SPE didn't forgo vendor assistance entirely, however. "We needed an existing solution we could readily adapt to our metadata," Ledbetter says of the thinking that led SPE to WebWare. (Ironically, SPE purchased versions 5.0 and 5.5 of WebWare's ActiveMedia solution just as INSCI was acquiring WebWare, but Ledbetter says the acquisition did not factor into the studio's decision.)
"We needed a Web services interface—a Simple Object Access Protocol interface—that we could build on easily to create a service-oriented architecture," he explains. "We needed to be able to build into it the ability to create XML-based interfaces to transfer or share digital media files across networks, to add security, to send a link to a remote postproduction house anywhere in the world and have that link represent a piece of media in our system. We needed a solution that could handle huge files and multiple file types, that could decompose elements in a Quark object file and not store them as flat files, that could move a couple of frames of video and transcode them on the fly. ActiveMedia gave us the engine upon which we could build the applications to do all of these things."
Built on Radiant EMS, a pure J2EE application with a service-oriented architecture, ActiveMedia provides a highly scalable, back-end platform for capturing, managing, and distributing digital media assets—images, illustrations, layouts, slide presentations, video, and animation, for example—and integrating them into content management and Web publishing systems and ecommerce portals. According to Susan Worthy, ClearStory's VP of marketing, ActiveMedia gives enterprise customers "all the security they need to work with their digital assets and applies the necessary metadata so those assets can be searched, found, and used." It also "allows customers to build multiple applications very rapidly for multiple departments and multiple workflows at a very low total cost of ownership." (Pricing for the "bare bones" solution begins at $125,000, but can reach $350,000 in certain enterprise scenarios.)
"We didn't change the ActiveMedia product," Ledbetter says of DMI's efforts. "We simply adapted it, creating services that were parallel to and loosely integrated with it. It might seem like we had to do a huge amount of custom development, but we really didn't. That's the beauty of SOAP. You only have to build that Web services shell once, and then you can use it with any number of services."
DMI has since launched more than a dozen DAM services that work together or independently depending on the types of media authorized users need to move and where they need to move them. The first service—known as cineSHARE—is a drag-and-drop asset movement service that provides SPE's postproduction partners with secure online access to more than 20,000 assets. Other services include the following:
- cineFLIP, which handles motion video transcodes;
- cineIMAGE, which provides image transformations and watermarking;
- cineDRM, which applies digital rights management to secure digital media files during network transfer;
- cineSEARCH, which enables read-only searches of all DMI media repositories on the studio lot;
- cineSTOR and cineSTOR TV, which handle trailer production and syndicated television materials, respectively;
- cineSPHERE, which handles photos and one-sheets;
- ACORN, which handles home entertainment marketing materials; and
- cineVIEW, which handles international television marketing materials.
"We measure the benefits of these services periodically, and although I can't give specific numbers, I can generalize," Ledbetter says of the integrated services that have shaved days off of SPE's production cycle and thousands of dollars in associated costs from its budget. "On average," he explains, "a postproduction house would charge about $50, plus a materials fee, for a dupe of a tape. Moving that piece of material across international borders might cost $200 to $250. The savings add up pretty quickly if you're looking at the costs associated with that one user for that one piece of media and apply those same costs across the enterprise."
In the months to come, Ledbetter says the Digital Media Initiative will continue to develop services that solve SPE's existing and emerging workflow problems. "The media and entertainment industry is in constant flux because of changing business models and changing media types," he says. "We are constantly challenged by security issues and new networking technologies."
ClearStory, meanwhile, will continue to provide maintenance services to SPE, as needed, and plans to focus its product development efforts on building enterprise applications for brand-centric companies across a range of industries. When ActiveMedia 7.0 rolls out this fall, it will feature a new struts/tiles-based user interface; flexible, multi-tiered security; and support for Mozilla Firefox and other Web browsers.