Managing assets across platforms

Three primary asset-management initiatives are under way at Bethesda, Md.-based Discovery Communications, according to Peter McKelvy, Discovery's vice president of content management. Earlier this year, a Discovery RFP for a scalable and reliable enterprise media-management infrastructure drew several responses. And McKelvy says Discovery expects to award the contract by the end of the year.

"We are exploring the application of digital asset-management tools in a new way. From 1995 to 1998, we devoted a lot of time to cataloging and indexing the archive, and now we are focused on the application of digital media-management tools to traditional documentary film production work flow," McKelvy says. "The idea is to create a way to share video proxies of ongoing work across our worldwide organization."

McKelvy heads the Content Management Group at Discovery, where Vienna, Va.-based Excalibur Technologies' Screening Room video-content-management system is deployed in pilot projects that are testing a process developed at Discovery known as In Production Archiving (IPA).

The projects involve ingesting low-resolution browse material via Screening Room into Discovery's LAN, using a relatively small sample of two productions in-progress, involving fewer than 700 tapes. Currently, Discovery is running Excalibur on dual-processor-equipped Pentium II NT workstations, with a SQL server for the backend database, along with approximately 1 terabyte of storage in a RAID array. The video is run at 500 kb/s using a Microsoft Media Player.

"We find that the Screening Room's natural-language-search capability is beneficial. Otherwise, we are experimenting with different [schemas] in order to devise better ways of capturing high-quality metadata," McKelvy says.

Achieving a more efficient and effective way to engage in cross-platform exploitation is a top priority, because of the network's major presence on the Web with

"We are not looking at a total end-to-end solution. The relatively steep infrastructure costs of an end-to-end solution concern us. Another concern we have is the changing nature of the technology," says McKelvy. "Because we are in a test mode, we selected a small system [the IPA project] that allows us the flexibility to employ several different tools in a variety of situations."

Besides what is under way within the Content Management Group, Discovery's Photo Services Group-led by Pam Huling-is working with eMotion, which is providing a hosted service powered by its MediaPartner platform. The service allows authorized access to Discovery's vast collection of photos and logo treatments to company personnel on the Web.

"It facilitates extranet searches for images from Discovery's own archives as well from all the major stock houses," says McKelvy.

At, a team headed by Gina Campos has engaged Toronto-based The Bulldog Group to provide a customized solution for the hosting of media elements used for Discovery's Web content. Bulldog's media-management solution will provide with project information, which will be integrated with Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Interwoven's Web site and content-management software-TeamSite-to allow users to move media to the TeamSite development area and to provide automated reports.

All three Discovery group leaders-McKelvy, Huling and Campos-participate routinely in a larger working group, which facilitates the broader companywide media-asset-management process. "We have created a framework for sharing our experiences. The objectives of the group are to exchange information on vendors, demonstrate the different functionality of the tools, and develop a process for exchanging media [among] the different repositories," McKelvy explains.

Creating a metadata schema has not been a priority at Discovery so far. And McKelvy admits that this was something the network has to tackle. Although McKelvy sees several advantages in what the BBC is attempting to accomplish with the so-called Standard Media Exchange Framework (SMEF), he has made no decision thus far regarding Discovery's possible use of SMEF.

"It is a matter of a tradeoff. I think we will be a bit more open," McKelvy says. "They are focusing on a clear defining of [a] metadata schema, while I am anticipating that we will not be quite so rigid in our approach."