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WGBH's hands-on demo facility helps ease reservations

BOSTON

With all the fanfare of an auto show, a new digital asset management demonstration center opened in Boston last month, a first-of-its-kind test facility designed to ease anxiety about the technology.

"It can serve as a testing ground [for stations] before they put a final system into production," said Pallavi Shah with Sun Microsystems, who played a primary role in setting up the new center at Boston public TV station WGBH.

TOUGH PATH

While asset management has been a big buzz phrase in the industry over the last few years, the technology has been considered by some as unwieldy, expensive and hard to implement.

"Digital asset management has been a volatile space for some time," said Mike Barros, vice president of business development, Artesia Technologies. "For this system to be up and working sends a stabilizing message to the marketplace."

The new asset management center will show media businesses how to build systems, manage digital assets better and create new revenue streams from content, the companies said.

"We had a number of disparate databases we wanted to pull together, and so we started to look at different technologies available to manage data and file structures," said Dave MacCarn, WGBH chief technologist and asset management architect.

From its headquarters here, WGBH creates Web programming, home video productions and nearly a third of the primetime and online programming that airs on PBS, MacCarn said.

"When looking at the transition from analog to digital, we began to ask how we would handle all the physical and digital items, and how we would tie them all together," he said.

The subsequent "iForce Solution Center" has a reference architecture that can expand across various departments to manage media from ingest to playout. The center teamed with Sun Microsystems to install the company's Digital Asset Management Reference Architecture. Sun and WGBH then worked with Sony and Artesia Technologies, which provided its enterprise asset management technology.

Once material is ingested, the Artesia asset management system allows users to recognize different file types, herd data into the right location, load metadata fields and find and search for files within the system.

Additional equipment was installed from Apple, Harris, Telestream, Virage and Thomson Grass Valley, though equpment selections are flexible. A primary purpose of the Boston iForce center is to show that asset management technology is ready for use.

"iForce allows customers to customize their asset management scenario, without setting up their own environment from scratch," Barros said.

Other PBS member stations, such as WNET New York and Milwaukee Public Television, are implementing similar asset management systems at their facilities as well.

Asset management technology received another boost earlier this year from the founding of the Global Society for Asset Management, an independent trade and professional organization whose members include Sun Microsystems and Artesia.

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.