Smarter Media Asset Management (MAM)

In recent years, Media Asset Management (MAM) systems have witnessed a great leap forward, driven by key broadcast technology landmarks and customer needs. Complex multi-platform distribution of content has seen MAM systems evolve to become more intelligent and customisable to suit the needs of individual users.
Tedial, VSN, Primestream, Prime Focus, Media asset management, MAM, IMF spec, Artificial intelligence, Interoperability

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Never before has there been such a pressing need for speed and reducing operating cost across the industry. As the digital phenomenon gathers steam and the number of original hours of content increases, so have the complexities in content operations.

José Luís Montero, Regional Sales Director at Tedial, says new platforms for audiovisual content distribution have created powerful tendencies to consume all types of content via the internet and mobile platforms. “Those platforms are threating the revenues of the traditional broadcasters reducing the audiences and their business in advertising. Tedial has a clear vision that the broadcast industry needs to adapt their business model to this new scenario.”

Above: José Luís Montero, Regional Sales Director at Tedial

Most of the MAM solutions in conventional newsrooms were deployed several years ago. Naturally, this brings in several reinstallation or revitalising opportunities for solution providers. The older technology does not use automation or apply it to better storytelling and live event processing.

Moreover, broadcasters with a wide international footprint need to perform operations like Content Download, Compliance Editing, QC (Quality Control), Mastering and Archival separately for each territory.

“At the very core, MAM offers flexibility, controlled collaborative organisation of content along with faster, easy and accessible productive workflows that integrate with third party systems. This enables media management from one source for a distributive network of other linked platforms,” explains Kulvinder Singh, VP of Sales for the SAARC region at Aveco.

Primestream COO David Schliefer says that with “the ability to bridge signal-based architecture with file-based workflow, and while delivering powerful automation, transcoding, and editing across single and multiple sites, today’s MAM has grown past being just a database for archiving assets. Even archiving is now an integrated workflow that can often include moving assets to the cloud.”

In tune with the times

MAM has clearly moved beyond the initial database and archiving solution that it started out as. Forward thinking broadcasters recognised that workflow automation was the only way to address ever-increasing versioning and monetisation demands, and the most reliable way to manage workflow automation is through metadata driven workflows orchestrated by modern cloud hosted distributed solutions.

“New-age cloud solutions address these challenges by enabling broadcasters to automate not just within silos, but across the entire content supply chain. With in-built Business Process Management (BPM), such solutions automate file processing, and provide real time dashboards to track the status of all tasks conveniently from a single user interface,” says T Shobhana, Global head of marketing and communications, at Prime Focus Technologies.

“The shift to IP will see broadcasters face years of joint support for legacy SDI plants and the new SVIP (Studio Video over IP) with its inherent infrastructural changes, and MAM technology must support this dual operation,” says Tedial’s José Luís Montero.

Montero reckons fundamental MAM technology is also changing and adapting to the modern requirements of enterprise operations: “Many MAM vendors promote their software as an “enterprise” solution, but only a very few truly have a system designed to support multi-site, multi-department, multi-tenant operations.”

“Enterprise solutions build on media preparation, linear playout and orchestration MAM tools, then add the ability to limitlessly scale throughput, manage millions of assets, workflows and users and support unique, geographically dispersed operations,” adds Montero.

“Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) software (policy-based archiving which uses storage devices economically) has been around for decades, but only recently has the requirement for vertical storage management expanded.” “Tedial addressed this directional shift by bringing the Evolution aSTORM content management solution to market. aSTORM manages attached storage by nodes both vertically and horizontally across locations including the cloud and provides increased security and functionality for distributed task management.” says Montero.

It’s also important to note that MAM software modules should be capable of being deployed in virtualized environments, Montero adds: “Media companies can use on-premises hardware, virtual servers on local or cloud supplied infrastructure, and even hybrid designs. This permits today’s broadcasters to leverage cloud systems for services and storage expansion as necessary to manage costs and evaluate new services with less risk. By providing the best of both worlds, broadcasters have core systems on site as well as augmentation through cloud infrastructure.”

Javier Encinas, Sales Manager for Middle East at VSN says the next step to take into account for MAM providers, would be “integrating MAM systems with all the existing technologies already available in the cloud via API, in order to further improve the workflows, become more efficient and rely on more advanced tools for media management, such as artificial intelligence.” Encinas says that in VSN’s view, “AI is one of the next steps that we consider crucial in the future of media management, since it allows to automate in a ‘smarter’ and more agile way content management, search, cataloging and even its creation.”


Above: Javier Encinas, Sales Manager for Middle East at VSN

Media management in a multi-platform world: What should broadcasters look for in a solution?

The first generation of MAM installations were very focused on making sure broadcasters did not lose track of their media assets. But the older systems did not integrate with many of today’s modern third-party tools such as HDR processing and automatic ‘speech-to-text’ systems for subtitling and translations on the fly.

Whether it is multi-format publishing, enabling site to site collaboration, lifecycle management, or maximizing asset re-use, the MAM is now central to moving the business model forward. Today’s MAM software is optimised for virtual deployments, including cloud infrastructure. This allows a MAM upgrade project to help the customer reduce costs and labour, increase speed and automation, and use less bandwidth for delivering media asset management.

“As well as simplifying and automating workflows, it’s also important to analyse and to process metrics so failure or inefficiencies can be tracked and anticipated. In the final delivery process, it is key to analyse how well delivered content has performed, analyse consumer habits so the system can provide recommendations, target the right audience with the right footage to assist with targeted advertising or sponsorships. Success will depend on innovation in metadata management with the help of powerful media processing software systems that expand applications to support OTT.”

“Undoubtedly, having a distributed MAM system is the key says VSN’s Javier Encinas. “That is, the possibility of having global access from a MAM system to combinations of on-premise and cloud storages anywhere; promoting collaborative work among users, departments and subsidiaries; searching content more quickly and flexibly anywhere; having access to a multitenant MAM system that allows us to be more agile when updating the software, optimizing the use of our hardware resources and of course, saving costs… all these advantages are derived from distributed MAM systems, which we believe that will be crucial for the future of media management.”

Besides multitenancy there are some important considerations in the selection of a MAM solution, adds Encinas: “such as customized metadata and advanced search of media, a flexible web-based platform that allows concurrent access of users and management of user permissions, multiplatform distribution of content agnostic to any format, automatic generation of proxy files and keyframes or the possibility of importing, exporting and downloading, either fully or partially, media files in high-res, among many others.”

“In the age of multiplatform distribution, one of the strongest bets that we have made at VSN, is to convert MAM systems into a genuine content Hub, as in the case of the two platforms for content exchange that we have implemented to date at La Xarxa facilities in Spain or La Red in Mexico.”

“Basically, what they allow is to share the content globally through the MAM system, in order to increase its exposure and visibility for both internal and/or external audiences. When this solution is applied to external audiences, we can even create a new business vertical here by selling our content through the platform and increasing its monetization,” explains Encinas.


Interoperability with IMF

However, for broadcasters to truly benefit from modern MAM systems, interoperability between systems and workflows is essential. For decades, industry standards committees have been focused on developing a functional interoperability platform to solve the interoperability problem, and the solution may finally be close at hand for broadcasters.

SMPTE’s Interoperable Master Format specification (IMF) now provides a tried and tested media format, which allows media and entertainment companies to offer end-to-end IMF workflows that leverage IMF specifications without overloading processes with internal conversions or limitations in the content management structure.

Tedial’s Montero thinks broadcasters should look for an end-to-end MAM solution that supports IMF formats for ingest, archive and delivery and be capable of assembly-on-the-fly.

Tedial is working to ramp up support for the IMF format adds Montero: “At IBC 2018, we’re announcing new features to our HYPER IMF platform that significantly improve content delivery and management to non-linear platforms. This includes automatic leader insertion, which incorporates all the elements required for each platform. HYPER IMF also now includes automatic localization based on delivery profile, enabling all credits and text insertions for every language required to be added automatically. Prior to HYPER IMF, broadcasters had to manually enter this data or create complex code for every destination; a costly and time-consuming process.”

Intelligent automation

Automation is absolutely necessary in contemporary newsrooms, where a lot of production work is done remotely. Newsroom setups are more complex and fast paced than other kinds of productions. Today, automated solutions exist for IP stream ingest, integrated review and approval, end-to-end workflow, plus centralised configuration.

Critical automation for MAM based solutions is often built around business rules and logical instantiation of the workflow, and using the power of scripting to automate the customer’s requirements.

An automated ingest workflow that captures incoming stories or camera card inputs, tags the media with useful metadata and automatically routes the assets to either remote locations or to user task assignment is critical for today’s broadcast operations.

Storage and delivery methods for capturing and managing media are getting more and more complex, and so addressing these issues requires technology enhancements that advance today’s media landscape. The growing complexities of multi-platform distribution mean broadcasters can no longer rest on existing and independently functioning systems that result in ‘Islands of Automation’.

A new breed of solutions is making use of advancements machine learning and artificial intelligence to make automation even smarter.

Montero feels Artificial Intelligence is beginning to influence workflows, particularly based around sports production, and this will have a major impact as the technology adapts to broadcast scenarios across the industry.

Montero explains how AI can allow sports broadcasters to increase their media output (clips and the highlights) up to three to five times, without increasing their labour. “If you take football as an example: in an OB truck, two or three producers will typically create 10 to 15 highlight clips per match. Using AI production technology like Tedial’s Smart LIVE, the same individuals can create 75 – 100 clips. They still need the truck and the people but their output, particularly to feed social media channels and YouTube, can be tripled or quadrupled.”

“As well as the increase in clips, media companies will also improve the quality because they can teach the AI engine to create better storytelling based on feedback from social media platforms and from users. Smart LIVE will be shown for the first time at a European tradeshow at IBC 2018,” he adds.

VSN’s Encinas says surely we will see more automations based on AI/ML in the future, since these technologies are the ones making MAM systems advance more and more today. “In the end, thanks to them we can achieve a greater automation of tasks and let users become more agile when creating content. Therefore, companies can be more competitive in the market and stand out.”

“At VSN, we already consider AI services a fundamental piece in the development of our VSNExplorer MAM. Currently AI allows us to perform automatic detection and extraction of metadata, advanced searching of very specific content (for example, red cards during a football game) and quick content auto-cataloguing.”


Above: VSNExplorer MAM

“However, our goal is making AI gain a greater relevance in our platform little by little, being able, for instance, to self-segment contents or chapters of a program, automatically create video editings for promos and advertising or recommending the user when cuts for advertising should be included.”

Getting value from MAM

While selecting the right modern MAM solution for your needs, the challenge for broadcasters is integrating it into the broadcast workflow and infrastructure. Broadcasters are under pressure to deliver ROI on such deployments, to ensure the benefits of automation, efficiency and speed are effectively delivered by a MAM solution.

“Actually, the main challenge for broadcasters is to improve efficiency using technology to simplify manual processes,” feels Montero. He stresses the importance of a well trained workforce: “The implementation of new workflows can be more or less difficult depending on the flexibility of professionals adapting to new roles.”

“Reducing the time in the logistic processes is critical to keep costs under control. We at Tedial understand that the new MAM system must facilitate all the orchestration and tools to the production and archive, so users can concentrate on high productivity works.”

Migrating to a new MAM can be tricky but Javier Encinas says that is usually because “some MAM systems are lacking a documented API or systems that do not use standards to be interfaced (FIMS). Also old LTOs with storage tapes degraded or old MAM system, which does not even have metadata. In the latter case, technologies such as AI would play a key role, since they would help users to autocomplete this lack of metadata.”

“In VSN’s particular case, we have standardized specific processes for migrations of this type, being able to do them as quickly as possible and without affecting the users’ daily work, since these changes can entail a real inconvenience for users if they are not carried out in the right time and form.”

Encinas thinks one of the best ways to ensure ROI is to understand MAM systems as a content hub that enhances collaborative work and adds more value and resources for content production.

“At the end of the day,” he asserts, “What really ensures an adequate ROI also depends on being able to extract the most value that we can from our MAM. Some key points would be performing increasingly advanced searches with our MAM, having access to acceleration protocols such as VSN’s UMP to perform archiving and content recovery workflows as quickly as possible, having increasingly efficient automations thanks to AI tools. In conclusion, the more functionalities we are able to carry out with our MAM and the more useful it becomes for us, the greater the ROI will be because of the huge monetization of your assets that you can achieve.” The bottom line is all about getting the most out of your media assets.

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