Category: Views

Metadata New Year to all

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The driest aspect of media operations management is content metadata but well-structured and organised metadata schemas can pay significant dividends in driving operational efficiency. January is the perfect time of year to look at how this is structured, utilised and managed in your operation. Like Dry January it probably isn’t as onerous as it first appears and will equally deliver health benefits – well, operationally.

January, the Monday of the year. The festivities and over-indulgence of December are already a distant memory and, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, several long cold, dark months lay ahead. How very miserable. So universal has this sentiment become that Blue Monday (not New Order’s seminal 1980s synthpop record of the same name) is recognised as the most depressing day of the year

The more optimistic amongst us use January to make resolutions, declutter, stop drinking (for a while) or lose weight. These organised optimists use this time to tidy up and arrange so that the year starts off on the right footing. The theory being that the rest of the year will follow the organised structure defined at the outset. In media management operations the equivalent of the painful-yet-rewarding trip to the gym is to organise metadata schemas.

Why is video metadata important?

Still reading? good. Metadata is commonly, and rather glibly, described as “data about data” but its importance to a media organisation is second only to the assets themselves. Metadata helps media companies organise, manage and find their content – it’s the foundation on which media asset management systems and slick operations are built. It is hard to get excited about metadata, though. It’s not particularly interesting. But structuring, generating and tracking metadata can increase your media business’ efficiency exponentially – as well as saving and generating bundles of time and money.

6 Key Types of Video Metadata

The subject of metadata is an expansive one, metadata can be divided into countless types and categories. Some metadata is automatically generated by the equipment or software used to create or process the assets, while other metadata needs to be added manually. The types and amount of metadata that is required to support an operation will depend on a variety of factors including the size and type of the organisation. Metadata is a vast subject area but – akin to keeping those New Year resolutions realistic – we’ve limited this piece to, a very manageable, six of the most common, key metadata categories.

  1. Catalogue
    Catalogue metadata is typically the highest level of metadata. It describes the asset as a whole and helps identify the object, typically from a synopsis metadata field. For finished long form material, catalogue metadata tends to be quite structured and have a hierarchy such as Show > Series (Season) > Episode. For rushes this metadata is typically less structured and details high level information, for example ‘ 2017 Presidential Inauguration.’
    Beneficial use: Descriptive metadata is useful when searching for clips or complete programmes.
  2. Temporal
    Temporal metadata is most commonly used for linear assets, such as video clips, and describes what can be seen at various points or sections within the object. It is metadata which is time specific within an asset. Temporal metadata is typically generated by manually logging the material and, with the exception of sports, is generally free-text or uncontrolled. Loggers create temporal metadata by typing a commentary description of what they can see in a clip, and this metadata is tracked against the time-code of the object to create a frame-accurate, referenced data-set. Temporal metadata sometimes includes transcriptions of what is said in a piece of video which may be machine generated or derived.
    Beneficial use: Temporal metadata makes it easier to find specific areas of interest within a clip or a programme by searching for keywords. It is particularly useful in news and sports applications which tend to have very long rushes.
  3. Rights
    All media assets, howsoever sourced, should include metadata that identifies the rights owner and provide details regarding copyright and usage allowances. This is becoming an increasingly important aspect in an era in which almost anyone with a mobile phone can produce material. The creator is automatically the rights owner and individuals are increasingly asserting those rights.
    In professional production, rights tend to be more complex, and are increasingly so. Typical restrictions of geographies, play-out repeat intervals and date based expiry are being extended to platforms and editing limitations. Requirements to credit also fall into this category.
    Beneficial use: Rights metadata is critical to ensuring that content distributors are aware of, and comply with, any rights restrictions. This is becoming increasingly important – particularly in news organisations.
  4. Structural
    Structural or Technical metadata relates to the structural attributes of an electronically stored asset. These typically include video file format, codec, bit-rate and wrapper, frame-rate as well as the audio arrangement. This category also includes aspects such as file size and running duration for video assets.
    This technical information is mostly created automatically when the video asset is generated, and the amount of available data is increasing with even basic camera equipment capturing vast amounts of data. Devices capture everything from aperture and shutter speed to GPS (Global Positioning Service) information which, if coupled with Time of Day (ToD) data, provides a powerful core reference from which much information may be derived. So technical data isn’t just for the techies.
    Beneficial use: Technical metadata is critical to ensuring content is format compliant with the systems on which it is going to be processed. This is increasingly important for the ever-increasing number of media distribution platforms.
  5. Administrative
    Administrative metadata typically carries production information about an asset or assets. This might be information about a shoot which is not automatically generated by the equipment – such as the names of key crew, location details or weather conditions.
    Beneficial use: Administrative metadata is typically used in post-production operations to manage rushes. This is particularly beneficial in productions with high shoot ratios such as wildlife or reality programming
  6. Relational
    Understanding the relationships between assets can be extremely powerful in many operations. The ability to create and view the relationships between assets is import right through the production process, but especially for finished assets. Typically, a completed piece of content will have a number of child assets such as subtitles, audio tracks (potentially in different languages) as well as derivative objects such as promos. Features and big budget productions from the major studios are delivered with Electronic Press Kits (EPKs) which contain an array of promos, stills and other marketing material. EPKs can be vast, and being able to view how the assets are related is extremely important, particularly in the case of episodic productions.
    Beneficial use: Relationship metadata is especially important in multiformat distribution or playout environments, especially those servicing multiple languages and regions.
    Modern media management systems like BLAM provide the capability for operators to simply define their own metadata schemas and ensure data is properly captured using controlled vocabularies and other techniques. So, after the morning gym session, a few hours looking at metadata use in your organisation can really help improve your operational fitness in readiness for a successful 2017.

Happy New Year

 

Love your MOM – your MAM is no longer enough

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20 years ago computerised Media Asset Management systems MAM’s transformed broadcast and media operations – one way or another. In the period since these have slowly, and sometimes painfully, evolved into sophisticated media systems around which much of typical operation is centred. The breadth of functionality and capability of some modern MAMs is sufficient to warrant a new epithet.

A new Three Letter Acronym (TLA) entered the broadcast and media industry lexicon in 2016 – MOM. More prosaic than maternal this TLA stands for Media Operations Management. First observed in a Sony published paper in the early summer it was still to be heard in the halls of the Rai at IBC in mid-September. Rather than being ephemeral, vendor-specific marketing bullshit this abbreviation highlights a shift in emphasis in considering a media operation as a whole rather than a collection of media handling and management technologies.
This blog briefly explains why MAM just isn’t enough anymore and how a MOM strategy can help your media business thrive.

Media Asset Managment

Before we can define MOM we should first review the meaning of MAM: Media asset management is the process of storing, cataloguing, indexing and creating relationships between media assets to aid their discovery (searching) and exploitation (creative use.) Media assets might include images, video, audio, graphics, animations and a variety of other content. For as long as there has been media we have sought to organise it, particularly if there is revenue attached to it. The ability to know where your assets are, find them and use them appropriately is a core requirement of every media operation, and, depending on the size of your organisation, you might use anything from an Excel spreadsheet to a Dropbox “folder structure” or “proper” MAM software underpinned by a structured database.

MAM systems are all largely evolutions of hand-written card files and ledgers, with a modern MAM likely to consist of browser-based tools which include content preview capability (video players) and provide simplified and intuitive operations such as drag and drop. MAM has latterly become a ‘thing’ rather than a process, when we refer to MAM now we refer to the tangible technologies that deliver the capability – “we have an X2000 MAM from ACME MAMs.” But some MAM vendors have extended their capability to the extent that the MAM term undersells the true power of the system. MOM, on the other hand, is still more of an approach than a ‘thing’

Media Operations Management

If you own or manage a production or media handling facility you already have ‘a’ MOM system in place. Your operational teams which manage the day-to-day business are doing MOM. They define processes, procedures and systems that run the business – they are your workflow engine. Management information and operational workflow is based on knowledge and is verbally communicated / driven. You use your X2000 MAM technology to organise your media during production or processing but MOM is largely human and insights are based on familiarity and experience.

There are many tools, such as project planning and booking systems, which help define process and manage these human tasks, but these tools often run in isolation from each other and, crucially, are disconnected from the MAM that is tracking the resource and deliverables assets.

Progressive MAM vendors are now integrating the traditional MAM functionality with operational management competencies – creating the new MOM capability. Extending and linking software systems to include workflow and task management, together with reporting and empirical management information can provide the agility that differentiates a business that survives from one that thrives.

MOM Drives Operational Efficency

Media Operations management tools enable facility managers to create workflows with automated functions, but also provide task management to drive the human operation. Where you would otherwise have to brief individual team members, book resources and manage delivery for individual tasks within a project, employing a media operations management system centralises communication, resource allocation and orchestrates the machines and the people. Linking the operational management tools to the MAM further streamlines project management by linking tasks to production assets and ensures that your creative teams utilise 100% of their time on creative work.

MOM Provides Business Insight

The real power of MOM is reporting, particularly real-time reporting. Media operations management tools should provide a view across multiple systems through a single unified presentation layer – enabling managers to identify issues and highlight opportunities. Having a birds-eye-view of an operation makes it easy to identify operational or resource (human or machine) bottlenecks and avoid duplicated effort. When integrated with human resource and facility booking systems, MOM tools help you manage capacity and identify where additional resources are required. In disconnected systems manual data collection and processing often misses issues or identifies them too late.
In conclusion, Media operations management is a ‘thing’ but probably not a single ‘thing’. MOM is underpinned by MAM, combines this capability with task-based workflow and machine automation but also provides business insights by providing a complete view of the end-to-end operation. Sounds good doesn’t it?

Blue Lucy’s Asset Manager has provided true MOM capability before the term entered the industry vocabulary. Hats off to those who coined the term as it articulates succinctly a new and exciting area for media operations. Get in touch to find out more about BLAM or to arrange a trial.

IBC 2016 Review

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This year’s IBC was probably the most relevant for years. A genuine turning point for the industry. NAB earlier in the year felt like the end of the broadcast trade show as it has been for the last 20-years. Modern production and content delivery management tools sat at juxtaposition with their forebears, the two looking and operating more different than ever. The somewhat tired legacy marginalised the progressive future. Do you need to exhibit at a trade show to demonstrate tools running in the cloud anyway?

Cloud Condensing

A couple of days before IBC opened, a walk past the freight storage areas gave the impression of same old, same old: truckloads of proprietary metal with cable looms were being wheeled into the halls. Some vendors were even boasting about how much hardware they had brought. No sign of SDI dying, declining or terminating here, and machines with buttons were front and centre. Would cloud be no more than a word on stand facia and ‘cloud based capabilities’ demonstrated from proprietary boxes?
A tour of the halls on the quiet Friday (probably caused by the lack of actual clouds in the sky over a picturesque Amsterdam) surprised – the software / cloud era was coming of age. A great number of the smaller vendors were demonstrating not only truly cloud-based tools and services, but the ease of integrating these. It has never been easier or cheaper to capture, create and distribute content to audiences.

The Serial Offender

Our own demonstrations relied on a handful of laptops accessing cloud-deployed BLAMs which were configured for various applications such as post-production and media logistics. We also took a small server fitted with a capture card to demonstrate our longest-serving baseband ingest plug-ins. We spoof the Flexicart, obviously, but even taking a server to demonstrate cloud-enabled tools felt unnecessary – everyone is IP, right?

Colleagues at Bonded ServicesDAM Smart and Yapku attest to the need for software-based archive digitisation tools. But throughout the weekend there was a queue – a long queue – for our ingest product. Baseband (SDI) is still very much alive, with typical requirements ranging from archive digitisation and straightforward lines recording to fast-turnaround editing or catch-up redistribution of live programming. Given the number of new projects and technology-refresh initiatives that will use SDI as the core contribution barer, it seems like many are sticking with the tried and tested. At least for now.

Return Flight Summary

Truly service-based, integrated architectures which do not differentiate between the cloud and the ground (on-prem’) operating models are the future. This was the IBC where the cloud-enabled service models moved (just) beyond the early adopters phase – but we shouldn’t forget that the legacy technology ‘landscape’ will be around for a while.

Hybrid operating models are the obvious near term vision, but this will require structured planning and expertise. This is very much Blue Lucy territory in terms of both software and consultancy. A future blog will cover a couple of recent projects which have enabled a seamless cloud migration but do get in touch to find out how BLAM can ease migration.

Down on the Magnetic Ground

By way of contextualising the breadth of the ‘industry’ and to bring us all down from the clouds, we need to name check Ethan W. Hall from Keith Austin World Video. Ethan, you enthused about our pop-art themed stand graphics and we were struck, almost literally, by your flamboyant pitch. Ethan is in the market for unused tape stock – so if you are sitting on an unstriped archive do contact him at Kieth Austin World Video and try telling him that magnetic tape, must die.

Six Misapprehensions of MAM

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Implementing a media management system is considered to be a risky business. Like national infrastructure programmes, the perceived complexity, upheaval and perception of failure can be so daunting that the risk may seem to outweigh the reward. But, like so many business technologies, MAM have been transformed in recent years with the advent of open standards and interfaces.

This blog piece debunks some common MAM myths.


1. Perception: MAM implementation projects cost millions
Truth: MAM software is available from as little as £10k

It’s not surprising that MAM projects are perceived as expensive – before its collapse the notorious BBC Digital Media Initiative had racked up a £96m bill and even comparatively ‘small’ projects at a large facility or national broadcaster in recent years have averaged a few million. For most operators those figures are unimaginable. But a pragmatic approach to scope and implementation can deliver real value at low cost. The principal enabler here is the cost of the MAM software.

Rather than starting at £1m as they did ten years ago the cost for modern product has dropped to around £150k for a base system – with some tools available for as little as £10k. Cloud or hybrid service models make it possible to pay-as-you-go for a fraction of the cost and without long term commitment.

For on-prem’ deployed systems the cost reduction is largely as a result of use of open, service based technology as well as vendors designing the foundation tools to be less specific to a given function or workflow. Modern MAMs are architected on the basis of a core which is functionally augmented with bolt-ons or plug-ins.

2. Perception: MAM’s rarely deliver value on investment
Truth: A targeted approach delivers immediate benefits

The return on an investment of millions will be long – often too long to make a strong business case, but now that MAM system implementations can be achieved for a fraction of the cost, it’s easier to prove real value in day-to-day operations and to the bottom-line.

With relatively inexpensive entry points, operators can focus on a specific difficulty in the operation and prove or refine an approach before tackling other areas in the workflow. Defining and building workflows is no longer time consuming so demonstrating operational benefit may be achieved in hours instead of months.

An important caveat here is scalability though – do ensure that the chosen MAM vendor can scale as you broaden deployment – a modern MAM should readily scale from a few, to a few hundred users without even taking the system off-line.

3. Perception: Implementation of a MAM system takes months – if not years
Truth:
You can be up and running in minutes

MAM history is littered with projects that took years to implement and were obsolete by the time they were delivered. This was generally caused by an over-focus on up-front analysis driven by the need to understand the operating model ahead of configuration which itself was driven by the complex and time-consuming nature of configuration.

A modern MAM can be up and running in minutes – or seconds in the case of cloud-based system. From the ‘vanilla’ base an operator can quickly create users, set access permissions and build simple production workflows for transcode and delivery or review and approve. A modern MAM allows operators to build and test workflows as they go – an agile approach which delivers rapid results. Because it is now quick and easy to configure and implement a base system, and then customise the system to your needs, there is less pressure to perform a perfect up-front analysis, and more tolerance for changing requirements.

Some products such as the Blue Lucy Asset Manager (BLAM,) have built-in tools that deliver immediate benefits.For example; BLAM will index existing storage pools and create browse clips without moving the original media and while maintaining project hierarchy. This tool means that projects can automatically be brought under management of the MAM without any user intervention or interruption to operations.

4. Perception: Deploying a new MAM means replacing the systems we have.
Truth:
An effective MAM will integrate with legacy and 3rd party systems.

Many MAM projects are initiated on the premise of replacing one or more existing systems. The narrative runs “… we can replace these three systems with this one new system. Operations will be simpler, delivery will be faster, and support will be easier……” This, all too common, one big new universal panacea system mantra rarely (never) actually delivers. Subsuming functionality, particularly in active systems is fraught with risk – risk which always translates to cost. The simplest and most cost effective approach is rarely replacement.

A modern MAM vendor should be able to provide connectors to commonly used 3rd party systems and be willing to build these for legacy components. These connectors are used to get essential data from 3rd party systems, process it and if necessary, put data back. The MAM should be capable of acting as the integration layer that connects systems and, importantly, provides a single view of the operation.

This is far less expensive and risky than incorporating functionality in a new system. It is also likely that specialist systems provide a better, or more specific, capability than one system trying to do everything. Do be wary of vendors who are reluctant to integrate with third parties or boast that their systems can absorb operational capability.

5. Perception: MAMs only manage media.
Truth:
Modern MAMs provide broader capabilities including workflow orchestration and enterprise reporting.

Very few modern MAMs are just asset managers, but perversely the term MAM has stuck because it’s one that everyone understands. Rather than just being limited to a static repository where media objects are stored and made accessible, many MAMs include key operational functions such as automatic and task-driven workflows. The automation of tasks such as transcoding in a workflow obviously removes manual process but of equal benefit is a task driven workflow which drives operation procedure – i.e. the people.

More sophisticated systems (like BLAM) can provide data and intelligence on a broadcast / media operation, enabling workflows to be adjusted for maximum efficiency. Efficiency for a content producer translates to saving money in the production or distribution process or reaching wider audiences on an ever increasing number of consumer platforms.

6. Perception: MAM projects require big investments in infrastructure and storage
Truth:
Modern MAM’s use the cloud for scalability

Although the cost of MAM software is largely flat (or at least should be,) the cost of storage is dependent on the volume of media being produced and stored. When planning on-prem’ deployments, system designers – understandably – plan for the worst case scenario, which means high storage costs and big CAPEX spend.

Using a combination of on-premise and cloud storage allows media operators to avoid spending money up-front for capacity that they may or may not need in the future. MAM vendors like Blue Lucy are able to seamlessly blend the on-prem’ and cloud-based services, providing access through a single user experience. This approach offers huge flexibility for ‘burst’ capacity and de-risks a strategy of cloud migration.

Get in touch to find out more about BLAM