G-SAM conference highlights lingering interoperability issues

If there was a central theme from the inaugural conference hosted by the Global Society of Asset Management (G-SAM) in early November, it was the lack of standards and technology for interoperability that is the major obstacle to widespread deployment of digital asset management systems. The price performance versus cost benefits of such a system is also not what most broadcasters consider a viable business model.

Making an impressive first-time showing, the two-day G-SAM 2003 conference November 10-11, attracted 300 attendees (made up of delegates, analysts and equipment vendors).

Members of G-SAM said they are working on the problems and hope to have some solutions, including SMPTE approval of such new file formats as the widespread adoption of the Material eXchange Format (MXF) that enables one manufacturer’s MPEG video server to speak with another, within a year’s time.

Making an impressive first-time showing, the two-day G-SAM 2003 conference November 10-11, attracted 300 attendees (made up of delegates, analysts and equipment vendors). It was clear that the topic is gaining steam among broadcast-related companies such as ABC, CBS, Discovery Communications, HBO, Rainbow Networks, NBC, News Corporation, Sony Pictures, and Universal Studios, which are all G-SAM members and had representatives in attendance.

Effective management of media assets is “not an easy or simple task” and that realization has resulted in industry adoption “not going as was planned,” said Gavin Schutz in his keynote address at the conference in New York City. Dennis Pannuto, CIO at ad agency BBDO, delivered the second-day keynote about the viability of return on investment.

Citing a “lack of clarity” in how to deal with large media assets, Schultz, chief technology officer at Ascent Media Group and president of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), portrayed an industry with great potential, where “things are vastly more complicated” than originally assumed in an “unstable business environment” for solutions providers.

Schultz, who oversees a major facility in Los Angeles that handles the creation and management of film and television content, said there is too much “techo babble” about asset management. “It is not a shrink-wrapped software application. It’s not available from a single source. And it has to be integrated before it becomes effective or even rationally deployed,” he said.

In addition, asset management, Schultz said, is not about technology. “It is about workflow and operating practices across the enterprise. It’s about business opportunities and most of all its about content. It’s about when do you do it and when do you don’t do it. It’s not a case of one size fits all.”

As the industry has come to realize, there are often many different workflows and economic models within the same facility, this means the same set of terminology may not apply.

To illustrate how far the industry has come, in terms of managing assets within a networked infrastructure, Schultz said that in 1984, 67 percent of the capital cost associated with network environments was spent on hardware and 33 percent went to administration. Today, 17 percent is hardware and 83 percent is administration. This represents a huge shift in workflow complexity, he noted.

Schultz said the choice can come down to replacing “a pretty good asset management system” employing a person for $10 an hour who keeps a database, labels and stores physical tapes with a highly paid librarian and staff with advanced networked asset management technology that’s tough to implement. While the benefits are obvious, the choice for small to mid-sized stations of which model is best is not easy to make.

“There’s a lot of disinformation [surrounding asset management],” he warned. “Too much fluff at the high end, too much consultancy and not enough thinking through the operating workflow.” He urged managers to gain a deep understanding of their production and distribution process. Media companies should understand the implications and costs of each process before making the leap to a full-blown asset management system.

Going forward, G-SAM executive director Richard Eberhart said a series of regional meetings will begin on either a monthly or bi- monthly basis. Also in the planning stage is a luncheon meeting in early December for the New York City and Washington, D.C. regions, and a quarterly newsletter on asset management activities within the membership.

Also resulting from the conference, G-SAM named its first Executive Governing Board, composed of leaders in the DAM industry. The Board, which will serve the association for a one-year term beginning in January 2004, includes Bob Long, CTO, News Division, Avid Technology; Gail P. Whipple, vice president, Global Digital Media, IBM; and Tom Moran, vice president, Strategic Development, WAM!NET (a division of SAVVIS Communications).

Other board members include David Lipsey, vice president, Media & Entertainment, Artesia Technologies; Gavin Schutz; Jonathan Bender, vice president, Universal Music; and Dennis Pannuto.

“Avid supports broadening the standards of digital asset management,” said Bob Long. "With standards, we get the opportunity to offer solutions to a broader market. We understand that the world no longer comes to the editor, but the editor must go to the world. Our future products will support the standards being developed today.”

G-SAM is an independent trade and professional organization representing the broad interests of the entire asset management industry, including content creators, technology vendors and systems integrators. The group’s Principal and Founding Members in the Vendor sector include Ascent Media Group, Artesia Technologies, Avid Technology, Sony Data Systems and WAM!NET. Other supporting members include, EMC, IBM, BBC Technologies, Intel, eMotion, ADAM Systems Group, Exavio, and RightsLine.

For more information visit www.g-sam.org.

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