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Asset Management For Digital Television

By Scott Lehane
Asset Management for DTVAs television stations go digital, the problem of managing digital assets is becoming more and more of a concern. Analog assets, that in the past were logged and scheduled for play-to-air, now have to be manipulated entirely by their metadata -- a database of auxiliary information about content that grows with each step in the contents life cycle from production to distribution. Hence its not only TV stations that rely on metadata, its everyone from the content creator to the distributor, and each step along the way, different types of metadata are necessary to drive back-office applications.

CNBCs VP, technical planning and engineering, Peter Smith, recently revealed that the company is in the process of selecting asset management software for its news operations. That software will be overlayed on the $25-million in Vibrint news editing systems and Grass Valley Profile servers that NBC purchased at NAB.


Digital newsroom applications can be one of the most demanding areas for asset management simply due to the volume of material and the frequent need to repurpose content. But theback office systems are largely analogous to those is the production and postproduction business. Hence large newsrooms have served as the test bed for asset management systems like CNNs effort to digitize 100,000 hours of footage based on Sonys Petasite system.

"We are in a program that will select our asset management software ... we have 22 vendors that have responded to our requests for information we are narrowing down to a few pilots which will be based on the Vibrint system," said Smith. "But if you go down the list of figures in asset management, its the same old folks. We are asking them to help put a system together."

Smith also revealed that NBC had recently set a standard for metadata across the company.

But what types of metadata are TV stations typically expecting to receive with their content?

According to Toronto-based Bulldog CEO Chris Strachan, "They are going to be interested in basic descriptors -- what is the name of the program or what is the material referring to. In their world of metadata, they would hope to be able to describe name, episode title and they probably want to be able to include things like rights restrictions. In addition they probably want to be able to describe things like resolution and file type."

"Broadcasters are increasingly faced with the problem of more channels, but the same revenue so how do I go and support additional distribution given that my ad revenue hasnt necessarily increased," said Strachan. "The answer to that is that you have to be able to get cheap access to that same content to be able to find it and economically reproduce it."

Strachan reported that this metadata typically enters the system somewhere in the production phase after the artist or creator is done with his work.

Bulldog revealed a new strategy at NAB, moving away from generic repository plus customization for each installation, to specific applications that run on top of a repository system. The first specific applications to ship will be Tape Library Management and Digital Product Assembly in November. Both will be previewed in September at IBC.

Artesia CTO Dipto Chakravarty stressed that "The metadata about information is more important than the information itself."

"At the highest level, we have three kind of ecosystems," explained Chakravarty, "the creation phase, the management and production phase [including ingest, search and index, aggregate and transform] and then the delivery and consumption phase, [including transporting, syndication, transacting media and expiring digital assets]."

It is this final step that Chakravarty finds most interesting, "There is no technology that really handles this today. This will become something to talk about in about four or five months -- the expiration, or the act of retiring, preserving and aging digital assets."

Chakravarty stressed that there are metadata created at each phase of the content cradle-to-grave lifecycle and "they all need to be captured in as much of a non-intrusive manner as possible. The trick is to capture the metadata attributes at each phase of the asset; its kind of like adding onion skin layers. The creators think their five metadata attributes are the most important ones and the management and production guys say 'really what I do is the most important one.'"

But isnt it inherently inefficient to carry all of this metadata along from one phase to another where it might not be needed?

"Not if you do it correctly," said Chakravarty. "Implementation is the key here. If you think about an asset it should not have to be in one place. Its essence -- meaning the actual content -- can be sitting in one repository and its metadata in another giving a repository that is inherently distributed."

Artesia recently implemented its TEAMS system for WGBH Boston. "The challenge was to repurpose the assets and build a scalable platform for digital broadcasting and interactive broadcasting, linking the broadcast program with the related colateral," explained Chakravarty. "Our software is allowing them to link the assets and reformat and allows offline editing right from the desktop."

Asset management software is increasingly adding simple editing features to enable users to edit content that might not be worth editing in a high-end Avid suite, but will still have value if repurposed. Chakravarty said the "killer application for asset management is going to be in the area of video assembly and server side editing -- the simple editing out of an asset management package."

According to Strachan, Bulldog plans to release the next phase of products in its new application-driven strategy in February, including RoughCut Video Edit, which gives users these features.

"There is an increasing amount of digital content being created, and what we are all trying to struggle with is as the amount of it increases its harder and harder to keep track of it," Strachan summed up. "Sheer volume alone is reason enough to start worrying about it."

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Related Keywords:Digital Media Net, DTV Professional, television stations go digital, managing digital assets, Scott Lehane, CNBC, CNN, NBC, dealing with the problem, DTV, asset management

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