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Sep 09, 2015
CCW, SOA, FIMS and the King & Queen of the Media Industry
The NAB-backed CCW held some impressive panels, and our own Stephane Guez (Dalet CTO) and Luc Comeau (Dalet Business Development Manager) participated in two of the show’s hot topics.

CCW, SOA, FIMS and the King & Queen of the Media I

The NAB-backed CCW held some impressive panels, and our own Stephane Guez (Dalet CTO) and Luc Comeau (Dalet Business Development Manager) participated in two of the show’s hot topics.

All-Star Panel Sessions at CCW 2014


The NAB-backed CCW held some impressive panels, and our own Stephane Guez (Dalet CTO) and Luc Comeau (Dalet Business Development Manager) participated in two of the show’s hot topics.

MAM, It’s All About Good Vocabulary – Luc Comeau, Senior Business Development Manager
 
The saying goes, “behind every great man, there is a greater woman.” Within the panel – “Content Acquisition and Management Platform: A Service-Oriented Approach” – there was a lot of talk about content being king. In my view then, metadata is his queen. Metadata gives you information that a MAM can capitalize on and allows you to build the workflow to enable your business vision. Done correctly and enterprise MAM will give you visibility into the entire organization, allowing you to better orchestrate both the technical and human process. Because at the end of the day, it’s the visibility of the entire organization that allows you to make better decisions, like whether or not you need to make a change or adapt your infrastructure to accommodate new workflows.

In our session, the conversation very quickly headed towards the topic of interoperability. Your MAM must have a common language to interface with all the players. If it doesn’t, you will spend an enormous amount of time translating so these players can work together. And if the need arises, and it usually does, you may need to replace one component with another that speaks a foreign language, well then, you are back to square one. A common framework will ensure a smooth sequence through production and distribution. A common framework, perhaps, such as FIMS…
 
The One Thing Everyone Needs to Know About FIMS – Stephane Guez, Dalet CTO
 
I was invited by Janet Gardner, president of Perspective Media Group, Inc., to participate in the FIMS (Framework for Interoperable Media Services) conference panel she moderated at CCW 2014.  The session featured Loic Barbou, chair of the FIMS Technical Board, Jacki Guerra, VP, Media Asset Services for A+E Networks, and Roman Mackiewicz, CIO Media Group at Bloomberg – two broadcasters that are deploying FIMS-compliant infrastructures. The aim of the session was to get the broadcasters’ points of views on their usage of the FIMS standard. 
 
The FIMS project was initiated to define standards that enable media systems to be built using a Service Orientated Architecture (SOA). FIMS has enormous potential benefits for both media organizations and the vendors/manufacturers that supply them, defining common interfaces for archetypal media operations such as capture, transfer, transform, store and QC. Global standardization of these interfaces will enable us, as an industry, to respond more quickly and cost effectively to the innovation and the constantly evolving needs and demands of media consumers.
 
Having begun in December 2009, the FIMS project is about to enter it’s 6th year, but the immense scale of the task is abundantly clear, with the general opinion of the panelists being that we are at the beginning of a movement – still very much a work-in-progress with a lot of work ahead of us.
 
One thing, however, was very clear from the discussion: Broadcasters need to be the main driver for FIMS. In doing so, they will find there are challenges and trade offs. FIMS cannot be adopted overnight. There are many existing, complex installations that rely on non-FIMS equipment. It will take some time before these systems can be converted to a FIMS-compliant infrastructure. Along with the technology change, there is the need to evolve the culture. For many, FIMS will put IT at the center of their production. A different world and skill set, many organizations will need to adapt both their workforce and workflow to truly reap the advantages of FIMS.

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Metadata is “The New Gold”!
Plain and simple. Some might categorize the above statement as an exaggeration, nevertheless, we persist! A number of technology trends got the lion’s share of buzz and display at IBC’s 50th edition: cloud and smart hybrid infrastructure, video over IP, workflow orchestration and automation, and last but not least big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). As game-changing as they can be, we believe that these are in fact enablers of a much bigger trend: better serving and engaging with audiences. Content discovery for consumers It is well documented that the success of online video relies, in part, on metadata. Metadata-centric workflows give viewers the freedom to become more engaged. They can discover and explore more content, navigating directly to the most interesting scenes (including the intent of the scene, e.g. serene, suspense, etc.). Publishers can fully monetize viewer habits and experiences in the most effective way possible with a Media Asset Management (MAM) & Orchestration platform that allows end-to-end authoring and managing asset metadata in their production workflow. For on-demand video consumption, accurate description of content is key to help narrow recommendation engines to more relevant suggestions. For ad-based or product placement models, metadata helps define the optimal in-stream video insertion points, allowing publishers greater control and flexibility with their advertising strategies. Scene metadata such as character name, player name, topic, keyword, etc. become key. The more accurate and rich the description of these insertion points, the better the advertisers can pick the slots that fit both their target audience and the brand experience they look to create. Metadata-driven operations & workflows Today, metadata is also at the heart of the orchestration of workflows and automation of processes, both of which become increasingly important to streamline and scale production and distribution operations. Any process and/or action in the chain of operations can be triggered by any change or fulfillment of a condition on any of the fields of the data model. These configurable metadata-driven workflows are extremely powerful. While the industry has moved away from the simplicity of "one profile per customer", we can today create an environment where a single workflow can produce all the desired outputs just by changing the metadata that initiates a particular process. Managing complex media objects Metadata is core to structure and manage complex media objects and their relations, to enable operations like versioning and packaging of track stacks or compositions. To enable better collaboration and flawless content transformation and curation, organizations need to disintermediate the supply chain. One of the key concepts is to avoid the confirmation of a project or a composition until it actually needs to be packaged for an output. To enable this, media management platforms need to handle complex objects seamlessly so that users can work directly with the elementary components of a media package or project. This gives them the ability to manipulate, transform, share and repurpose content in a very efficient and agile way - a concept called transclusion. The Dalet Galaxy platform’s user tools, data model, and workflow engine offer a robust and configurable framework to power these types of operations. They support all the industry latest standards like IMF, DPP and many others. Augmenting media tagging & operations with AI Video is a complex medium that requires both human-authored metadata, which is flexible and traditionally more accurate, and automatically-created metadata, which is quickly growing thanks to AI-powered services. AI is indeed a key next step for the media industry. Dalet has recently showcased, at IBC 2017, some first prototypes connecting a selection of AI engines to the Dalet Galaxy platform in order to build new services that range from simple, automated content indexing and metadata generation, all the way to smart assistants that augment user operations. Deployable on-premises or in the cloud, these services produce time-correlated, multi-dimensional metadata from audio and video data, unlocking new insights. Coupling these services with the Dalet Galaxy platform provides broadcasters and media organizations with an end-to-end solution that will serve as an enabler to capture tomorrow's business opportunities and generate new benefits.
The Power of the Dalet Search
In today’s multi-platform world, simply put, finding stuff is becoming more complex. In the past, a mere browse through the shelves would suffice. But the digital era brings forth the "hoarding" syndrome. Just think, for example, of your own collection of home pictures – I know mine are in an unmanaged mess. But before we get into searching, we first need to address quantifying things. This is where a MAM's role is to be the record keeper of your valuable content and its associated information. More importantly, having a metadata model extensible enough to address the multiple levels and hierarchy of data is key to the success of your search power. As the amount of content owned, archived and distributed by broadcasters is rapidly growing, it is also evolving, resulting in an exponential expansion of files that must be managed. What was once a one-to-one relationship between the "record" and the media, has evolved into a model where a complex collection of elements (audio, video, text, captions, etc.) forms a record relationship. And don’t even get me started on versioning. To illustrate what I’m talking about, let’s look at the example of the TV Series “24,” starring Keifer Sutherland. You could annotate an episode with the actor’s name, the actor’s character’s name, the actor’s birthday, and so on ... and for each element of that collection (let’s say the source master, the poster, the caption). Having the ability to define a taxonomy and ontology so that when I specify that “24” ALWAYS has Jack Bauer in all the episodes and that the character Jack Bauer is played by actor Keifer Sutherland, we can then have a way to inherit that information down the tree for any element that is part of that tree: Series/Season/Episode. Then for the users, only saying that “this” video is actually 24/season2/ep7 will automatically inherit/apply all it's “parent” associated metadata... without needing to enter each individual value. This greatly reduces the amount of data entry (and time) necessary to quantify something when considering the immense amount of content associated with any given record. But the big impact of the rich metadata engine found in our MAM is its ability to not only search but to discover as well. What I mean is that there are typically two methods of searching: The first is explicit search – the user chooses the necessary fields to conduct their search, and then enters the values to obtain a result, e.g. looking for “Videos” with “Jack Bauer” in “Season 2.” The result is a list that the user must filter through to find what they want. The second way to search is through discovery, with the MAM's ability to display facets. For example, I could type “Actor’s height” (6'2") in “Action role,” “On Location” (Los Angeles). The return would display facets organized by user-defined relevancy, such as Series, Media Type, Actor Name, to then produce a resulting list along with facet boxes that the user can "filter down" within the search. The above example would show: "I found 12 Videos with Keifer Sutherland as an actor," and “I found 34 assets shot in Los Angeles.” And then by checking the 12 Videos of Keifer and the 34 in Los Angeles to cross-eliminate, I would find that there are actually three assets of Keifer in Los Angeles. And then you would also see that the character Jack Bauer also has a cameo on “The Simpsons.” Rich metadata allows us to create relationship between assets at multiple levels. Those various facets allow you to not only navigate through hundreds if not thousands of media assets, but to easily discover specific content as well. And finally, having immediate access to these results for viewing or editing is what makes the Dalet MAM a harmonious ecosystem for not only information but also action/manipulation of said assets.
An IBC preview that won’t leave you dizzy
When we write these blog entries each week, we normally ensure we have a draft a few days in advance to make sure we have plenty of time to review, edit and make sure that the content is worth publishing. This entry was late, very late. This pre-IBC post has been hugely challenging to write for two reasons: Drone-mounted Moccachino machines are not on the agenda – but Bruce’s post last week definitely has me avoiding marketing “spin.” There are so many things I could talk about, it’s been a struggle to determine what to leave out. Earlier this year, at the NAB Show, we announced the combination of our Workflow Engine, including the Business Process Model & Notation (BPMN) 2.0-compliant workflow designer, and our Dalet AmberFin media processing platform. Now generally available in the AmberFin v11 release, we’ll be demonstrating how customers are using this system to design, automate and monitor their media transcode and QC workflows, in mission-critical multi-platform distribution operations. Talking of multi-platform distribution, our Dalet Galaxy media asset management now has the capability to publish directly to social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, while the new Media Packages feature simplifies the management of complex assets, enabling users to see all of the elements associated with a specific asset, such as different episodes, promos etc., visually mapped out in a clear and simple way. Making things simple is somewhat of a theme for Dalet at IBC this year. Making ingest really easy for Adobe Premiere users, the new Adobe Panel for Dalet Brio enables users to start, stop, monitor, quality check and ingest directly from the Adobe Premiere Pro interface with new recordings brought directly into the edit bin. We’ll also be demonstrating the newly redesigned chat and messaging module in Dalet Galaxy, Dalet WebSpace and the Dalet On-the-Go mobile application. The modern, and familiar, chat interface has support for persistent chats, group chats, messaging offline users and much more. Legislation and consolidation of workflows mean that captioning and subtitling are a common challenge for many facilities. We are directly addressing that challenge with a standards-based, cross-platform strategy for the handling of captioning workflows across Dalet Galaxy, Dalet Brio and Dalet AmberFin. With the ability to read and write standards-constrained TTML, caption and subtitle data is searchable and editable inside the Dalet Galaxy MAM, while Dalet Brio is able to capture caption- and subtitle-containing ancillary data packets to disk and play them back. Dalet AmberFin natively supports the extraction and insertion of subtitle and caption data to and from .SCC and .STL formats respectively, while tight integration with other vendors extends support for other vendors. There are so many other exciting new features I could talk about, but it’s probably best to see them for yourself live in Amsterdam. Of course, if you’re not going to the show, you can always get the latest by subscribing to the blog, or get in touch with your local representative to get more information. There, and I didn’t even mention buzzwords 4K and cloud… …yet!
AmsterMAM – What’s New With Dalet at IBC (Part 1)
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may also receive our newsletters (if not, email us and we’ll sign you up) – the latest edition of which lists 10 reasons to visit Dalet at the upcoming IBC show (stand 8.B77). Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be using this blog to expand on some of those reasons, starting this week with a focus on Media Asset Management (MAM) and the Dalet Galaxy platform. Three years ago, putting together an educational seminar for SMPTE, Bruce Devlin (star of this blog and Chief Media Scientist at Dalet) interviewed a number of MAM vendors and end users about what a MAM should be and do. Pulling together the responses – starting with a large number of post-it notes and ending with a large Venn diagram – it was obvious that what “MAM” means to you is very dependent on how you want to use it. What we ended up with was a “core” of functionality that was common to all MAM-driven workflows and a number of outer circles with workflow-specific tasks. This is exactly how Dalet Galaxy is built – a unified enterprise MAM core, supporting News, Production, Sports, Archive, Program Prep and Radio, with task-specific tools unique to each business solution. At IBC we’ll be showcasing these workflows individually, but based on the same Dalet Galaxy core. For news, we have two demonstrations. Dalet News Suite is our customizable, Enterprise multimedia news production and distribution system. This IBC we’ll be showcasing new integration with social media and new tools for remote, mobile and web-based working. We’ll also be demonstrating our fully-packaged, end-to-end solution for small and mid-size newsrooms, Dalet NewsPack. In sports workflows, quick turnaround and metadata entry is essential – we’ll be showing how Dalet Sports Factory, with new advanced logging capabilities, enables fast, high-quality sports production and distribution. IBC sees the European debut of the new Dalet Galaxy-based Dalet Radio Suite, the most comprehensive, robust and flexible radio production and playout solution available, featuring Dalet OneCut editing, a rock-solid playout module featuring integration with numerous third parties and class-leading multi-site operations. Dalet Media Life provides a rich set of user tools for program prep, archive and production workflows. New for IBC this year, we’ll be previewing new “track stack” functionality for multilingual and multi-channel audio workflows, extended integration with Adobe Premiere and enhanced workflow automation. If you want to see how the Dalet Galaxy platform can support your workflow, or be central to multiple workflows click here to book at meeting at IBC or get in touch with our sales team. You can also find out more about what we’re showing at IBC here.
More Secrets of Metadata
Followers of Bruce’s Shorts may remember an early episode on the Secrets of Metadata where I talked about concentrating on your metadata for your business, because it adds the value that you need. It seems the world is catching onto the idea of business value of metadata, and I don’t even have to wrestle a snake to explain it! Over the last 10 years of professional media file-based workflows, there have been many attempts at creating standardized metadata schemes. A lot of these have been generated by technologists trying to do the right thing or trying to fix a particular technical problem. Many of the initiatives have suffered from limited deployment and limited adoption because the fundamental questions they were asking centered on technology and not the business application. If you center your metadata around a business application, then you automatically take into account the workflows required to create, clean, validate, transport, store and consume that metadata. If you center the metadata around the technology, then some or all of those aspects are forgotten – and that’s where the adoption of metadata standards falls down. Why? It’s quite simple. Accurate metadata can drive business decisions that in turn improves efficiency and covers the cost of the metadata creation. Many years ago, I was presenting with the head of a well-known post house in London. He stood on stage and said in his best Australian accent “I hate metadata." You guys want me to make accurate, human oriented metadata in my facility for no cost, so that you guys can increase your profits at my expense.” Actually he used many shorter words that I’m not able to repeat here J. The message that he gave is still completely valid today: If you’re going to create accurate metadata, then who is going to consume it? If the answer is no one, ever, then you’re doing something that costs money for no results. That approach does not lead to a good long-term business. If the metadata is consumed within your own organization, then you ask the question: “Does it automate one or many processes downstream?” The automation might be a simple error check or a codec choice or an email generation or a target for a search query. The more consuming processes there are for a metadata field, the more valuable it can become. If the metadata is consumed in a different organization, then you have added value to the content by creating metadata. The value might be expressed in financial terms or in good-will terms, but fundamentally a commercial transaction is taking place by the creation of that metadata. The UK’s Digital Production Partnership and the IRT in Germany have both made great progress towards defining just enough metadata to reduce friction in B2B (business to business) file transfer in the broadcast world. Cablelabs continues to do the same for the cable world and standards bodies such as SMPTE are working with the EBU to make a core metadata definition that accelerates B2B ecommerce type applications. I would love to say that we’ve cracked the professional metadata problem, but the reality is that we’re still half way through the journey. I honestly don’t know how many standards we need. A single standard that covers every media application will be too big and unwieldy. A different standard for each B2B transaction type will cost too much to implement and sustain. I’m thinking we’ll be somewhere between these two extremes in the “Goldilocks zone,” where there are just enough schemas and the implementation cost is justified by the returns that a small number of standards can bring. As a Media Asset Management company, we spend our daily lives wrestling with the complexities of metadata. I live in hope that at least the B2B transaction element of that metadata will one day be as easy to author and as interoperable as a web page. Until then, why not check out the power of search from Luc’s blog. Without good metadata, it would be a lot less exciting.
Why Doesn’t Anyone Label The Audio?
The great thing about language is its ability to allow us to exchange ideas and concepts, and hopefully create a business by doing so. With the increasing number of multi-platform delivery opportunities, the increasing bandwidths and channel densities, we are also seeing an increasing opportunity for content owners to create revenue with their content. Successfully exploiting that opportunity involves tailoring the version of the content meant for the audience to reduce friction and increase enjoyment of the viewer / listener. The blockbuster movie community has known for a long time that efficiently making versions of a movie and its collection of trailers on a territory by territory basis can make a significant difference to the number of people who watch that movie. I believe that we are entering an era where turbo-charging the versioning efficiency of media companies is going to be a dominant differentiator. To reduce the costs of versioning and to make life simple for the creative human processes, it is necessary to automate the processes that can be done by machines (or in our case, software). To a company that deals with video, all issues will looks like video issue. The processes for segmenting video content and replacing elements are pretty well understood. Organizations like the UK's DPP have created standards for interchanging that segmentation information. In today’s blog, I'm going to assume that the video issues are largely understood and look at a “simple” issue that two customers approached me about here at the SMPTE Australia show. Right now, on the planet, there are many more languages spoken than there are scripts for writing those languages down. There are also many more scripts than there are countries in the world. This makes the labeling of languages and scripts an interesting challenge for any media company, as the variables are virtually endless. There are many schemes used in the world for labeling audio and any naïve person entering the industry would assume that there must be some sort of global tag that everyone uses for identification ... right? Wrong. Traditionally, TV stations, broadcasters, content creators and others have created content for a specific market. Broadcasters, distributors, aggregators and others have sent their content to territories with only a handful of languages to cope with. Usually proprietary solutions for “track tagging” are developed and deployed. The compelling business need to streamline and standardize the labeling of audio channels hasn’t really existed until now. The internationalization of distribution compels us to find an agreed way in which labeling can be done. Thankfully, someone got there before the media folks. The internet community has been here before - and quite recently. The internet standard RFC5646 is very thorough and copes with the identification of primary languages as well as dialects, extinct languages and imaginary vocabularies such as Klingon. With such a comprehensive and interoperable specification that is widely used for the delivery of web content to billions of devices every day, you'd think that any media system designer worth his or her salt would have this electronic document in their favorites list for regular look-up. You'd think ... The MXF community knows a good thing when it sees it, so you'll find that when it comes to a standardized way to tag tracks in MXF – the SMPTE standard ST 377-4 uses RFC5646 as its vocabulary for labeling. ST 377-4 additionally recognizes that each channel of an audio mix might contain a different language. Each channel might also belong to a group intended as a stereo group, or a surround sound group, or a mono-group of one channel. This hard grouping defines the relationship of channels that should not be split. Going further, ST 377-4 defines groups of groups that are used as metadata to enable easy versioning so that, for example, a French group might consist of a French stereo group, a clean M&E surround mix and a French mono audio description channel. Reality ST 377-4 with RFC5646 solves a difficult problem in a simple and elegant way. Up until now, it's been easier for media companies to do their own thing and invent their own metadata vocabularies with proprietary labeling methods rather than use a standard. Today, to get cost effective interoperability we're starting to rely on standards more and more so that we don't have to stand the cost of an infinite number of proprietary connectors to make things work. As you see more versions of more programs being created, spare a thought for the future costs and revenues of media that needs to be exchanged. A little up-front-standardized metadata builds the launch ramp for a future searchable and accessible library of internationalized content. Standardized audio metadata and subtitle metadata - it may be a tiny-tiny addition to your assets, but over time it helps you find, use and monetize versioned content with no effort at all. Take action now and learn the difference between en-US and en-GB. It's more than just spelling.
Why Ingest to the Cloud?
With Cloud storage becoming cheaper and the data transfer to services such as Amazon S3 storage being free of charge, there are numerous reasons why ingesting to the Cloud should be part of any media organization’s workflow. So, stop trying to calculate how much storage your organization consumes by day, month or year, or whether you need a NAS, a SAN or a Grid, and find out why Cloud could be just what your organization needs. Easy Sharing of Content Instead of production crews or field journalists spending copious amounts of time and money shipping hard drives to the home site or being limited by the bandwidth of an FTP server when uploading content, with object storage services like Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure, uploading content to the Cloud has become easy and cheap. Once content is uploaded to the Cloud, anyone with secure credentials can access it from anywhere in the world. Rights Access to Content In recent news, cloud storage services such as Apple iCloud were hacked and private content was stolen, increasing the concern about security and access rights to content in the Cloud. With secure connections such as VPN and rights access management tools, you can specify, by user, group access rights and duration of how long content can be accessed on the Cloud. Both Microsoft and Amazon have setup security features to protect your data as well as to replicate content to more secure locations. Cloud Services to Process the Data By uploading content to the Cloud, in the backend you can setup services and workflows to run QC checks on the content, stream media, transcode to multiple formats, and organize the content for search and retrieval using a Media Asset Management (MAM) System hosted on the Cloud. Cloud Scalability Rather than buying an expensive tape library or continuing to purchase more hardware for a spinning disk storage, with cloud storage, one can scale down or scale up with the click of a button. No need for over-provisioning. Disaster Recovery An organization can easily set up secure data replication from one site to another or institute replication rules to copy content to multiple virtual containers, offering assurance that content will not be lost. Amazon S3 provides durable infrastructure to store important data and is designed for durability of 99.99999999% of objects. Moving Towards an OPEX Model As operations and storage move to the Cloud, you can control your investment by paying as you use services and storing content on the Cloud. Instead of investing on infrastructure maintenance and support, with operations on the Cloud, you can focus the investment on what makes a difference, the content and not the infrastructure to support it. Why Upload to the Cloud? The Cloud is no longer a technology of the future, with cloud storage adopted by Google, Facebook and Instagram, Cloud technology is the reality of today. By adopting this technology you control your investment by usage needs, backup your data and provide secure access to content to anyone with credentials anywhere in the world. The biggest limitation now is bandwidth, and the hurdle is adjusting the current infrastructure to support Cloud operations. Many organizations are turning towards a hybrid Cloud model, where content and services are hosted both locally and via Cloud solutions. Learning from the Cloud experience, Dalet has made initiatives over the past few years to evolve existing tools and services for the Cloud. Dalet now offers direct ingest from the Dalet Brio video server to Amazon S3 Storage and, at NAB this year in Las Vegas, Dalet showcased the first MAM-based Newsroom on the Cloud. To learn more about Dalet ingest solutions, please visit the ingest application page.
Life before and after DPP (Digital Production Partnership)
People that know me will be aware that file-based workflows are a passion of mine. Ten years ago I was co-author of the MXF (Media Exchange Format) specification and ever since I have been engaged in taking this neatSMPTE standard and using it to create a business platform for media enterprises of every size and scale. This is why I’m so excited by the Digital Production Partnership (DPP): it represents the first ratified national Application Specification of the MXF standard and is set to revolutionize the way that media facilities and broadcasters work.To explain what I mean, let’s compare life with a DPP ecosystem to life without. Less pain to feel the gain 
In a standardized DPP world, there would be a limited amount of pain and cost felt by everybody but this would be shared equally amongst the organizations involved and it would be a limited cost, which is incurred only once. After this point, our industry has a fantastic common interchange format to help encourage partnerships and build businesses. In an unstandardized world, where different facilities have decided to use different tools and variants of MXF or other formats, the major cost becomes the lack of third-party interoperability. Each time content is exchanged between different facilities, a media transcode or rewrap in that format is required. This means that all vendors in all the facilities will ultimately support all the file formats andmetadata. The engineering required to implement and test takes time and costs money on an on-going basis. Interoperable metadata helps the content creator 
In a world that has adopted DPP, media and metadata interoperability is not an issue since the format is built on a strong, detailed common interchange specification. In this homogeneous scenario the resources that would have been used in the interoperability engineering process can be used in more creative and productive ways, such as programme making. Programme making is a process where most broadcasters utilise external resources. In a world without DPP, whenever a broadcaster or production facility receives a new file from an external facility, such as a Post House, the question must be asked whether this file meets the requirements of their in-house standard. That evaluation process can lead to extra QC costs in addition to possible media ingest, transcoding, conformance and metadata re-keying costs that need to be taken into account. Building a business platform
 This heterogeneous environment is an issue not just for interaction with external facilities: often different departments within the same major broadcaster will adopt slightly different file standards and metadata making interoperability a big issue to them. As a result, today only about 70 per cent of transactions within companies are file-based – the remainder employ tape. However, this is much higher than where external agencies are involved – here, only 10 – 15 per cent of transactions are file-based. The essence of the problem is the lack of a common interchange format to enable these transactions. DPP is the first open public interchange format that is specifically designed to address this issue. DPP is intended to transform today’s 20 per cent trickle into an 80 per cent flood in the shortest time. To find out more about DPP and how it can transform the way your operation works and also your effectiveness working with other organizations read AmberFin’s White Paper on DPP.
FIMS: A Plug-and-Play Solution
With so many systems with proprietary interfaces in existence, IT-based media projects these days require a great deal of integrations. At Dalet alone, our applications must integrate with more than a hundred different third-party systems. With customers around the world using customized workflows and any number of different tools and solutions, it’s our job to make sure our own platforms can operate seamlessly within their setup. However, this makes solutions very complex and costly to deploy and maintain. Enter: FIMS. FIMS is the Framework for Interoperable Media Services. This framework simplifies the integration problem through better and stronger standards, which means vendors no longer need to build a custom integration for every single installation. Part of the deal involves developing applications with a standard interface. This could be simple, like transfer services, or more complex, such as the repository interface, which has many operations and options. In addition to these standard interfaces, FIMS employs a data model – a common representation for media assets – which incorporates standard metadata (such as EBUCore) that have been developed separately. The idea behind the set of standard interfaces and data model is to develop a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). By exposing media applications as services and allowing for a flexible architecture, we can leverage standard IT technologies and enable customers to build best-of-breed solutions. As a result, we create an ecosystem of standard interfaces that simplify the design, building and deployment of systems, as well as the maintenance of said systems over time. Because of the system’s flexibility, exposing one’s system as a FIMS system or integrating another tool through a FIMS interface does not require a complete architectural change. For vendors, this means we can build more elaborate integrations at a much lower cost. And because we reduce the number of custom interfaces, the cost to upgrade any given system is also already reduced. What’s more, vendors can offer customers more benefit through improved core applications, as – ideally – the time and money saved by not developing custom integrations can be reallocated towards developing media specific applications. From the media and broadcast company perspective – because let’s face it, it’s all about the customer at the end of the day – FIMS enables much better tracking and task management, as well as the ability to evolve seamlessly over time. For example, if you want to take advantage of a new transfer accelerator without needing to develop an elaborate custom interface, FIMS provides the framework to facilitate this. With new and improved technology being made available all the time, being able to readily integrate new solutions gives broadcasters a huge advantage. So – why aren’t all systems FIMS-compliant? FIMS is an ongoing effort and as such, is not without its challenges. We work in an industry that is undergoing constant change, which makes this effort a moving target. Companies have to agree to build on the standards, meaning that they must agree with the limits they impose. If you were thinking that FIMS sounded too good to be sure, you may be right; a FIMS-compliant system does have its tradeoffs. With the standardization and simplicity of design, cost-savings, etc., comes slightly looser integration and performance. But we see the long-term benefits far outweighing these short-term issues. In any case, for FIMS to fulfill its destiny as a plug-and-play solution for the broadcast and media industry, it’s crucial that every actor in the ecosystem plays the game. By cultivating an ecosystem of applications that can all play nice together, broadcasters will be able to build best-of-breed solutions that can be evolved over years to come while saving them money. Now in its sixth year of existence, FIMS continues to gain awareness slowly but surely. But when it comes to making this solution a widespread reality, it’s in the hands of the broadcast and media companies to make the demand. Want to know more about FIMS? Sign up now to receive our video presentation on what FIMS is, who benefits and why direct to your inbox, as well as our FIMS White Paper, coming this summer.
5 reasons why media delivery standards might be good for your business
Like me, I am sure that you have been to a restaurant in a group and everyone orders from the set menu EXCEPT for that one person who orders the exotic, freshly prepared fugu, which requires an extra 30 minutes of preparation from a licensed fugu chef so that the customers don't die eating it. Restaurant etiquette means that our main course is served at the same time, forcing everyone to spend a long time hungry, waiting for the special case. And if you split the bill equally, the special case becomes subsidised by the people wanting the set meal. Does this model relate to the media industry? Is there a cost for being special? How can we reduce that cost? What gets done with the cost savings? How can you help? Fortunately those 5 questions lead into 5 reasons why delivery standards might be a good idea. 1. The set meal is more efficient than the a la carte I must confess that when I write this blog while hungry there will be a lot of food analogies. I'm quite simple really. In the "set meal" case - you can see how it's easier for the kitchen to make a large volume of the most common meal and to deliver it more quickly and accurately than a large number of individual cases. In the file delivery world, the same is true. By restricting the number of choices to a common subset that meet a general business need, it is a lot easier to test the implementations by multiple vendors and to ensure that interoperability is maximised for minimum cost. In a world where every customer can choose a different mix of codecs, audio layout, subtitle & caption formats, you quickly end up with an untestable mess. In that chaotic world, you will also get a lot of rejects. It always surprises me, how few companies have any way of measuring the cost of those rejects, even though they are known to cause pain in the workflow. A standardised, business-oriented delivery specification should help to reduce all of these problems. 2. Is there a cost for being special? I often hear the statement – "It's only an internal format - we don't need to use a standard". The justification is often that the company can react more quickly and cheaply. Unfortunately, every decision has a lifespan. These short-term special decisions often start with a single vendor implementing the special internal format. Time passes and then a second vendor implements it, then a third. Ultimately the custom cost engineering the special internal format is spent 3 or 4 times with different vendors. Finally the original equipment will end of life and the whole archive will have to be migrated. This is often the most costly part of the life cycle as the obsolete special internal format is carefully converted into something new and hopefully more interchangeable. Is there a cost of being special? Oh yes, and it is often over and over again. 3. How can we reduce costs? The usual way to reduce costs is to increase automation and to increase "lights out" operation. In the file delivery world, this means automation of transcode AND metadata handling AND QC AND workflow. At Dalet and AmberFin, all these skills are well understood and mastered. The cost savings come about when the number of variables in the system is reduced and the reliability increases. Limiting the choices on metadata, QC metrics, transcode options, workflow branches increases the likelihood of success. Learning from experiences of the Digital Production Partnership in the UK, it seems that tailoring a specific set of QC tests to a standardised delivery specification with standardised metadata will increase efficiency and reduce costs. The Joint Task Force on File Formats and Media Interoperability is building on the UK's experience to create an American standard that will continue to deliver these savings 4. What gets done with the cost savings? The nice thing about the open standards approach is the savings are shared between the vendors who make the software (they don't have to spend as much money testing special formats) and the owners of that software (who spend less time and effort on-boarding, interoperability testing and regression testing when they upgrade software versions.) 5. How can you help? The easiest way is to add your user requirements to the Joint Task Force on File Formats and Media Interoperability list. These user requirements will be used to prioritise the standardisation work and help deliver a technical solution to a commercial problem. For an overview of some of the thinking behind the technology, you could check out my NAB2014 video on the subject, or the presentation given by Clyde Smith of Fox. Until next time.
Dalet @ Broadcast Asia 2015
As we look forward to another exciting show at BCA 2015, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the media and entertainment industry in the Asia-Pacific region. There are a few things that always stand out when working in Asia. First is the wide availability and rapid adoption of the latest consumer technology. In M&E, this has driven the requirement to deliver to more and more platforms. While multi-version workflows were always core to many projects in the region, especially where content is distributed in so many languages across a wide geography, this expansion to support multiple platforms has added a further dimension and really brought home the value and return on investment that well designed and deployed MAM-driven workflows can bring to an organizations. MAM-driven workflows such as the Dalet Galaxy-based solutions that have been and are currently being deployed at big-name broadcasters, content owners and content distributors across the whole region. Of course, implementing a MAM and a MAM-driven workflow can represent a big change for the large number of media industry professionals here in Asia. Ensuring that we manage that change as we implement systems is just as important as the deployment of the technology itself. In recognition of this, Dalet has continued to expand our project management and training teams in the region, ensuring that all the support you need before, during and after installing projects is ready and available whenever you need it. Indeed, the team has grown so big, we’re moving to a new office – look out for a change of address soon. If you’ll be at BroadcastAsia next week, we’d love to see you. We’ll be exhibiting in booth 5A5-12 and invite you to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a Dalet media workflow expert. And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to register for BCA today! Hope to see you there.
Dalet acquires AmberFin – One Year On
To be precise, on the day this is published, it is one year, one month, one week and one day since Dalet acquired AmberFin on the 6th of April 2014. It seems like an appropriate opportunity to reflect on the last 13 months. It wasn’t entirely by accident, but we were certainly fortunate, that we finalised the acquisition on the eve of NAB 2014. This not only presented an ideal opportunity for both teams to come together (a rarity with Dalet spread across 18 offices worldwide) and jointly talk to customers, but also established a milestone to annually measure the integration of people & technology. People are at the heart of any business, but given the level of professional services that Dalet provides to our customers, they are absolutely core to our business. It was immediately obvious at NAB 2014 that the AmberFin team were going to merge well with Dalet, and over the past year, we have been able to “blend” skills and start sharing knowledge across the now united organisation. By way of example, Arnaud Elnecave, a long-serving Dalet employee, recently assumed the position of General Manager of Products, taking global responsibility for our packaged product and solutions business, including Dalet AmberFin and Dalet Brio, while Simon Adler, formerly of AmberFin, took over Arnaud’s previous role as General Manager for our West Coast operations. Integrating AmberFin technology into the Dalet offering started immediately following the acquisition, and at IBC last September, we showcased how AmberFin technology could be used in multi-lingual/multi-version workflows, using the transcoder as a render engine under the Dalet Track Stack tool. At NAB, we showed customers further benefits of the acquisition with the combination of the Dalet Workflow Engine and Dalet AmberFin as a user-intuitive solution for orchestrating media-centric workflows. Of course, we also brought together a huge wealth of knowledge. Following on from the success of the “AmberFin Academy” – the free educational program – and its feature series, “Bruce’s Shorts,” we launched the Dalet Academy in January of this year, featuring a much broader topic set with more contributors (including partners, customers and consultants), as well as more blogs, webinars and live events at trade shows and conferences. In the background, we have of course merged the operations of the two companies. This is never an easy task and I take this opportunity to thank those involved for making that happen so smoothly. So, what’s next? I can’t reveal too much of the roadmap, but it is safe to say that our investment in AmberFin will continue to reap benefits for our customers, whether they come to us for a standalone transcoder or an enterprise-wide media asset management system. Acquisitions aren’t necessarily easy to get right; in fact, one article from Business Review Europe sites a Harvard Business Review report showing M&A failure rates as high as 90%. We like to consider ourselves a part of the 10%. One year on, Dalet, our partners and our customers are seeing and will continue to see the benefits of an excellent match in vision, technology and people.