When broadcasters started moving from videotape — a physical asset — to files, it soon became apparent that digital asset management (DAM) was needed to handle the virtual data assets. Early DAM systems provided cataloging, search and proxy browsing functions as well as integration with hierarchical storage systems.
Over the years, DAM systems have spawned workflow tools to replace the check-in and check-out from libraries, and file movement management to replace the tape cart. The workflow tools are often based on watch folders and emails triggered by operations within the DAM.
Workflow concentrates more on the processing of the assets, as opposed to the DAM, which is more concerned with the assets in isolation.
As the videotape sea recedes from the digital islands, the broadcast landscape becomes a single, file-based entity. The constraints imposed by the physical movement of tape are lifted, allowing processes to be managed solely in the file domain. This opens the way for broadcasts to adopt the many software tools that other industry sectors have long used to manage their operations.
The area is business process management, or BPM. By managing the processes en mass, rather than individual links in a chain, managers can better control and optimize their business. The resulting efficiency improvements should make BPM an attractive concept to any broadcaster. The ability to have better visibility of all the processes and their interactions, also allows managers to edit workflows in order to add new operations. This improved agility is just what is needed to cope with the constant change that multi-platform delivery is imposing on media companies.
Avid planted the seeds of file-based operations many years ago with the introduction of the NLE, Avid 1 at NAB 1989. Avid has since introduced collaborative storage, Unity and Isis, forming the heart of many a newsroom. With the acquisition of NXN and Blue Order, Avid was able to layer DAM across media file systems. The fruits of these acquisitions can be seen in Interplay media and production asset management.
The latest release, Interplay MAM 4, introduces graphical workflow management. The Avid workflow engine can be configured using visual workflow modeling tools for quicker, error-free design and modification.
The workflow automation includes the Workflow Engine to orchestrate the process, and Order Management for the user workflows and interactions. The modeling tools allow these process and users interactions to be built and reused with a simple drag-and-drop GUI.
Director of Product Management for Interplay, at Avid Technology, Craig Dwyer explained, “We have two systems within Interplay, the production asset management (PAM) focused on fast-turnaround product, and the Media Asset Manager, which sits alongside the PAM. We have clients with many PAMs and they want to integrate with other business systems, and production and distribution partners. So, more people want to automate workflows.”
“Since version 3 of the MAM was introduced we have integrated some powerful scripting capability into the MAM. Our professional services and some customers have been using these tools. The feedback we got was that users wanted to design business processes that were more transparent to the business stakeholders.
“We have for a while supported third-party modeling tools, but it became apparent we needed to build a modeler tightly coupled to the processes running in our MAM system.” said Dwyer.
Media processes can take a long time, sometimes hours or days. That is one of the reasons that systems must be tailored to the creative industries. Plus, “media production can be managed chaos,” opined Dwyer. “Interplay PAM is optimized for realtime processes like news, the Interplay MAM joins up business processes holistically. That is where the requirement for business process management and orchestration has come from.”
Interplay MAM 4 introduces the graphical tools for optimizing process flows, as well as transparent linkage between PAM and the media management systems. The Avid MAM is built on the Microsoft .NET framework, but Avid has built its own workflow engine to meet those special media business needs.
DAM is evolving into a service to business process management. Expect to see more and more of this as initiative like the EBU-FIMS project introduce terms like SOA and orchestration to the broadcast environment. Avid continues to evolve systems matched to the special needs of broadcasters and the M&E sector that encompass these new ways to run a media business, new ways that promise better control, improved agility and to lower costs.