DAM the Torpedoes! Targeting Vertical Issues

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Target: Broadcasting
Problem: Tape-based workflow is labor-intensive and limits expansion.
Solution: Digital workflow with DAM to provide content in an on-demand world.

The PBS affiliate in Boston, WGBH, recognized that its world was rapidly changing from a broadcast-only model to one where users want to personalize content on-demand. They needed to provide content now via many avenues including on-air reception (analog, digital, and high-definition formats); satellite/cable networks; mobile/handheld devices; streaming Internet access (in various flavors); and tapes, CDs, DVDs, and other media.

As the provider for more than one-third of PBS' prime-time content, WGBH needed to demonstrate leadership to other stations by lowering costs while increasing access. As David Liroff, vice president and CTO at WGBH, put it, "Our Digital Asset Management system is a mission-critical undertaking for us."

WGBH identified three groups of stakeholders with differing needs in their DAM plans:

• WGBH producers (improved workflow and repurpose existing assets)
• Educational Institutions (enhance curriculum)
• General Users (packaged content, searchable on-demand segments)

The project spans the entire workflow from ingestion to distribution—a first for a public broadcasting station. Realizing this, WGBH set out to not only meet its own requirements, but to establish a Reference Architecture for use by other stations to implement DAM. (The WGBH team modestly refers to this as the "DAM Unified Field Theory," in reference to the Grand Unified Field theory that unites all of laws of physics.)

As such, it specifies each component, function, and required feature in order to deliver audio, video, and rich media to a heterogeneous and distributed network for television and other rich media environments. Components include media ingest, logging, metadata creation, storage, security, asset accounting and management, media storage using HSM, support for postproduction, transcoding, and integration with automation and scheduling systems.

WGBH set a second critical goal: specific components needed to be able to be traded out without breaking the whole system. Like many broadcasters and studios, WGBH did not want to be locked in by a proprietary system to only a certain, limited set of software tools or hardware. An open standards-based DAM system would allow them this freedom.

WGBH worked with Sun Microsystems, Artesia Technologies, and Sony Electronics to put together this architecture in under four months. The current design uses an Oracle 9i database and the Artesia TEAMS software running on Solaris 9 Sun Fire servers. A Sun StorEdge SAN can provide up to 15 petabytes of archived data (representing 50 years of past production) while ingesting two terabytes on a daily basis. With the DAM system in place, WGBH can now achieve its third goal: "The original broadcast is the start, not the end, of the program."

DAM'd Up
Many challenges remain before DAM becomes a universal feature of corporate and educational networks. In particular, a more simplified entry-level approach is needed to first win over practitioners at the departmental level yet allow for scaling to enterprise levels with similar metadata capabilities. Role models such as Whirlpool's library and WGBH's workflow architecture, however, will also inspire a more aggressive and expansive application of DAM technology.

Companies Featured


I3Archive, Inc.

IBM, Inc.


www.netrad.com or www.novapacs.com


Sun Microsystems

www.wgbh.org; http://daminfo.wgbh.org

www.whirlpool.com or http://cwdl.whirlpool.com/index.html

Sidebar: DAM is For Documents Too
DAM providers may find a successful paradigm for expanding acceptance of their solutions by referring to NextPage. NextPage developers reviewed the problem of document versioning and workflow tracking. After various different approaches, they realized that a DAM-style solution that required users to significantly change the way they worked (different tools, different procedures to share files) simply did not work. Users would find ways around having to use the new tools or procedures.

NextPage developers opted instead to go with a "passive" DAM approach. The NextPage client automatically puts each document in a thin metadata wrapper. In this way, each NextPage client can readily understand what the content is, its origin, and genealogy.

The benefit of the NextPage product is the ability to instantly track and display versions of existing content without the use of a central repository or proprietary network. Documents sent via email are as readily tracked as those shared in-house from the network server. Since the system does the metadata automatically, users continue to work as they always have using their existing Office applications. They don't need to save to specific directories or servers for tracking to work. Most importantly, they can continue to send files as they always have, via email, rather than through a proprietary sharing mechanism.

One key to these NextPage benefits comes from the near-universal acceptance of Microsoft Office and its underlying metadata support in its file format. A majority of DAM solutions could support a metadata wrapper for a variety of file formats and with similar types of metadata support. In this way, users could continue to work with their preferred creation tools while benefiting from more collaborative solutions where the real value-add exists.  

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