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Guest Article: Digital archive’s new role in media workflows

07-October-2011
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Guest Article: Digital archive’s new role in media workflows

Ready for Prime Time: The Digital Archive’s New Leading Role in Media Workflows
For all its advantages, the transition to digital workflows has also come with its challenges: bloated storage and infrastructure, unprotected assets, availability of content in open market and proprietary formats. By giving archiving a new, central role in digital media workflows, organisations can address many of these challenges and even gain more revenue. This article outlines why broadcast and post-production shops need archival to get key advantage and its current stage in India.

Why Archival, The Downside of Digital Workflows
Across all segments of the media and entertainment industry, the past decade has seen a fundamental transformation, where virtually the entire industry moved from tape or film to digital media for all the new footage and part of earlier footage. This change required investing in digital equipment and processes: new cameras and new edit workstations, additional servers, storage and software, and hiring or training staff for these new workflows. While the transition to digital is almost complete for most of the global players, the work is far from over. The transition to HD and other higher definition formats is the next wave that has already hit many facilities.

Despite the advantages of digital workflows, there are significant challenges.

Expanding storage & Infrastructure volumes
With each hour of HD footage requiring up to six times more storage capacity than standard definition, the transition from SD to HD is causing content creators to rethink their existing storage and infrastructure architecture. An inadequate storage infrastructure can leave editors scrambling to free up space before they can start editing a new project, or even turn down higher definition projects for lack of storage capacity. Sadly, in many cases the capacity exists, but is tied up in “storage waste,” content that is duplicated within the system as editors swap files and neglect to clean up.

Unprotected content
With new high definition digital cameras using more expensive, reusable hard drives or flash as capture media, the natural ‘backup’ that the original film or videotape provided no longer exists. Without a proper data protection strategy, raw footage is left at risk. A disk crash or accidental deletion can mean a permanent loss of irreplaceable footage.

Proprietary formats
As digital media workflow technologies emerged, a host of proprietary formats and devices were established with them. Proprietary technologies can hinder media companies from rolling out new technologies and new processes or worse, can create vendor lock-in.

Availability of content on internet: Virtually all the content even broadcast or screened is available on the Internet at no cost with returns to sites available through other sources like advertisement or usage charges or other related ways. Even earlier it was quite prevalent, but digitisation has made this easier. It is like somebody else is making money from your assets without any portion of it coming to you. Even strongest law does not seem to be of much help.

Current stage of digitisation, HD and archival in India
The conversion from Analog to Digital can only be said to be in second stage in India, because of multiple issues, but now the industry seems to be clear about the inevitability of broadcast being digital possibly in the next two years, but storing of current and historical data in conventional tapes or films or even DVDs is still persisting for majority of broadcast and post-production houses. The next wave of HD has already hit almost all facilities. It makes it quite mandatory for all the M&E organisations to define and implement a clear-cut strategy for managing all three (digital broadcasting, storing and HD).

The percentage of revenue for a typical player in India is advertisement 90 per cent and less than 10 per cent from content, while in the western market this ratio is quite different, making majority of players to start looking at ‘New Media’ (IPTV, global DTH, portal, streaming, etc.) as alternate source of revenue. Even the industry realises that content that might look insignificant today might be useful based on some latest unexpected incident, (when scandal over Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky broke, news organisations scoured their archives, racing for footage or still photos of the two together. The lucky winner? CNN, for two-year-old footage of the couple in their infamous embrace).

In terms of archival of 700-odd broadcast and post-production houses, only 25-odd organisations have implemented archival in-house and 10-odd in end-to-end outsourcing of services on cloud. This means that 95-plus per cent players cannot leverage New Media or even ‘YouTube’ ready content from majority of its content.

How Archival could help
• All the content ready for re-use at specific time notice, making it ready for New Media or new channels or its re-use
• Optimise the cost of infrastructure by using existing storage, servers to manage higher footage by moving the content to available lower cost LTO and LTFS
• Saving electricity by needing lesser AC and lower requirement of electricity by LTO (which could be as high as 1:20)
• Integrating with existing workflows, hence usage of existing applications itself even with increased footage
• Creating protection and disaster recovery sites
• Generic formats for archival, hence availability of footage for transportation or without Archival application with ease.

(Kamal Gulati is Head of India Operations at Atempo.)

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