BBCs Jupiter Project

Mark Jones, project director of the Jupiter Project at BBC News, counts at least five major asset-management projects that are under way at the BBC.

"In my terms, the rapid repurposing of news content is a key goal as far as managing assets is concerned," says Jones. "We want to understand the process first and then attach the technology. Introducing asset management into the organization can be tricky. Above all else," he adds, "we want to avoid imposing the technology on the journalists."

Jones described the Jupiter Project not as a technology project but rather as an attempt to better understand the impact of a wide range of innovations, including asset-management technologies, on journalists' work flow.

"We are pulling a lot of technology together. It also entails identifying any unwanted stress imposed by new business models as part of the overall re-engineering process," says Jones. "At the core, we split the work flow, separating ingest management from both near-line and offline retrieval."

The Jupiter Project uses ENPS, Omnibus Systems' Columbus transmission-automation system and supports recording of line feeds to servers as well as facilitates mirrored recording to devices such as browse servers, as well as Grass Valley Group's (GVG) Profile video servers and Virage Inc.'s Videologger.

"We are aiming for one search portal for video, and not just text as in ENPS. Today, if you want to access the archives, you have to call someone who then performs a text-based search," says Jones. "We are focused on building the offline environment, and we have designed a pilot facility already."

Jones considers recent developments such as the rollout of GVG's ContentShare software platform another indicator of how fast the technology is evolving.

"ContentShare is a typical example of an innovative middleware solution, which has the potential to add enormous value to the whole undertaking," he says. As far as the Internet is concerned, he believes that is "the easy part."

"Lots of tools are readily available, and the Web constitutes an open marketplace. Ingest is where the focus is, with particular emphasis on annotating and managing the entire process."

In addition to the Jupiter Project, the BBC Media Data Group has been busy defining what is referred to as a Standard Media Exchange Framework (SMEF).

This includes the SMEF Data Model (SMEF-DM), which is made up of a set of metadata definitions that attempt to impose uniform data requirements on the production, distribution and management of media assets. The task entails a wide variety of media applications and embedded metadata definitions in different media formats.

OpenSMEF is what the BBC describes as "a generic sub-set of the data dictionary that has been identified to support exchange of media assets between content creators, distributors and archives," according to Jones.

As a reference specification, OpenSMEF has been placed on the agendas of several international-standards bodies, including the SMPTE, EBU (European Broadcasting Union), MPEG-7 and the AES.

Paul Cheesbrough, a New York-based BBC consultant working on a separate media-asset-management project for the BBC Worldwide, points out that, in addition to its global radio, TV and online operations, BBC is also Europe's largest publisher as well. There are 500,000 hours of video in the BBC archive, stored in every format. As a result, achieving archive uniformity for a single digital format is the focus of the BBC's efforts.

Montreal-based The Bulldog Group has signed a recent framework agreement with the BBC. Artesia, Tecmath, IBM, Excalibur, Omnibus Systems and Sony are other companies that BBC Worldwide has approached recently regarding its media asset management needs.

"The BBC is not going to tie itself to any single vendor. No one single solution can satisfy all the different needs that can be grouped together under the category of asset management at the BBC," Cheesbrough says. "Everything in terms of asset management at the BBC has to be tied back into SMEF."