Web Brings Navy Video Distribution Into 21st Century

The Navy Visual News Service (NVNS) is a central point of contact for media outlets seeking Navy specific video and other visual products.
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NVNS Ships Multiformat Information Fast ~

The Navy Visual News Service (NVNS) is a central point of contact for media outlets seeking Navy-specific video and other visual products. Not surprisingly, this has put considerable demand on NVNS to have video available as soon as events happen, be they conflicts in the Gulf, humanitarian relief efforts, or, more recently, intercepts of pirates operating off the coast of Somalia.

In the 20th century, supplying all of the major news networks as well as other federal services would have required NVNS to set up satellite uplinks or to mass-dub and courier videotapes—both costly and timeconsuming options. However, the Navy has found a cost-effective 21st century method to solve the distribution problem by using the Web. Through a password-protected Web site, NVNS is able to post and distribute video to authorized media outlets in a wide range of formats, on demand and as soon as video materials are ready for public release.


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Web-based distribution system is built on the MediaBeacon R3volution server platform. Media- Beacon R3volution is a highly sophisticated digital asset management (DAM) system. Essentially, it creates a single secure virtual “repository” for ingesting, transcoding and distributing video files. R3volution also allows its administrators to assign various security levels to its video files, and to create user groups with specified clearance levels. The result is that the video archive can provide one level of access to accredited media, a second level to government officials with clearance, and so on. To put it mildly, this is not a “dumb terminal” kind of platform.

“We needed a way to meet the demands of a continuously changing customer base 24/7/365, without dramatic increases in cost and manning,” said Chris Madden, NVNS Director, and the Navy’s assistant chief of visual information.

To make this happen, “NVNS uses the MediaBeacon R3volution server to store, transcode and deliver imagery, video and press releases to the media, documentarians, federal agencies and throughout the DoD community,” according to Damon Moritz, NVNS video program manager. “The system provides extreme flexibility in that we can remotely administer assets, users, groups and permissions for any portion of the system,” he said.

Madden added

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that the R3volution environment provides critical and secure flexibility when dealing with time-sensitive material that is still moving through the public release process.

Functionally, every video stored on the NVNS server is provided in the originally transmitted format, which is then transcoded into multiple versions. These include AVI (Cinepak), DV25 stream, Flash, iPhone, MP4 SD, Preview QT, QT H.264 (720x480) and WMV (720x480).

Users with specific permissions can upload video directly to the server. “This proved very valuable during the recent deployment of USS Ronald Reagan,” Madden said. “The ship routinely pushed video to our site while at sea, a feature that proved critically important during her efforts to provide humanitarian support in the Philippines following Typhoon Fengshen in June 2008.”

Some of the other rich features on the MediaBeacon R3volution platform include integration with the DigiDelivery file transfer and Rimage CD/DVD production systems; video preview via a simple mouse-over; and a pop-window for photo and video assets, which provides detailed caption data. Advanced users are also provided the option to navigate the interface in one of six languages-English, German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and French.

At the time this article was written, Damon Moritz was deployed aboard USS San Antonio. It is a 21st century amphibious transport dock ship serving as flagship for the newly established Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 and is charged with focusing solely on the counter-piracy mission in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

“We are documenting the efforts of CTF 151 to detect, deter and disrupt piracy, and are sending multiple videos and photos for consumption by the media, back to Navy Visual News Service,” Moritz said. “There the staff adds the imagery to the database, posts still imagery to the Navy.mil photo gallery, and forwards selected images to major wire services if newsworthy. Video is transcoded and then metadata is added for clarity and to make it more easily searched within the system.”

The metadata NVNS adds to the video files is created using the Adobe XMP data format. “This is a unique feature within MediaBeacon in that metadata can be added to any file, regardless of file type, and that it will reside in the XMP space wherever that file goes,” he said. “XMP is a universal metadata format.”

But why bother to add metadata to its news videos? Think of it as being akin to a photo caption, Moritz replied. “The world is used to providing metadata on photos, and everyone understands how to put a caption into a JPEG,” he said. “What we did was to take that same schema and apply it to video. That means that if your program can read XMP metadata from files other than JPEGs or TIFFs, you can read our captions for video. It was simple to choose a standard like XMP that already existed and already works.”

Since coming online, NVNS has generated a lot of media and government traffic. “In 2008 we received over 16,000 individual transactions that resulted in access and acquisition of either video or still images from tens of thousands of individual searches, from over 400 individual active accounts,” Madden said. “The system has answered the call. ... A staff of 10 continues to successfully manage changing priorities and multiple events worldwide, while telling the Navy’s important story.”


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