Making MAM Work

  • By Andy Stout

Making MAM Work

Contributing Editor Andy Stout examines the state of play in Media Asset Management workflow technology…

I really believe that the complexity of most MAM systems is one of the biggest pain points,” says Dan Goman, CEO, OWNZONES, about the state of the Media Asset Management market at the moment. “Most of the customers I talk to complain that current solutions are way to complex to 1) implement and 2) use. That’s why a majority of our customers ask to use our platform as a MAM - they want something simple/efficient. As customers think about bringing in a MAM, they have a very long list of requirements. A couple of years into the effort, they usually end up with a much more modest list like i). I just want to find my stuff ii). if I can find my stuff quickly, that would be even better.”

OWNZONES is one of the companies in the sector that is increasingly disrupting it by not being a standard, monolithic MAM, instead offering a stripped-down, version of one via its OWNZONES Connect product. MAM lite, if you will.

“We still don’t consider ourselves a full-blown MAM,” says Goman. “For super complex MAM requirements, we integrate with existing mature solutions. I still believe it comes down to super basic functions - centralize assets, make them searchable, find assets quickly, monetize.”

Speed of finding content is seen as increasingly critical everywhere in the industry. “We are making it even quicker and easier to find content, from live to deep archive, no matter how extensive and complex the metadata may be,” comments Lee McMullan, Director Product Strategy, Media Workflows, Dalet. “This includes AI-enriched and sentence-aware metadata from Dalet Media Cortex, Dalet’s AI-driven content indexing editorial tool. We are also adding additional integration features for Adobe Premiere and Avid NLEs, helping creative users leverage the rich asset management and workflow orchestration tools provided by Dalet Flex.”

McMullan contends that the MAM has evolved and that content creators and distributors now need tools that allow them to move beyond storage, management, and search to include processing, packaging, distribution, and delivery. New poly-cloud implementations dovetail with the way that media companies and more are evolving in turn and seeking to find additional revenue streams beyond current models in the advanced D2C space, including e-commerce, purchase call to actions, second-screen experiences, gamification, gambling, and more.

“Ease of use and speed of implementation are becoming essential, not only in the broadcast space but across several industries where the creation and distribution of video content is exploding,” he says. “Hence, the ability to quickly sign up to an asset management platform, in the cloud, and start managing content efficiently will be essential, and, of course, at a lower cost than a traditional MAM. We are working towards providing just that.”

At eMAM, David Miller is looking at the shape of the post-Covid environment. He says that media production and use will skyrocket as organisations reopen, but is one of the few to point to the Software-as-a-Service advantage of being able to spin down as well as spin up. As any industry, we tend to fixate on growth and the ability to scale, but as the last year has established it is also very useful to be able to throw things into reverse every now and then without having to maintain expensive infrastructure.

eMAM has recently introduced both cloud SaaS and PaaS offerings, as well as introducing additional integrated technologies and integration points as it increasingly looks to offer the flexibility that Miller says is required to meet current and future needs. And part of that revolves around the importance of remote work environments with flexibility and accessibility. 

“The “next normal” will differ from the “new normal” as organizations rethink about their long-term requirements for having staff working in the same location. Systems must be ready to support such choices,” he says. 

Covid’s facility to accelerate the momentum toward cloud-deployments is also highlighted by Julian Fernandez-Campon, CTO, Tedial, though he points out that the high-bandwidth demands of UHD media in particular means that hybrid cloud infrastructures are most appropriate.

“MAM systems must be able to efficiently manage component-based media content,” he says. “Content is no longer a single file, it’s a collection of files. Each one (or more) represents a track (video/audio/subtitles) or even a frame. This is where traditional MAM systems struggle to offer a high-level view and unified management of all these files.”

Tedial’s solution to all this is a hybrid cloud architecture that is designed to allow media companies to meet business objectives quickly while maintaining full control of media archives and costs. It marries the privacy and security of a private cloud with the scalability of a public cloud, with continuous access to media executed on-premise, while less critical operations, including burst or peak demands in business operations, can be quickly deployed and run in the cloud for enhanced agility, not to mention cost-effectiveness “Tedial’s Evolution MAM also efficiently manages all files associated with content using a component-based approach (MediaSet) simplifying the operation and the workflow definition,” he says.

“Future Proof and Agility are key for broadcasters to be able to adapt to the new needs and consumption habits that have accelerated during the pandemic.”

Claudio Lisman, Founder and CEO, Primestream, points out that Primestream Xchange is already ideally suited for remote media workflows. It also has an interesting new feature in the ability to ingest from live broadcast feeds,  giving an assistant director or producer the ability to create a rough-cut edit in real-time as a live feed is being recorded. The company is also taking the concept of a cloud-based MAM and running with it.

“At Primestream, we have introduced a powerful new concept: the Primestream IP Network Operations Center (NOC),” he explains. “Anchored by cloud-based MAM and IP-based signal acquisition, the IP NOC is a real paradigm shift from traditional broadcast operation centers and satellite trucks to smaller and more nimble transmission gear, cameras, and capture devices. With the IP NOC enabling signal management in the cloud, producers are able to switch and manage IP streams in much the same way as they’re used to doing with an RF-based NOC in an SDI-based environment.”

Ben Davenport, Portfolio & Marketing Strategy at Vidispine - an Arvato Systems brand, provides some historical analysis of the primary pain points of MAM systems, which have moved from search and browse in the first stages of digital, around 1999, to enabling interoperability and now a third generation of systems  “As we’ve moved into a third generation of MAM, scalability, security, and especially in the last 12 months, access have come to the forefront,” he says.

Vidispine’s main concept is that organisations implementing MAM solutions can start small and scale fast. “In practice, that means going from idea to proof of concept or MVP in hours or even minutes,” he says. “We launched VidiNet just over 3 years ago as the platform at the centre of this vision, enabling users to subscribe to and scale our VidiCore media management back-end.

“We’ve added to a marketplace with on-demand access to media processing and AI services, and more recently the availability of VDT - the VidiCore Development Toolkit. VDT provides a set of tools and pre-built components to rapidly build out custom user interfaces - supporting that ability to go from idea to MVP in a very short space of time.”

Lastly, Jim McKenna at Facilis Technology brings us back where we came in amidst efforts to square the circle of features versus complexity. “The MAM conundrum involves enabling enough technology to make you more efficient before too much of it tips you the other way,” he says.

He adds the company’s FastTracker is a chameleon of sorts as a result, hiding when not needed but becoming more conspicuous the more it’s required in the workflow. 

“Many of our customers have deployed FastTracker with nothing more than a software install and a couple of minutes of creating index schedules, and then just let it do its job in the background,” he says. “When there comes time to build a workflow for a new project you’re already half-way there, with a full index and catalogue of the data on the system that can be parsed into user-defined silos of media. Then the on-demand functions like proxy, transcription, scheduled movement to archive or cloud, etc. can be built around the data that already exists.”

He sees AI as gradually moving further up broadcaster agendas, though it’s not at the top just yet. Use cases for it vary, with Facilis feedback from deployments characterising AI-based tagging, for instance, as useful but not critical. Of more immediate concern is the fallout from the pandemic and adapting to the new workflows that are required.

“With the pandemic and remote working becoming the norm, there’s less ability for facilities to dedicate resources to building complex workflows through MAM,” says McKenna. “At times like this, facilities are reduced to their core competencies, and MAMs that enable them to work more efficiently without demanding they change how they work and learn a completely new language are the most compelling. 

He reasons that FastTracker works within the Facilis volume management structure and knows volume permissions and current availability, allowing it to know precisely where an asset is across cloud and LTO storage. That means that cloud and LTO data movements can be done easily without the MAM as well. 

“The MAM isn’t required for any of these functions, it just enhances the interface,” he says. “If MAM is your only way in and out of the storage when ingesting or moving to archive and cloud, and the lack of the MAM interface renders your workflow inoperable, the MAM is a liability in today’s world.”