Cloud-based media exchange finds a home in the content supply chain

(Image credit: LionsGate)

Between traditional television, OTT platforms and social media channels, video is prolific, yet consumer demand for the entertainment form continues to surge. This insatiable appetite for content is driving producers, content owners and distributors to rethink traditional pipelines to achieve greater speed, security, and efficiency, while reducing expenditure. 

As they do, cloud-based workflows are gaining momentum, and cloud technology developers are working fast to deliver tools that accelerate and streamline content production through delivery. The exchange and transfer of media files, for instance, has historically proven a complex process, but emerging technology developments are now making it possible to optimize media exchange in the cloud. This evolution poses undeniable benefits across the supply chain from reduced egress fees to less operational overhead, among other advantages.  

With turnaround times tightening across content creation and delivery, keeping pace with demand requires the rapid transfer of massive files between various partners and affiliates at all stages of the supply chain. However, the methods through which modern content creators and owners transfer assets to content distributors and through which content distributors receive them are more arduous and cost-prohibitive than necessary. 

Most often, an asset is uploaded to an FTP site for sharing, downloaded by the recipient and transferred to their preferred destination using a file transfer service. 

As Lionsgate has found, this process can be time consuming. Each media file often contains a large number of terabytes, allowing only a handful of files to be moved at the same time and in phases and chunks, requiring consistent quality checks in the transfer process to ensure no file degradation, all of which could take up to months. With FTP transfer protocols, validating the original list intended to send against the list received is also not straight forward, as it is “thrown over the wall,” or sent without an asset by asset validation of what was received. 

Complicating things further, this process is often done manually, leaving no room to scale, which can mean last minute scrambling to deliver all of the assets to the right destination. It also taxes bandwidth and can inflate costs with egress and file transfer service fees. With an ever-changing list of content owners and distribution platforms, new file transfer service connections must also be continually onboarded for delivery or receipt of new content, which involves credential sharing, permissions assignments and the like. It’s a recognized bottleneck in the industry, but one that is proving easily remedied with the cloud. 

Most modern media companies use cloud storage solutions, which provide a solid foundation for accelerating and streamlining media asset transfers. In a world where direct hand-offs can occur in a cloud ecosystem via widely used cloud storage buckets, like Amazon S3, content producers, owners and distributors can reduce the time, costs and security concerns incurred with alternate transfer mechanisms, as there’s no need for a third-party service or FTP. 

Approaching media exchange this way also makes it easy to get validation of receipt of assets at the asset level. From a monetization standpoint, there’s an added benefit for content distributors in that they no longer have to wait for massive catalogs of content to be transferred over and can distribute content quicker to audiences.

Beyond cost savings it offers, uploading files to a cloud storage bucket for sharing is also advantageous because it allows you to better protect the integrity and security of the file. It can prevent file corruption during transport, and all parties in the media supply chain can sustain a consistent understanding of the asset state to ensure optimal file quality as media moves throughout the supply chain, which is game changing in an industry that has historically compressed audio and video frequently between file transfers and sharing. 

With media exchange taking place in the cloud, no compression is needed, as the file remains in a cloud storage bucket as is. This way of working not only provides more control over the file transfer process, but also helps avert potential content leaks, and streamlines a previously lengthy communication exchange between security teams. Furthermore, it mitigates operational challenges since it eliminates the need for a fleet of on-premises servers. 

Although implementing a cloud-based media exchange workflow is possible today through proprietary design, the team at Amazon Web Services (AWS) has made capitalizing on its benefits easier with its release of a new AWS Solutions Builder Implementation, an open source project called Media Exchange on AWS. It allows assets stored in one Amazon S3 bucket to be safely shared with an affiliate by moving it to an Exchange S3 bucket with appropriate security and permissions protocols in place. 

Everyone in the supply chain who uses S3 can then take advantage of file transfers in the cloud, sidestepping costly and inefficient practices. Each party understands the security parameters in which they’re working, and neither party has to make changes to the infrastructure to facilitate the exchange of media. Setting up Media Exchange on AWS can be done easily and quickly using AWS CloudFormation, and when deployed, it establishes a de-facto exchange standard with other Media Exchange users. 

An early Media Exchange adopter, Lionsgate has experienced the benefits of cloud-based file exchange first-hand. Sharing her experience Lionsgate EVP of Solutions Renee McGinnis said that Media Exchange on AWS allows her team to seamlessly transfer thousands of files within hours, a process that previously would have taken two months. 

Moving media exchange into the cloud via a solution like Media Exchange on AWS, gives content producers, owners and distributors a common foundation for simplifying and accelerating secure asset handoff. With it, everyone in the supply chain has more flexibility to scale to accommodate asset sharing and transfer demands. 

At the end of the day, this ultimately means that media is moving through the chain, as it did with Lionsgate, in a more predictable and less costly fashion, and reaching audiences faster. These advantages will not only prove key to meeting consumer demand for video, but also to content monetization. 

Tom Gilman is technical marketing manager for Amazon Web Services.


Tom Gilman is Technical Marketing Manager, Amazon Web Services