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What's Up in Asset Management

Expanding asset management to multiple sites


With more than 80 Media Asset Management (MAM) systems on the market, broadcasters can be overwhelmed by choices. Yet with the mission-critical task of managing digital media assets, choosing wrong can be costly.

"To be effective for broadcast, MAM software must tightly integrate material and related metadata with the traffic, production, newsroom and automation systems that comprise the broadcast digital media workflow," said Steven L'Heureux, president of Encoda Systems, in Denver.

The right solution meets four criteria, he said. It is designed for broadcasting; integrates into the broadcast workflow; supports open standards; and is backed by a dependable vendor.

Not only does Encoda's DAIS MAM software integrate tightly with its D-Series automation system, it tracks media assets "bi-directionally"-from traffic to automation and back, dynamically in realtime.

"To properly track asset usage, MAM software must automatically and immediately relay to the traffic and programming modules that a playlisted show or spot was pre-empted-say by a breaking news story or game running into overtime," L'Heureux said. "Without that feedback, broadcasters can't react quickly to protect themselves from liability or loss of revenue."


Another key trend is the need to track assets beyond a single station, so material can be shared across all the stations or facilities in a group. Crown Media Holdings, which owns the Hallmark Channel and distributes other, regional cable channels, uses Encoda software to track media assets and handle multichannel automation between its Los Angeles headquarters and its Denver Operations Center.

Another network maximizing the use of its media assets is NBC. All 14 of NBC's O&Os are served by Proximity Corp., a MAM software vendor in New York.


"NBC has located its artists at a single location, which they call The Art House, in Dallas, and using our MAM software, this team supplies all on-air graphics required by all 14 stations," said Luke Tristram, CEO of Proximity. "This centralized MAM approach enables NBC to create a graphic once and then have it used by 14 stations, which is more cost-effective."

Proximity's flagship MAM solution is ArtBox, which enables artists to manage all their material from one interface, regardless of where that material is stored, whenver searchable criteria have been entered into the system's metadata. ArtBox integrates format conversion; workflow and rights management; search and retrieval of native-format video, audio, graphics, and other assets; and more into a single device-eliminating time-consuming tasks that can bog down workflow.

In addition to centralized MAM, there's also a regional model, where a large station creates media assets that are then shared by smaller stations in the region, said Sai Koppala, Proximity's vice president of sales and marketing.

"Lastly, broadcasters can take a distributed MAM approach where all of the stations in a group create assets and store them locally, but affiliates can view the contents of each other's databases, and retrieve any elements they want to use rather than creating their own," he said.

John Wadle, vice president of technology for OmniBus Systems, in Denver, Colo. said more stations are approaching asset management from the top down.

"Rather than having a dozen stations in a group all creating the same graphics, station groups want to centralize their on-air graphics creation at one site and share media resources across the entire group," he said. "One benefit of groupwide media sharing is that the smaller stations that can't afford to have costly graphics departments can now present a more competitive on-air product in their markets."

The OmniBus Asset Management Suite integrates content and metadata management to newsroom, traffic, and automation systems-managing a relational database from ingestion to transmission.

"Broadcasters increasingly need to have their business and traffic applications link to their automation and multichannel transmission operations," Wadle said. "Our MAM solution facilitates content and metadata sharing from any workstation across their IT and broadcast infrastructures."


Integrating digital asset management into a traditional broadcast infrastructure has its own inherent challenges, said Tim Slate, director of product marketing for Leitch, in Burbank, Calif.

"The challenge today is bridging the immediacy of broadcast with the complexity of the IT infrastructure," he said. "The key to moving content between the broadcast and IT worlds is intelligent asset management, such as our MediaNet MAM solution, which can be integrated with our NEXIO server."

The NEXIO supports Gigabit Ethernet, TCP/IP, and FTP protocol, and traditional broadcasting.

Chris Chesley, Leitch's manager, applications engineering, said, "with its sophisticated metadata and security features, users can search for assets relevant to their departments, like news, graphics, and production, as well as search assets on servers throughout the station or station group," he said. "Using unique ID's assigned at ingest, MediaNet can track the location, usage, rights and other characteristics of any asset, regardless of how or where it is used throughout a station or group. If other MAM solutions are used as well, they can access MediaNet's SQL-based Look-Up Tables to search for the assets being tracked automatically by MediaNet. We view MediaNet as the first building block to enterprise networking in broadcasting, and a big part of the future of our product line."


Rick Stora of Sundance noted a trend toward centralized asset management.

"Station groups are laying the groundwork for sharing media assets between affiliate stations," said Stora, director of broadcaster operations for Sundance. "In the same way that centralized automation saves money by eliminating redundant effort between affiliated stations, centralized asset management means that all stations on the network can search for and share media assets on any networked server, such as a graphic for the evening news, rather than having artists at each station working to create a similar graphic from scratch."

Sundance offers Seeker, a MAM solution that complements the Sundance Titan and Fastbreak automation systems that bridge most third-party traffic systems with broadcast equipment for single- and multichannel automation.

Seeker can ingest video, audio, graphics, even documents, regardless of file format, transcode them for browsing and streaming, and make all resources accessible from anywhere on the network. A user-defined metadata layer manages data describing those assets, making it easier to search, organize, and locate.

"While many islands-such as newsrooms, graphics and programming-increasingly have their own servers and editors with built-in MAM capabilities, Seeker bridges those databases to provide effective asset management enterprisewide," Stora said. "By leveraging partnerships with companies such as Microsoft, Chyron, Proximity and Telestream, and supporting major protocols for equipment interoperability and file exchange, we've expanded Seeker to interface with different media databases residing across the production pipeline."


Thomson Broadcast and Media Solutions, in Beaverton, Ore. offers an entry-level, scalable approach. Eric Dufosse, director of servers and digital news production for Thomson said the Grass Valley NewsBrowse browsing/editing system uses an intuitive Web-like interface for locating, reviewing, logging and managing online assets from a desktop.

"NewsBrowse relies on the Grass Valley MediaFrame to provide interoperability to other Grass Valley products while opening the integrated environment to third party partners."

Dufosse said that Thomson plans to roll out additional functions and integration features over the next several releases.

"The foundation has been laid, and with more functionality promised over time, the stage has been set for inter-station searching and logging of metadata as well as physical exchange of media."

Broadcasters have acquired hundreds of thousands of hours of content over the last few decades and much of the cataloging for that media exists in every form from paper logs to proprietary databases," says Dufosse. "These vast libraries of content are costly to use and maintain in their current state. With the Grass Valley NewsBrowse and MediaFrame, broadcasters can migrate their data into an environment where they can begin to generate revenue from this otherwise lost or difficult to use content."


The team at Avid is looking at ways to make their MAM system easier to use.

"We enhanced the MAM functionality in the latest release of Avid MediaManager, providing a simpler interface for users to search for media assets across multiple locations," said David Schleifer, director of broadcast and workgroups for Avid Technology, Inc., Tewksbury, Mass. "By working closely with broadcasters, we have been able to pinpoint key areas where we can reduce multiple steps and the chance of error to deliver the true benefits of asset management."


Jean-Michel Seigneur, product manager for Harris Corp.'s broadcast division made the point that tracking assets is imperative to managing them.

"If a broadcaster has an asset, but can't find it, they don't really have it," he said. "For rich media enterprises, the key to finding new revenue, saving time and finding greater operational efficiencies is the ability to search and retrieve assets easily, whether it's within the playout core, promotions or traffic area."

Seigneur said that Invenio, the MAM solution from Harris, was designed to index large volumes of assets. Using it's "hyper navigation" feature, Invenio allows users to find the right asset when required. The scalable system offers desktop access to media, and can be used on WANs to connect geographically dispersed operations to a central repository.

"Users at group stations can browse, locate and share media ssets with affiliate stations, maximizing the group's competitive positioning, revenue generation and shared branding efforts," Seigneur said.


At Omneon Video Networks in Sunnyvale, Calif., Jason Danielson, senior director, solutions marketing said, "Beyond reliable storage and playout, the next level of a MAM strategy involves the exchange of material between systems in the broadcast plant-file types, metadata models, file wrappers, and content translation processes."

Omneon ships a robust set of media content management tools to allow for conversion and media exchange processes, and the company just showed Material Exchange Format (MXF)-native functionality at NAB. Omneon also provides a Media API (Application Programmers Interface), allowing developers to integrate their MAM software with Omneon servers.