Collaborative video post-production is employed by Corporate
Media organizations to increase the volume and quality of video materials, allowing
multiple editors and graphic artists to work on complex multi-part projects. The solution required to support
collaboration in post-production starts with shared storage, though shared
storage of source content is just the absolute minimum requirement for an
efficient Corporate Media department. A truly collaborative editorial
infrastructure must go beyond shared storage and solve the problems of large
groups of contributors working from the same source materials using non-linear
This article reviews solution requirements for Corporate
Media environments, and reviews the Harmonic solution and its benefits.
From a broadcast or generic video post-production
perspective, there is a set of baseline requirements for a suitable shared
- ·Support high capacity to contain all of the
materials that may be needed for currently active projects, and also for completed
projects that might be used as sources for current or near-future
·Extreme scalability, to be able to effectively
support new workloads that will be addressed in the immediate or near future.
·Satisfy access requirements imposed by the
non-linear editing applications and tools used by the collaborative group.
·Adequate, sustained, consistent performance (in
terms of bandwidth and low latency) is critical for the toolsets used in the
workflow. Shared storage for video workflows requires extreme levels of
bandwidth that exceed what traditional Enterprise storage can provide.
·High reliability and availability,
characteristics that are critical when the work of an entire organization depends
on common infrastructure. Outages
are costly and extremely impacting to the organization's overall mission.
·Simplicity is highly important, as many
organizations have concluded that the costs and complexity of Fibre Channel
SANs are very taxing in a post-production environment.
Once the basic source material centralization requirement is
satisfied, more complex management requirements must be addressed. These requirements solve problems that
are seldom addressed by the typical post-production solutions in the
management, for materials contained in the shared-storage environment and
going through the workflow
management to properly identify and enable the environment's users
management for the discrete units of post production work that go through
the workflow supported by the system
management to properly control how the shared physical resources in the
system are used or consumed by the group
Active Management in Collaborative Post-production
As the industry and supporting IT technologies continue
their evolution, companies can now address other group post-production
requirements via their technology infrastructure. The additional functional requirements can be satisfied by
implementing the following four discrete management disciplines in an environment
already enabled for effective centralized shared storage:
The unmanaged use of a large number of assets by a large
number of users over any extended period of time is a perfect recipe for
chaos. Companies that adopt shared
storage for post-production quickly discover that it requires considerable
discipline, effort, and overhead to maintain the production environment in a
state that is conducive to productive work. Managing assets through a post-production workflow requires
life-cycle management, access control, and in some cases, asset instantiation
In a collaborative production environment, not all the
members of a group have the same responsibilities or require the same access to
the facilities and functions available in the environment. A solution for collaborative
post-production must provide the mechanisms for enforcing the permissions
granted over the environment according to the role played by each member of the
team. Failure to manage users and
their capabilities over the environment may lead to accidental material
deletions and stoppages in the workflow.
In addition to using the basic post-production tools,
users need to interact with other members of the group. At the basic level, these interactions
involve the exchange of materials and intermediate work products, but they can
also become formal process exchanges among toolsets and elements of the
collaborative production environment (e.g. transcoders, render engines, etc.).
Even the largest and most-capable collaborative production
environment has limited physical resources that are more difficult to manage
when they are shared by a group of individuals. The most obvious resource is storage, but others may also
include centralized contribution/ingest channels and distribution resources.
Harmonic Solution Components
Harmonic provides a range of solutions for
Corporate Media environments, using various combinations of solution components
including shared storage, software to enable collaborative editing with all of
the leading editing products, advanced transcoding solutions, and a
comprehensive Media Asset Management product. The components are further
The heart of Harmonic's collaborative post-production
solution is the Omneon MediaGrid shared storage system.This unique storage system fulfills the
unique and demanding requirements for shared storage in a video workflow.
Unlike storage technologies that have been re-purposed from
standard data processing applications, Omneon MediaGrid is a shared-storage
system designed specifically to store and process video content. MediaGrid is highly scalable and uses simple,
widely-available Ethernet networking to interconnect workstation clients to its
large pool of high performance shared storage. MediaGrid's built-in clustered file system uniquely distributes
the workload across multiple storage nodes and multiple network interfaces,
delivering levels of performance which previously were achieved only through
expensive, complex Fibre Channel SANs.
Beyond its technical capabilities, MediaGrid is tested,
qualified and deployed to serve as the storage infrastructure for a wide range
of key media applications. This
qualification removes adoption risks and ensures a predictable environment in
an industry where outages impact revenue-generating activity.
FilmPartners' MXFserver is a post-production management
software layer whose main functions are the virtualization of the hardware
infrastructure and the provision of the required active management functions
within the MediaGrid-based collaborative post-production environment.
MXFserver automates most non-human steps in the
post-production workflow. Its architecture is based on the concept of project
containers, which are used as the repositories for the materials used during a
given post-production unit of work or MXF project (e.g. video, audio, graphics,
NLE-specific files, scripts, Excel sheets, Powerpoint presentations, etc.).
MXFserver dynamically creates virtual “spaces” for every
user in the system, greatly enhancing the collaborative workflow functions
within the MediaGrid-based environment. These virtual spaces appear as exact replicas of the original file
structures that contain each project, but instead of containing real files,
these structures are populated with pointers to the original materials that
reside on a different location within the MediaGrid storage system. These pointers are totally
indistinguishable from the real files and provide a layer of asset security by
isolating the shared resources from the risks of accidental deletion or
modification by the collaborating users.
With the proliferation of media formats designed for the
various phases of the media life cycle, the need for media conversions from one
format to another is universal in any collaborative post-production
workflow. Within the Harmonic
solution, ProMedia Carbon is the component that fulfills this need.
ProMedia Carbon is a general-purpose transcoding software application
that operates on file-based media.It is capable of transcoding the largest array of acquisition, editing,
broadcast, Web, and mobile formats in the industry.The transcoding engine's capacity is very scalable thanks to
an architecture based on an automated, multi-node transcoding farm.The transcoding farm can be controlled
by a Carbon Server or Workflow System (WFS).
ProMedia Carbon includes an API that can be used to create
custom integrations with other applications and tools used within the
collaborative post-production environment. These custom integrations provide a powerful way to optimize
workflows via automation.
In addition to the primary transcoding function and as
part of its process, ProMedia Carbon can also perform other utilitarian
functions that are commonly used in collaborative workflows. These functions include SD/HD
conversions, PAL/NTSC conversions, logo/bug insertion, color space conversion,
automated color correction, and Close Captioning extraction, among others.
Media Application Server
The final functional component in Harmonic's Collaborative
post-production solution is the Media Application Server (MAS). Harmonic's MAS provides a middleware
foundation for the development and deployment of the media-centric applications
commonly used by companies engaged in collaborative post-production.
The Media Application Server combines a single virtualized
view of content across managed systems and a wide range of media processing
services that operate on this content. MAS also enables accelerated application development, minimizing the
complexity of media management.
Centralized media management empowers organizations to
more effectively define and enforce workflow steps, adhere to business rules,
and achieve strategic objectives. Media Application Server is a software platform that runs on standard
hardware, enabling application integration in ways that have not been possible
The Harmonic Collaborative post-production solution
provides the following client benefits:
- ·An open-standard-based solution that supports the
leading-vendor post-production toolsets without forcing the proprietary interfaces
normally associated with them.
·Elegant, low-overhead support for the
post-production active management functions required to manage collaborative
workflows: asset management, user management, process management, and resource
·Natural, project-based workflows that
accommodate asset-sharing via a file virtualization engine that protects source
materials throughout the workflow. Virtual silos prevent unauthorized access to materials and enforce a
quota system for shared physical resources.
·Non-linear workflows supported by media
virtualization and task automation.This concept optimizes collaboration at a level unique in the industry.
·A massively scalable, shared-storage
infrastructure that can be sized according to the needs of the business,
without requiring any downtime to scale.
·A shared-storage infrastructure that uses
high-speed, widely-available Ethernet networking to interconnect workstation
clients to its large pool of shared storage.
·Storage infrastructure virtualization via MXFserver
middleware software that supports the leading-market post-production tools via
a virtual native environment. These tools work as they do in their proprietary native environments.
·Automated transcoding toolset that transforms
materials to the required wrappers and formats at each step of the entire
·Process automation via Harmonic Media
Application Server.MAS can
trigger actions within the workflow according to asynchronous events in the
Most Corporate Media customers would like to deploy a true
collaborative editing solution to improve both their efficiency and the quality
of their materials, while also lowering costs. However, reliance on tape media, serial “island” operation and
proprietary systems can all inhibit companies from deploying the highly
efficient collaborative editing capabilities they want.
Harmonic provides a simple, open, cost-effective solution
for post-production workflows. The core element of a file-based post-production
workflow is high performance shared storage that can handle the unique
requirements of video workflows, and Omneon MediaGrid by Harmonic was
purpose-built for this task. FilmPartners® MXFserver™ provides the
post-production management layer that simplifies the users’ interactions with
the environment and manages the work flowing through the system.
Additional solution components from Harmonic can provide
powerful capabilities such as a federated Media Asset Management framework
capable of automating workflow tasks such as material transfers, and an
Enterprise-class software-based, highly-scalable transcoding engine for “prepping”
and repurposing media for production or distribution.