Content may be king, but broadcasters are finding their content kingdoms require sophisticated media asset management systems (MAM) to run smoothly.
“Media asset management is becoming more and more important to all of our customers,” says Raoul Cospen, director of marketing and business development at Dalet, which offers MAM systems used by the NBC Owned TV Stations and a number of other clients. “It is really becoming the core system.”
That reflects dramatic increases in the amount of content being created, the complexities of delivering more content to more digital platforms and the need to control or cut costs, say Sony executives who are marketing the company’s Media Backbone system deployed by station groups including Belo and Gray Television.
The payoff in terms of efficiency and allowing organizations to handle more content can be notable. Cospen says deployments of Dalet’s MAM systems at Italian broadcaster Mediaset helped them handle three times more content with the same number of people and launch a 24-hour news channel.
But as MAM software increasingly becomes the lifeblood of many companies, finding the right tools for managing content and implementing them can be difficult. “Installing a new MAM can be an expensive and time-consuming proposition,” says Pablo Goldstein, CEO at the systems integrator Unified Video Technologies. “The whole process can take a year,” with clients spending four months to select the system and another four to eight installing it, Goldstein says.
Simplify That MAM
Some of the complexities involved in MAM deployments reflect deficiencies of traditional MAM systems, says Regis Andre, senior director of the Stratus product line for Grass Valley. “They don’t always deliver what people hoped,” he says. “They find it didn’t make them more efficient and it didn’t simplify things. They ended up creating more processes for the sake of processes.”
Another major issue is finding the right tools for a customer’s business needs, says Stephen Smith, who was recently named senior product manager, digital asset management at Harris Broadcast. During Smith’s tenure at Starz, the deployment of a MAM system allowed the network to handle 250,000-plus hours of content per year with only three operators. But he cautions that developing and deploying the right system “is one of the hardest” challenges facing engineers.
“MAM is not so much a product or a technology solution as a business problem,” Smith says. “Understanding the business process is the key to the whole effort. If you get that wrong, it won’t be successful.”
“It’s a little like hiring a cleaning woman,” adds Ariel Matzkin, CTO of Unified Video Technologies. “You have to understand what messes you want cleaned up.”
To do that, vendors have been making a number of improvements to their systems, with one major trend being to simplify the workings of MAM systems and better integrate them with other parts of the client’s infrastructure.
Just Doing the Job Is Job One
To that end, Grass Valley designed its Stratus media workflow application framework so that the automated processes for managing content run in the background. “Everything is done automatically, so users can just worry about doing their job,” says Andre.
Oscar Tengwall, video product strategy manager at Vizrt, stresses the importance of reducing the complexity of MAM systems. He suggests that clients start with a smaller system, “for one or two production workflows…to gain experience…. There are a lot of complex workflows out there, and it’s important that we identify the simple ways of doing them with a MAM.”
Tools for automating the process of entering metadata and ensuring it moves throughout the production chain have also improved, says Ali Etezadi-Amoli, senior product manager, media backbone solutions, Sony Electronics. These include improvements in the way metadata is collected by cameras, better systems for culling metadata from closed captions or graphics and advances in speech and face recognition.
Newer MAM systems also open up a number of opportunities for redesigning workflows and adapting them to future business needs. Karl Mehring, senior product manager, TV Everywhere at broadcast technology company Snell Ltd. says Snell’s MAM systems provide senior managers with improved reporting tools to better identify and fix bottlenecks in production.
“Our planning tools also allow a user to set up hypothetical scenarios and plan for the future by seeing what processes a new product launch might require,” Mehring says.
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