Not that long ago, consumers of media were a remarkably compliant group. They
accepted how, what and where broadcasters wanted to deliver content to them.
Now, changes in technology and society alike have created the need to allow for
greater mobility and diversity in how media is consumed.
The importance of media asset management (MAM) and archiving is ever increasing
as the media and entertainment industry continues its digital transformation. Most
of the early adoptees of MAM systems are showing just how these set ups are
working for profit.
Major shifts in the media industry demand that media businesses both large and
small acquire a greater ability to handle an ever-growing array of file-based media
and metadata, streamline and automate workflows and distribute to new emerging
The conversion from analogue to digital, which promised so much, has created
numerous problems, both because it has left most organisations with a hard to
manage mixture of technologies, and also because the move away from analogue
has created numerous “digital grey areas’ which each address a part of the process
but fail to join up very well, if at all. These problems affect every kind of media
business, from production companies to broadcasters, from distributors to
From workaround to standard practice
Many, if not all media businesses, have evolved extremely complex operational
processes with regards to asset management. This is partly due to the fact that
they have to deal with multiple media types which still, in many places, have quite
separate production chains.
Added to that is the environment of deadlines. Splitting tasks up and spreading
them about is one way of getting them done quicker. Occasionally, complicated
ways of doing things that started life as workarounds become standard operational
procedures because a better way of doing them was never found.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, a Time Warner Company, was among the first in the
content industry to grasp the full power, potential and implications of digital
technologies and media asset management. After careful selection of business
partners, Warner Bros. started a mutual multi-year, multi-stage evolution towards
creating the world’s first high-performance, digital media and entertainment
business in the form of a transformed digital media asset management system.
Now Warner Bros. can speed up distribution of entertainment content, open up new
revenue streams, free up resources to focus on creative innovation and lower all
related annual distribution and management costs by an astonishing 85 per cent
through effective media asset management practices.
Implementing new asset management is far more than just buying technology; it
requires leadership, governance, technical integration, cultural change and user
adoption to make it work.
By undertaking a return on investment analysis, organisations can better
understand the business case, identify where media asset management can provide
the greatest impact to the business and identify where business processes can be
A case in point is BBC Scotland. Last year was momentous for Scotland with a
historic referendum on Scottish independence from the UK, as well as the
Commonwealth Games. These two major events added hugely to BBC Scotland’s
already heavy production workload.
In preparation for the eyes of the world on Scotland, the decision was taken to
migrate its digital content to a new MAM system with the main criterion being to
allow users to access the system remotely from outside the BBC’ s Glasgow
headquarters. There were around 700 users who routinely used the system and
their choice of MAM was instrumental in making this possible. It has had a huge
impact on production values and as a result better workflows were created
efficiently at a lower overall cost.
It is estimated that the broadcast industry will consume US$7.8 billion worth of
digital storage infrastructure by 2017, representing more than 80 exabytes of digital
storage capacity; most of that capacity is being driven by preservation and
archiving. A significant amount of investment has been put into the improvement of
the Linear Tape Open (LTO) format and the development of Linear Tape File System
The implementation of LTFS in technology terms was a massive step forward in
moving tape storage away from its reputation as complex and difficult to use. LTFS
allows customers to capitalise on the advantages of tape, including the low cost/TB
and low total cost of ownership of tape storage without the perceived management
challenges, complexities and time consuming constraints of legacy tape operations.
Providing an open source specification for a file system LTFS has been a game
changer in the archiving industry. However, the industry is fully aware that it is
inevitable that digital storage hardware will eventually reach end of life and the
media assets stored on them must be migrated to the latest technology. While tape
storage can help ease this pain by having the longest of all lifecycles, users still
need to plan a seamless way to initiate media migrations. The development and
introduction of media lifecycle management tools has been necessary to proactively
track, manage and report on all facets of tape usage and health from creation to
There has also been some resurgence in the development of an archiving format
originally researched and developed by Kodak called DOTS (Digital Optical
Technology System), which claims that their archival media is non-magnetic,
chemically inert and immune from electromagnetic fields and able to be stored in
normal office environments. Because there are no demanding climate control
requirements, DOTS is a low-cost, environmentally friendly way to truly archive
data long term. By long term they mean 100 years plus versus the 30 to 50 years
offered by LTO.
Group 47, which acquired the DOTS patents from Kodak, plans to license the
technology to manufacturers that will make and sell it, in order to keep it a non-
proprietary system. Is it possible that this could be the future of archiving or are we
yet to see another format or two that promise more?
– Ian Dormer