Footage must be accessible in both its raw and completed forms
Levels Beyond’s Reach Engine
The era of video production in which footage is shot and edited on tape, then played over the air or mailed out, is over. In today’s digital world, producers have to shoot video and then edit it for distribution on air and online, formatted for an evergrowing range of platforms.
But that is just the beginning. Video now has to be made accessible to an organization’s viewers both in its raw and completed forms, and long-term access is now a must whether in-house, over the Web, or both. Therefore, filling a shelf up with tapes is no longer an acceptable way to archive content. Video must now be saved in a form that is accessible, affordable and future-proof.
Digital asset management is the solution to that problem. DAM is an end-to-end approach to video production, distribution and storage that can solve the asset management issues faced by video producers, both for today and tomorrow, according to video management specialists.
Crossroads Systems’ StrongBox Levels Beyond, located in Denver, makes the “Reach Engine.” It is an end-to-end video ecosystem that covers all aspects of production, workflow, storage and delivery.
“DAM puts all your assets in one place, where you can do video ingest, editing, formatting, storage and distribution,” said Art Raymond, Levels Beyond’s CEO.
NUTS AND BOLTS
A DAM system integrates video capture, storage, production, distribution and archiving into a single platform. That platform typically is both softwareand server-based. Depending on the vendor and the DAM product, it can have all of the content ingested and managed on computers, or have peripheral tape players and hard disk arrays connected by networks to create a connected system.
By being network-based, video stored on a DAM can be made accessible to multiple users, whether they are editors needing content to cut, or supervisors just checking in on how a project is going. A DAM system also provides an effective path to trulyaccessible video archiving. Using metadata—descriptive tags identifying time, date, location and other content-specific information that are associated with a specific video file—archived content can easily be found using a browser-based search engine.
Avid’s Interplay Media Asset Manager As for actual video storage, a small video department can make use of a DAM to manage a series of redundant hard-disk drives that contain the digitized content. In larger installations, automated tape robots running high-capacity linear tape-open (LTO) data cartridge tapes often are employed in tandem with hard disks.
However, keep in mind that the capacity of LTO tapes can be astounding. For example, a LTOgeneration 5 (LTO-5) tape released in 2012 can hold 1.5 terabytes of data apiece, while an individual LTO-6 tape (due for release at the end of 2012) is expected to hold 2.5 terabytes of data.
Nonetheless, while LTO tapes are cheaper than hard disks, they do not provide immediate access. That is why sophisticated DAM archives use hard disks to retain recent data to which an organization might need to have access immediately. Meanwhile, older video generally is stored on cheaper LTO tapes that might be held for historical reasons.
Based in Austin, Texas, Crossroads Systems is a provider of data archive solutions, including the “StrongBox,” which is a shared storage solution built for data archival and preservation. Crossroads Systems’ solutions incorporate a variety of storage media, including LTO tape.
Extensis’ Portfolio Server “The advantage of LTO tape is that it has better longevity than spinning disks,” said Robert Sims, Crossroads’ president and CEO. LTO tape provides “much larger capacity and lower price point, and one can see why a mixture of disks and tapes make sense in DAM systems.”
The StrongBox uses a LTO file system technology and intelligent storage architecture with standard file systems, according to Crossroads. The StrongBox provides time file availability with uncompromised data protection, full data mobility and non-proprietary file storage.
THE NEED FOR A PROPERLY DESIGNED DAM
Spectra Logic is a maker of tape- and diskbased backup, archive and recovery storage solutions, located in Boulder, Colo. The company is experienced in assessing each DAM’s best use of tape and disk, and ensuring that each DAM meets the needs of its specific client.
Whatever media mix a video department opts for, “it’s vitally important that the storage utilized in a DAM environment can not only scale to meet the needs of a given organization, but can also provide them with a cost-effective system that they trust to easily search and deliver their content when needed,” said Hossein ZiaShakeri, Spectra’s senior vice president. “When the storage is properly integrated with the asset management application, customers can not only track and catalog all of their assets, but also will be able to retrieve everything in their library at the click of their mouse, years into the future.”
FLEXIBILITY AND FUTURE PROOFING
DAM systems are attractive because the video content already is digitized, and since the video is in that form, it can be transcoded easily to serve whatever formats are popular. For instance, iOS (Apple) and Android formats are big among smartphone users, while Flash and H.264.MPEG-4 are popular for Web streaming.
However, some DAM systems are more adaptable than others, according to Avid. Headquartered in Burlington, Mass., Avid is one of the world’s leading providers of video production, editing and storage software. Avid’s Interplay Media Asset Manager is marketed as a complete DAM solution.
Because an organization does not know how big its storage needs may become as duties evolve, “flexibility” should be the watchword when comparing DAM products, said James Frantzreb, Avid’s senior market segment manager for media enterprise. An organization’s DAM “should be able to cope with such unknowns,” he added.
A good DAM system can cope with the evolution in storage media, if it is designed to transfer data from old to new media on an automated basis. Front Porch Digital’s SAMMA product is designed to automatically transfer taped content into digital data storage. Located in Louisville, Colo., Front Porch Digital makes content storage management (CSM) and, via SAMMA, DAM solutions as well.
“You can scale from a single tape player, to multiple ‘tape robots’ transferring 1,000 hours of content a week,” said Dave Polyard, Front Porch Digital’s SVP of Strategic Sales. SAMMA is part of the DIVASolutions DAM package, which comprises ingest to editing, production, storage and distribution.
Clearly, there are a tremendous number of advantages to a video operation having a DAM system, but it is not a product that untrained individuals can install. In addition, DAM systems are not a one-sizefits- all solution, and they are not plug-and-play.
Front Porch Digital’s SAMMA The smart strategy is to have vendors review a video production operation and request solutions tailored to an organization’s needs.
SkyLark Technology makes video media servers, application tools and signal processors. It is a global company based in London.
“For a management system, pre-planning is vital,” said Sid Guel, who oversees U.S. business development for SkyLark. “Not only do you need to look at how things and workflows are being done today, you also need to look ahead into the future and try your best to predict the direction of your organization.”
When selecting a DAM solution, Guel recommends looking for products that offer superior automation and metadata handling, offer advanced database search, security, backup capabilities and use open standard, non-proprietary hardware. Proprietary systems are difficult to interface with, he said; and interfaces might incur unwanted additional costs and efforts.
Extensis, a producer of DAM solutions in Portland, Ore., offers the Extensis Portfolio Server DAM system, which is provided to organizations for a free, 30-day “test drive.”
The Extensis Portfolio Server is “a cataloging system that brings together all of your video assets into a common platform,” said Edward Smith, Extensis’ product marketing manager. “Extensis can be used on either Windows or Mac OS platforms, so it is easy to try on your desktop.”
Onstream Media Corp. offers its service “Streaming Publisher,” which is a platform designed to make it easy to upload video and audio content and to have that content delivered over the Web, said George Stemper, the company’s vice president sales and development.
Mobile devices have “been taking over the landscape for content delivery,” Stemper said. Streaming Publisher converts the videos so they can be delivered over multiple platforms, he said.
In terms of storage, Streaming Publisher provides for storage of all types of content with very simple upload via signal transfer point, or directly thought an application interface, Stemper said. “Once the content is stored, it’s a matter of deciding how the content is to be delivered,” he said. “It can be delivered as part of a website, whether it’s graphics, images, or streaming content,” he said. Stemper noted that the IRS is a client, and the agency is producing a video portal to deliver their webinars and stream video. So that will be one of the big applications for this system.
So, whether an organization starts small, or goes all-in, the fact is that DAM systems make good sense for video production departments of any size. Because video content is now being used for promotion, training, re-purposing and even evidentiary and historical applications, it is no longer cost-effective to allow such content to hide anonymously on a shelf.
Front Porch Digital:
Onstream Media Corp: