Thursday, 26 March 2015

Preserving your assets


As the number of channels, devices, and markets for distribution has multiplied the processes associated with repurposing assets and rights management have become far more complex. Where indies once kept physical assets (tape) secured and on-site, in a tapeless digital environment a different approach is needed to control and preserve content. At the same time, the cost of media asset management (MAM) and archive systems has reduced, prompting rights-owners to consider in-house investment. For those indies weighing up purchase, systems vendors present the benefits and costs of ownership.

Round table contributors
CL: Chris Luther, director of professional Services, SGL
DC: David Carter, vp marketing, ProMAX Systems
EM: Esther Mesas, chief sales & marketing officer, Tedial
CD: Craig Dwyer, senior director, global centre of excellence, Avid
LF: Laurent Fanichet, product marketing manager, EMEA, Quantum

Why should indies consider a MAM/archive solution?

LF: Data (video) is the most valuable asset, and the concept of data reuse (re-monetisation) is a primary revenue driver. Having a file based strategy is crucial. The combination of a MAM application to be able to search and retrieve relevant assets quickly along with an archive platform allows indies to repurpose and monetise content when the need arises.

CL: It is essential to locate material quickly and easily. A MAM/archive allows indies to set up a system that enables them to be productive and cost-effective.

CD: Content creators need to get more value from each asset - by tagging it, protecting it, and distributing it to wider and wider audiences, but at lower cost. They have three choices: Do nothing and risk falling behind their competitors; invest in MAM technology to drive efficiency and profitability; buy asset management capabilities on a per project basis from a services provider.
One big advantage is that indies can track the metadata created in production. With many productions using freelance staff, sometimes important data gets lost when a shoot is finished. By managing this information more efficiently in a central system, it allows producers to re-purpose and re-version content for other platforms.

What criteria needs considering ahead of investment?
CD: The first step is to decide whether you want to have the technical infrastructure on premise. The alternatives are to use service providers or post-production companies. Once a decision has been made to own a system, the next step is build out the right technical and operations team and think about specific requirements. These include how many hours will be stored and what workflows and integrations are needed to post-production facilities and broadcast workflows.CL: In the past five years the cost of MAM/archives have reduced considerably, which provides a more attractive proposition for many indies. One of the important MAM considerations is: do you only need to find and manage the content or do you need automated workflows around that content? Do you need to store it at a certain resolution? Does the MAM have all the features you need for your workflow? Are staff centrally located or do they work remotely?

What should indies budget for?
CD: A MAM system that focuses on the long-term storage and preservation of assets would start in the range of £100,000, but there are many variables involved. Factors such as the number of assets, the quality that’s being stored, the amount of integrations and users required to access the system is needed. Typically a client should also allocate approximately 15-20% for ongoing support and maintenance.

CL: Ongoing costs include software support for both the MAM and the archive. Then you have to factor in how the material is stored, whether that’s spinning disc or LTO. People often request disc because it’s so fast. But there was a recent report in the US that showed that the cost of electricity, cooling and floor space for disc is around 50 times the cost of tape.

DC: If you choose a MAM with no per seat license fees then you can scale the solution to expand the number of users without additional costs. For archive, the ongoing costs needs to be calculated based on the amount of data you need to move to tape, and how often. The ongoing cost is adding new tapes or maintaining the solution. You can keep costs down by continuing to effectively optimise how you are using your storage. When you’ve finished with an online project, move it off the online storage. ProMAX system costs range from £4,000-£168k.

EM: Solutions are designed for each unique customer. Some companies, like Tedial, offer vendor financing so everything can be an operating expense. Systems start at £100k.

How is return on investment achieved?
DC: Archive is both a way to protect your media assets and also a strategy to optimise the use of your storage space. In that sense, archive gets into aspects of ROI. It’s not cost effective to continue to expand your expensive online storage. It’s more cost effective to scale that out with either disc-based, Tier 2 storage or LTO archive.

DL: For a lot of facilities the decision is made based on the cost of long-term storage verses online storage. Long-term storage is about 1/25th of the cost. Having a MAM and archive also significantly reduces the labour costs of people searching for and digitising material. Disaster recovery is also important: there should be two copies of every piece of content, with one kept off-site because if there’s a catastrophic event how do you recover from that?

CD: This can be calculated based on the amount of media handling that’s happening in a manual process, and what can be automated going forwards. It’s becoming imperative that content is handled as automatically as possible and that tasks are not duplicated (e.g. re-keying meta-data). Another advantage comes from the ability to access and search the library, reuse and monetise footage easily and effectively.

CL: If you look at the cost of LTO6, priced at around £30 for 2.5TB of storage (with LTO7 just around the corner), it’s extremely cost-effective. There’s not always a full understanding of the benefits of a MAM/archive; there’s often the idea that more people will solve the problem. But people don’t scale very well.

LF: As digital archive libraries are grow, indies need to assess the volume of assets they need to preserve for the long term as well as the retrieval patterns as much as possible. Using a tiered storage approach is all about aligning data value to storage costs to help them meet their business needs.

When would outsourcing be a better option?
CD: I would suggest looking at the scale of operation. For a very small archive operation it can be very difficult to justify the technical resources required and specialist skills needed to really manage the archive effectively. Where production companies own a large quantity of assets and are trying to monetise and repackage them, it may make more sense to bring operation in-house and have greater control of the costs and the underlying assets.

EM: When a producer only makes a single weekly programme or a small set of media projects each month. In this instance the cost repayment doesn’t work but the core benefits of the system are still valid. A post facility or archive house can aggregate small clients and build a solid business and if the system they select supports true multi-tenant operations, then they can continue to scale to add more business.

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