Sports Asset Management Forum: Overcoming the Challenges of Transcoding, Delivery, and Future Technologies

In technology, as in life, the one thing you can be sure of is change. At SVG’s Sports Asset Management Forum on Tuesday, technology professionals discussed some of the key factors to establishing an effective and efficient asset management platform.

The panel agreed on one interesting piece of advice: plan to be wrong.

“File formats are going to change, codecs are going to change, network speeds are going to change, storage – whether its disk, or tape, or optical – all of that is going to change but your business is really what’s driving all of these decisions,” said Ali Etezadi-Amoli, senior product manager, media backbone solutions at Sony.

In addressing asset management on a grand scale, there are simple questions that every company needs to address. How do you get assets into your facility as efficiently as possible? How do you utilize them? How do you make the distribution of those assets to outside partners as simple as can be?

Answering all of those questions efficiently is certainly a challenge, but planning for the ability to make technological changes in the future, the panel agreed, is the best first step to setting a company on the right path.

Transcoding For All
The most daunting challenge of any media-sharing venture is the wide array of formats that exist in the media space.

While setting the technology in place and automating the formats of incoming files can be relatively simple, the process of outbound distribution can be an overwhelming challenge as each partner has its own demands on format, frame size, bit rate, etc. That leads to transcoding a single video many different times.

“At Sony, we are of the opinion that that shouldn’t have to be something that an operator has to do every time because that’s tedious and operators are expensive,” said Etezadi-Amoli. “When its 3 o’clock in the morning and they have just finished logging all the games, they are pretty tired and may not be clicking all of the right boxes. So by having a system like Media Backbone Conductor, which is able to interface with all of these other third-party components…we’re able to take a lot of that guesswork out of the operators hands and follow the business logic to make sure that your goal of taking the right media, putting it in the right format, and getting it to the place it needs to go can all be as automated as possible.”

Brevity’s Mike Jackman went as far as to say that the asset management workflow may need a complete overhaul.

“I think we are at a place where we talk about the future of asset management and you have to look at what is the entire problem because if you look at it it feels, to us, that what we have is a bad work-around that has been hardened into a workflow,” said Jackman, SVP of business development at Brevity. “It’s all we do; it’s all we know how to do. We have files, we transcode them, and than we move them. It’s a very brute-force way of doing things because that’s what we’ve always done. We’re spending tons and tons of money and capital on infrastructure, hardware, and lots of labor.”

As an answer, Jackman stated that Brevity’s solutions look to streamline transport and transcode into one event.

“We take a file, pull it through our router, and, as it transports, it lands on your new location in a new file type, or five file types, or ten file types, or whatever you need,” he says. “It eliminates all the time it takes to do the transcoding.”

It’s a system that sounds promising but can only truly live to its true potential if Brevity devices were to conquer the market.

The Importance of Metadata
When discussing asset management, the buzzword ‘metadata’ will unavoidably arise in the conversation, simply because an archived file is relatively useless if the important information contained within the file is unknown.

Loggers apply metadata when archiving an event. It can be something as simple as a touchdown to as detailed as identifying advertising placement in a shot. Metadata is what makes clips searchable and makes an asset management system worthwhile.

“Our way of thinking is that access drives demand and you only get access through great metadata,” said Frank Cardello, general manager, platform at T3Media. “Metadata has to be frame-accurate to the timeline of the video and the reason why that is important is it all depends on what you mean by access. Access could mean a set of compliance-use cases; knowing that if Halle Berry isn’t in the frame she better not be in the frame.”

For archival companies such as T3Media, metadata is crucial to making an asset management efficient for its users and can even be useful for monitizing archives when distributing assets to the paying public.

The more rich the metadata, the more valuable a file is, but that still requires a certain level of man power.

“Where we are seeing separation is along the lines of metadata and more and more metadata being automated and than being augmented with web-based tools,” added Cardello. “We don’t build metadata tools, per say, but we do quite a good job of integrating phonetic indexing, speech-to-text, script-syncing, closed-caption syncing, and facial recognition. There’s automated metadata that may tag applause because it will know something great happened there.”

Educate Yourself
The key, as with an investment in any technology, is to get the proper advice before taking the dive.

“You have to understand what to ask,” said Tom McGowan, VP of business development at Integrated Media Technologies. “Because if you don’t know what to ask there’s no way you’re going to be able to build it. Do you have the staff on hand that is capable of looking at a NAS (network attached storage) and picking out which is the best? If you don’t, than you need help. You need to find a partner or partners that can help you do that.”

Cracked McGowan, “before you go out and buy a set of golf clubs, go out and get some golf lessons first.”