A recent study by the IABM listed the top priorities for strategic technology investment. The first five were: multi-platform content delivery, 4K and UHD production and delivery, IP infrastructure, media asset management, and file-based workflows. The sixth, incidentally, was social media broadcasting, a priority for 30% of broadcasters.
This study raises a number of issues. In this blog we’ll focus on two of those. First, the move to UHD and beyond. Moving to larger screen resolutions results in an enormous increase in content. A single episode of a drama could occupy 15TB of storage, and storage management systems generally organize them as large numbers of individual files, all of which have to be tracked, managed and secured. Keeping track of large numbers of files is not easy. In the past this would be part of hierarchical storage management software, but broadcast storage vendors’ ability to deliver this sort of performance is diminishing.
The second topic is closely related to the first. Not only are we looking at multiple individual files to make up one piece of video content, we’re looking at multiple files to make up what we would regard as a single asset. Given the need for different language soundtracks and subtitle files, as well as different edits for different markets, it’s now not uncommon for a single asset to actually contain more than 150 files. To the user, though, it still has to appear as one asset.
Traditional broadcasters are also being challenged because their audience for linear playout is decreasing. Even when viewers are watching on a large television at home, they want to choose the time to do it.
Allied to this is the move to consume content on other devices. In the past broadcasters have simply repurposed content but that is not enough today. Specific content is needed to fit with the display of multiples devices and the media consumption habits of viewers.
The solution is to take a transmedia approach. This goes beyond reformatting and transcoding, to create versions of the content that are appropriate for each device. That might be football highlights sent to a mobile device within moments of a goal, or retelling a drama in five-minute chunks, for example.
A single asset, then, might have many different ways to tell the same story. When searching the archive, you need first to find the asset, but then you need to navigate that asset, through what we call the “media set”. That media set will include all the versions, plus all the associated material. The MAM (media asset management) has to bring together metadata from multiple sources, which includes increasing the use of AI to generate metadata, as well as the information generated through the application of business rules.
IMF is critical in developing these complex relationships to bind together transmedia assets. As broadcasters and production companies appreciate the richness that IMF brings, they’re also beginning to see how it offers huge savings in storage cost, processing and time to delivery. If you need to make a change, you do it only once and it ripples through every version that it affects. By linking IMF delivery to a set of business rules, you can automate delivery to a very large extent.
This brings us to the cloud. We see a future where metadata, proxies and business process management could exist in the cloud, while high-resolution content is stored on premises – and possibly in the cloud as well – in one or multiple locations. To take proper advantage of cloud processing, we are transitioning to a microservices architecture, which will give us the flexibility to add new functionality, like AI video and audio analysis to allow existing archives to be swept for new descriptive metadata, an ideal cloud application.
There is much change in our industry at the moment. But all will revolve around two things. First, the separation of production anddelivery resolutions. Second, a transmedia approach, which provides a new way of telling stories, by delivering content in the most satisfying form for each platform. The road ahead is very exciting!