Applied Technology: The Promise of Fully Tapeless Production

The promise of fully tapeless production has been in the air for quite some time. And while many productions are in fact capturing, editing and possibly even distributing at the file-based level, there are still many gaps in a true end-to-end workflow. More often than not, they have just traded one form factor, that of video tape, for another, that of a hard drive, without fully realizing the potential economic and workflow benefits that are possible in such a dramatic paradigm shift.

Some solutions on the market address very specific portions of the workflow, and require the complex linking of distinct bits of software, each responsible for a very specific function, to come up with an end-to-end solution. Pronology is able to address all of these workflow tasks in one platform, thereby simplifying both setup and use in today’s fast paced production environments.

File-Based Simplified

The Pronology solution provides users with a complete set of tools designed for Media Asset Management (MAM) in video production environments. Its easy-to-use interface is designed for both technical and non-technical users. The system is OS agnostic, with users accessing content via a standard web browser. This architecture promotes extensive real-time collaboration, regardless of location.

The Pronology solution runs on standard Microsoft software. Its database scales from SQL Express for small installations to Enterprise editions for large deployments. The Pronology web application uses IIS, and proxies are viewed using the Microsoft Silverlight player, ensuring simple and easy deployment to new productions and users.

Media and Format Agnostic

All of the commonly used broadcast compression formats, including uncompressed, are equally supported. The system permits any format to be ingested, and any format to be exported, allowing for easy up/down/cross conversion. Pronology is also completely storage type agnostic. The system directly manages multiple tiers of storage including “On-Line,” “Near-Line,” “Archive” and “Off-Line” from within a single interface. This enables significant cost savings through the easy migration of assets from one tier of storage (i.e. Edit SAN) to a secondary tier of less expensive storage (i.e. near-line). Support for both QuickTime and MXF (including Avid compliant MXF OPAtom) allows media to be captured, managed and natively archived in a format that is optimized for the editing process, without limiting any other codec or wrapper types that may also be required.

Pronology workflow exampleDedicated Ingest Control Application
Pronology provides organization from the beginning of the record process. Users are able to control industry standard record devices as well as manage the file import process through a custom designed ingest control application. This presents operators with a clear, simple-to-use interface that facilitates the record process and the entry of organizational metadata. This has the two-fold benefit of reducing training and labor costs, as well as providing much more consistent results. Pronology also includes a file-accelerated uploader/downloader for off-site contribution and distribution. This application is directly linked to the Pronology database and therefore minimizes human error when organizing incoming assets.

Creation of Assets

The Pronology system deals with all media files, whether they are audio/video, still images or other documents by creating “assets” in the system. These files can be ingested via baseband recording, file import, watch folders or remote file uploads. There are typically multiple files contained within each “Asset”. These files could be:
• Separate audio and video files that represent a single recording
• High/edit/low resolution versions of the same recording
• Thumbnail image

The Pronology system automatically maintains low-resolution versions of all video assets in the system. These intelligently reference the other resolutions of an asset on an as-needed basis. These low-resolution versions can be created live, when an asset is first recorded using the Pronology ProStream recorder, or as a “post-process” transcode after media has been discovered by, or imported into the system.

Effectively Manage Assets in Real Time

All viewing, annotating, logging and metadata contribution to assets is performed with media at the low-resolution level. Therefore, multiple users can easily view and share assets, and contribute metadata to a centralized database without requiring large amounts of bandwidth. User comments and log entries are constantly “pushed” to the web, making them immediately visible to all other users. These log entries can easily be associated to just one recording, or all recordings within a group. A sub-clipping tool also allows users to select their ideal shots, and sub-clip content into customizable bins for further organization. Users can create storyboards or “paper” cuts of their projects, by simply dragging and dropping selected clips, which then become sequences in the edit room in order to clearly communicate their vision to the editorial staff.

Pronology enables post-production staff to e-mail a link to one or a group of users seeking comments and editorial authorization for recorded and edited content. The link is completely encrypted, maintaining content security during off-site viewing. Each link view can be tracked in real-time, showing the recipient time-stamped data for previews and approvals by each user. Senders can also specify a link’s “kill” date and/or require a login to view material.

Archiving for Tomorrow
Pronology supports a complete backup of all assets, including imported and/or recorded content and metadata to LTO data tape in an open standard LTFS format. The Pronology archive module supports direct control of an LTO robot, eliminating the need for third party archive appliances. Additionally, Pronology supports off-site replication of all assets to Amazon S3, as well as our New York and Los Angeles data centers for secure “cloud” based archive and access.

Our primary goal at Pronology is to make a “production friendly” tool that people are able to use with a minimum amount of training or guidance. We work hard to insulate users from the complexity inherent in today’s tapeless environments, while still allowing for complex multi-step workflows to be easily executed with a single press of a button. After all, what good is this transition to “tapeless” if people cannot, or will not, take full advantage of it.

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