to increasing speed and provides smoother, more reliable access to users in remote areas.

Tech Talk

As more assets of the broadcasters become increasingly cloud-based MAM solutions are now enabled to safeguard these with robust security protocols. Tedial for instance has deployments in public and private cloud implementations and our software leverages the cloud provider’s security as well as their own permissions and secure operations system parameters. Broadcasters are finding this of less concern as they embrace the capabilities of the cloud for fast deployment and quick directional changes. With new formats, storage and delivery methods capturing and managing media has become more complex, to address these issues, Primestream has new technology enhancements that advance today’s media landscape through solutions for IP stream ingest, integrated review and approval, 4K/UHD end-to-end workflow, plus centralized configuration and an Xchange public APIs. “On the flip side to the pros of cloud-based management there are real dangers that exist, the most widely debated of which is, security of the content, personal versus public accessibility protocols, failure of which would result in major leaks which in turn would mean financial, economic, credibility and other business losses for the broadcaster. Another issue that lies unaddressed at large is the assurance of fair business practices, pricing, content access and recovery, legalities and other issues herein,” said Singh.

Auto Mode

There is also a lot of automation that is absolutely necessary in contemporary MAM for newsroom, where a lot of work is done remotely. An automated ingest workflow that captures incoming stories or camera card inputs, tags the media with useful metadata and automatically routes the assets to either remote locations or to user task assignment is critical for today’s operations. Newsroom setups are more complex and fast paced than those of other kinds of productions. The need for quick real time response, accuracy of processes and changing scenario makes it difficult to constrict the workflows into standard pre-defined processes, thus leaving no room for repetition or error for that matter. Schleifer explained, “the type of Automation that is critical for MAM based solutions is often built around business rules and logical instantiation of the workflow in the installed modules, components, and integration. The power of scripting is often how the customer’s requirements are automated to deliver invisible and seamless results.”

ROI Issues

The notion that MAM implementation could cost a lot and recovery over years is again a myth. Companies like Tedial offer payment plans, Software as a Service (SaaS) and systems with measurable efficiencies that show real “payback” for a capital expense in only a few short years. Schleifer explained, “it is easy to purchase a MAM, it is more expensive and harder to acquire a MAM that can lets you achieve your business goals. In the end, only the customer can decide on the value of being able to be unique, more cost effective, allow re-use of content, etc. In many cases the more expensive solution can deliver a quicker payback because it enables new methods of working or new products. In today’s environment leveraging a MAM is no longer an option, the real question is do you know what you want it to do for you.” M&E enterprises can therefore drastically reduce Total Cost of Operations (TCOP) by moving away from multiple on premise, non-scalable, MAM systems and deploying ONE MAM for the enterprise – across geographies, departments and businesses.

In Tune with the Times

Most of the MAM solutions in conventional newsrooms were deployed several years ago. Naturally there are several reinstallation or revitalizing opportunities that lie within for solution providers. The older technology does not use AI or apply it to better storytelling and live event processing, nor does it offer a platform for that option in the future. “The older systems did not integrate with many of today’s modern third-party tools such as HDR processing and automatic “speech to text” systems for subtitling and translations on the fly, and most important, today’s MAM software is optimized for virtual deployments, including cloud infrastructure, allowing an upgrade to reduce costs, reduce labour, increase speed and automation, and use less bandwidth for delivery,” said Abel. The first generation MAM installations were very focused on making sure you did not lose you media. This new generation of solutions can enable new workflows that can make or break an installation. Whether it is multi-format publishing, enabling site to site collaboration, lifecycle management, or maximizing asset re-use, the MAM is now central to moving the business model forward.The three primary fundamental issues with traditional MAM solutions – costly infrastructure, poor automation across content supply chain and lack of enterprise-wide adoption – are fueling demand for one software, a Media ERP suite to reduce these pain points. The future of media assets seems certainly well managed.

This story appeared in Digital Studio’s April 2018 issue here: MAM

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