WGBH Boston and Sun Microsystems team for digital asset management R&D center

After several years of working with Sun Microsystems to develop a digital asset management (DAM) system that leverages its vast archives, public broadcaster WGBH Boston joined with Sun on November 4 for the grand opening of a unique research and development center, open to all broadcasters, at the station’s headquarters in Boston, Mass. Due to WGBH’s success in employing the system for its “Frontline” TV and Web-based program, other PBS member stations, such as WNET New York and Milwaukee Public Television, are in the process of implementing similar DAM systems at their facilities as well.

Dave MacCarn, standing, oversees a live demonstration of real-world solutions that digital media-intensive businesses may use to design and deploy their next generation digital media infrastructures.

“No matter how big or small your station is, the need to track and leverage existing content is universal,” said Dave MacCarn, chief technologist at WGBH. “Those assets become more valuable if we as an industry agree on technical standards and that’s what the iForce Solution Center is all about.”

As asset management architect for the station, MacCarn explained that the new “Sun iForce Solution Center,” the first ever to offer working demonstrations of Sun’s DAM concept at a customer location, will provide broadcast networks and television stations with R&D facilities to help them design and build architectures to better manage their digital assets and create new revenue streams from their content. It serves as an ideal environment for broadcasters to test and fine-tune a variety of alternative platforms and technologies prior to making the capital investment.

“We’ve established an environment, which we at WGBH are using ourselves, that will allow outsiders to speak with Sun representatives and ask questions,” MacCarn said. “If they have a particular software package that we’re not using they are welcome to bring it in and see how Sun can integrate it into their workflow design.”

This iForce Solution Center at WGBH is a showcase for Sun’s Digital Asset Management Reference Architecture (made up of its hardware and software technology), which offers a comprehensive road map for designing and deploying a “proven, standards-based, end-to-end digital asset management platform.” Each Reference Architecture (MacCarn calls it an asset management “cookbook”) includes detailed system design, implementation and sizing guides, as well as access to other Sun iForce Centers worldwide.

As a producer and distributor of national PBS content on multiple platforms, WGBH collaborated with Sun to consolidate its assets onto digital media as a means of maximizing its value. Using its own facility as a test bed, digital assets at WGBH are now more effectively searched, retrieved, shared, reused and archived.

The Digital Asset Management Reference Architecture was developed after years of collaboration between WGBH Boston and Sun Microsystems, with assistance from Artesia Technologies, a provider of digital asset management software solutions, and Sony Electronics. The end-to-end DAM architecture, which starts at around $250,000 for a 25-50-seat system, also incorporates technology from Apple Computer, Thomson Grass Valley, Harris Automation Solutions, Telestream and Virage. MacCarn said any manufacturers’ equipment could be used in place of these companies if desired.

For more information on WGBH's DAM initiative, visit Sun's iForce Initiative and Sun's Reference Architectures.

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