Army Uses Web Portal to Manage Media


While the Army’s Fort Eustis has roots extending back to 1918, it also has one of the most modern systems for managing multiformat media available at any military post or base.

As with much military nomenclature, the full name is a mouthful—Army Enterprise Multimedia/Visual Information Support Center Information Web Portal.

The system has been in the works for the past three years and is now operational, even though another coat of paint (in this case a final tasking for the system integrator to deliver a “work order management system” module) must be added for the total amount of functionality planned.

But according Michael Maxey, the visual information manager at Fort Eustis’s Directorate of Information Management, this last deliverable is really icing on the cake.

“The system is already making a big impact on the way things are done here,” he said. “Instead of moving 9,000 people back and forth to the auditorium here for mandatory training sessions, they can now get the training delivered to their desktops. It’s a great time and money saver—just imagine the efficiency gained when before you had thousands of people coming and going, stopping along the way to visit or for coffee and donuts. Also you have to keep in mind that in an operation this size you will probably have 400 to 500 people out on travel or leave on a given day. Archiving the content with this system makes it a lot easier for everyone to receive the required training.”


The new system combines functionalities of all media-related activities at the post. Before, there were separate operations for producing training videos, another for printing tasks, another for training services. Now there’s a Web Portal.

“A lot of what we do here is training related,” said Maxey.

As the home to the U.S. Army Transportation Center and the Army Transportation School. MOS [Military Occupational Specialty], the base offers training in helicopter mechanics, watercraft, motor transport operations—anything to do with Army transportation. The Portal works in conjunction with the school in helping trainees who want to brush up or review what went on in class. A Vbrick streaming media server is integrated with the Web Portal to offer classroom on-demand lectures to dayroom and other locations, according to Maxey.

(click thumbnail)A Fort Eustis town hall meeting in progress.“We’ve also gotten involved with the way ‘town hall’ meetings are handled,” Maxey said. “We broadcast the meetings live via the post cable TV system and we also stream it. We have two Vbrick systems for this. One is for the local campus and the other feeds a 3 Gbps pipe to Cox Cable. Our first town hall broadcast on the new system went out on Feb. 27 and the second one on May 22.”

Innovative Technologies Inc. (ITI), a Chantilly, Va.-based systems integration firm, is in large part responsible for the success of the Fort Eustis Web Portal project. ITI has been the sole contractor involved in the project, handling all details from planning to equipment deliveries and installation.

Humberto Irizarry, vice president of sales and marketing for ITI, described some of the features built into the Fort Eustis installation.

“The portal project was customized for the Army,” said Irizarry. “It is all scalable—delivery rates range from 56 kbps well into the Mbps range, and the storage is scalable too. We’re looking at upwards of 7 TB. It’s all managed by local control, with users validated by the Army. Three different levels of authentication are used.”

Irizarry said that his company has been involved with a number of DOD and federal government audio, video and IT projects, and possessed a unique understanding of some of the special issues involved in the Fort Eustis project.

“The system we designed allows all processes done by physical movement of paperwork to now be done via IP,” Irizarry said. “The Army has been trying to get away from paper and move into the 21st century Web-based movement of paper and audio/visual materials. We were the exclusive contractor for the project and are proud that [we] were selected for this logical DOD technology jump.”


Maxey said that the basic concept for the system was developed “some time ago,” but that the post, just like many other private sector, government and military entities, had to wait its turn before funding for the project could be made available. He reports that the system has performed very well, and there have been no real problems in implementation or operations.

“The only real issues have been more or less from a policy standpoint,” said Maxey. “This is a network being used in a military environment. We had to be sure that we weren’t breaking any Army policies.”

According to ITI’s Irizarry, the Fort Eustis Web Portal system is a first for the Army. The idea has been well accepted by the military, and Irizarry’s company is currently building two more such systems for Fort Lewis in Washington state and for Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Irizarry says that two years of planning went into the Fort Eustis system to ensure that the Army got exactly what it wanted.

“As this is a first for the Army and we’re the only contractor, we wanted to be sure that we got it right the first time,” said Irizarry.

Television production workflow with the new system uses content captured with Sony DSR-130 DVCAM cameras.

“DVCAM is our acquisition media,” said Maxey. “We have four DSR-130s and DVCAM decks. Right now we’re using Avid Adrenalines with a Unity server for collaborative editing. We have about 20 terabytes of storage on line with the Unity. We use Telestream for moving the VOD product back and forth.

“Actually we get video shot from all over the country,” he said. “We recently returned from a shoot at Fort Benning [Ga.]. Some of the footage was sent back with Telestream’s ClipMail product. We’d used laptops out in the field for logging footage, so everything was ready to edit when the shooter returned.”

Maxey estimates that his unit shoots 400 to 500 hours of raw footage per year. The Fort Eustis video group has been in operation for about 35 years and is staffed by 17 people.

James E. O’Neal has more than 50 years of experience in the broadcast arena, serving for nearly 37 years as a television broadcast engineer and, following his retirement from that field in 2005, moving into journalism as technology editor for TV Technology for almost the next decade. He continues to provide content for this publication, as well as sister publication Radio World, and others.  He authored the chapter on HF shortwave radio for the 11th Edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook, and serves as editor-in-chief of the IEEE’s Broadcast Technology publication, and as associate editor of the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal. He is a SMPTE Life Fellow, and a Life Member of the IEEE and the SBE.