Thousands of terabytes of content is being created by modern digital production workflows every day. As a result, asset management tools such as media asset management (MAM) have assumed a new level of importance. MAM solutions are needed to search and locate media, move it between the components of the production process, and, finally, archive it. An ideal MAM solution is expected to provide one system for all departments across the enterprise–be it programming, legal, marketing, syndication, broadcast operations, or digital–along with partner and stakeholder ecosystems.
Today, innovations in technology offer broadcasters new possibilities in leveraging MAM to automate tasks that were hitherto manual. For instance, automation of promo versions rendering or re-timing of subtitles when versioning edits of masters are created, are all possible using a single MAM solution.
A good MAM solution is a prerequisite for a broadcaster or content creator. Given the high entry barrier of typical MAM systems, however, many smaller companies have built Excel-based MAMs allowing rudimentary features with manual media movement and management. “For broadcasters, an effective MAM implementation can reduce manual processes, errors, and costs by reducing the need for production and online storage and replacing it with just-in-time retrieval of material from MAM,” said K Yegneshwara Iyer, head of technology, technical & broadcast operations, Times Television Network.
Rajesh Sharma, VP (broadcast operations) at TV18 Broadcast, agreed: “For the news business, the online access of content and churning stories for distribution in a short time frame is key. As we operate 21 TV news channels, besides online news portals, the access to archived content for journalists sitting at various news rooms and the process of fast retrieval is paramount to the solution’s acceptability.”
“In all the cases, security of the content was to be addressed with utmost priority and without impacting the workflow efficiency, “ he added.
“MAM plays an extremely critical role in the broadcast space, right from content ingest to playout and archiving. It is used to manage, review, process, and publish content across all the platforms and devices of the broadcast universe. MAM can thus help broadcasters drive creative enablement, enhance efficiencies, and lower the total cost of operations,” said Ramki Sankaranarayanan, founder and CEO, Prime Focus Technologies.
From Iyer’s perspective, the immediate benefits of MAM implementation were manifold. “Access to material was democratised. It was not confined to a library anymore. Moreover, with archival tied to MAM, preservation of material became easier. The protection of critical material also became easier. If you had the required rights, you could find what you wanted without depending on someone else to search.”
Farzin Najmi, VP (ops & tech), CNBC TV18 Broadcast, said: “The Avid Interplay MAM solution is being implemented across Network18 for all its channels. The intent is to have a centralised repository content library for user access and syndication for the new media digital team as well as broadcast. The MAM for our entertainment arm, Viacom 18, is already being implemented, commissioned, and used. Once completed, the implementation at Network18 would be one of the biggest integrated multi-site MAM solutions globally.”
So, how can legacy archives be efficiently transitioned in a new MAM deployment?
Mike Palmer, VP (business strategy), Masstech, said: “The first step is to preserve assets and any associated metadata. This might be as simple as ingesting a full digital or analogue tape along with a date and photos of a tape label. If the content has been already digitised, moving the content and metadata to stable storage should be the priority.”
Sankaranarayanan added: “Content owners these days are compelled to convert legacy content into digital formats. Once an asset has been digitised, it can be effectively transitioned into a MAM deployment.” Depending on the condition of the content, this can also involve processes like quality control, correction of audio defects as well as picture and sound restoration. The most important thing is to identify critical data. “A data classification system and process should be invested in. Business owners should participate in and articulate their understanding of the criticality of the various materials to be managed by the AM platform. Once old material has been identified, an ongoing process for classification of new material should be implemented and followed,” Iyer pointed out.
The next step is to define and create a set of rules to identify legacy and everyday material. These should include all data points that anyone in the future could need to find that material. “Ask the end user, ‘How would you search for material like this?’ Also ask a cross section of users the same question. You will find that people search for the same content in different ways depending on the context of their use. Apply the answers received from such a survey to form the rules that will define what metadata will be associated with every piece of material that will go under the control of the MAM. Start with legacy content that is most critical and content that is most recent.”
The trick is to not attempt everything—protect, segment, and enrich—in a single step. “Protect the content first and get it into digital form. Once in digital form, multiple operators in any number of locations can begin to enrich and segment the content, making it more convenient to use. In the meantime, multiple users can still search and access content faster using a simple date search than they could sort through shelves of tape in a basement using a tape machine,” said Palmer.