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14/03/2013

The Importance Of Archiving In TV And Film

With the rise in digital media content, successful and effective archiving must become the focal point for any successful business within the industry, writes Neil Blake, Director at broadcast consultancy Waterside Media Limited.

Archiving of digital media content means different things to different people. It is well understood that there is a growing requirement for archiving at every level in the television and film industries; however, historically it was seen as only being available to the largest companies due to the cost and complexity of the infrastructure required. In the past this was true, only those large ‘enterprise’ class broadcasters and facilities could afford the cost of the management software and the storage hardware for an archive. The archives were thought of as black box vaults at the end of a workflow, where media was sent when it was finished with.
This perception has been turned on its head; the archive is now (or should be) the central media hub of a facility which is a ‘living’ entity with users simply and easily accessing their content when they need it from where ever they are working. No more frustrating time consuming trips to the tape library to search content on video tapes in expensive video tape suites or viewing rooms no more media management with post it notes.
With the rapid growth in file based acquisition, the need to manage and store content in affordable and, more importantly, accessible storage systems becomes a necessity for companies large and small. Of course, it’s not just about copying content to a disk drive and storing that on a shelf; this is the last thing anyone should be doing. It may sound easy and inexpensive, but will lead to disaster and the loss of data through hardware failure.
Disks are designed to be on and spinning, drives left on a shelf for extended periods of time stand a very high chance of failure when powered up.
A major point to remember is ‘it’s not about the technology’ that is out there. There are many vendors working in the archive market, so stop worrying about it. What to worry about is media lifecycle management from the point of creation through post production, delivery to the client and, of course, long term storage.
Moreover, the management of the content’s metadata is absolutely critical. There are numerous seminars and at trade shows there are large numbers of vendors suggesting they can help users manage their media and metadata. This is great, but without getting the basics right and working out what a companies’ individual requirements are, it could be an expensive waste of time and effort. Companies must plan carefully what their metadata models will look like. This can be a time consuming process but, as the company will be living with the schema for many years, it is well worth the effort at the beginning. The good news is there are a number of organisations, like the Digital Production Partnership in the UK, which are working with many content creators and broadcasters to standardise the industry’s metadata schemas. This standardisation will take time for both vendors and customers to adopt but when a consistent standard has been achieved, the whole industry will benefit.
Once the media has been managed, the next main question is: what is the archive for? There are many uses for an archive solution, each as individual as the company deploying the system.
- Is it simply for the long term secure storage of material to satisfy the needs of the commissioning broadcasters’ contacts?
- Is it for business continuity to have copies of material kept in different locations to allow productions to continue in the event a facility becomes unusable for some reason? - Is it to provide easy access to content for in-house journalists for news or producers for use in programmes?
- Is it for content sales or a library of historic content which will be made available to customers online, either free or at a cost?
From broadcaster and production company, to football clubs and federations, to national archives and museums, there is a need for digital archives to make content available to users and customers, quickly and easily. By managing their content well, the return on the archive investment can be made over time.
It is not for the production creative to worry about the actual storage platform on which their content is stored; the media management system will take care of this. Traditionally, the archive would have been an LTO tape library of some description, however with price of disks continuing to fall, the use of spinning disk as the main archive repository is increasing, with the LTO library being used as the 2nd or 3rd storage tier for long term media storage. There are many debates about the benefits of disk storage platforms over tape.
A well-managed LTO library will always be more cost effective per square metre of floor space to run than disk, as when the library is sitting idle the power consumption and cooling requirements are minimal. One innovation that is creating a lot of renewed interest in LTO tape is the LTFS format, which records data on an LTO data tape in a similar way to video recording on a traditional video tape. The content can be held in an archive or, more importantly, removed and inserted in to a standalone player, viewed or imported into another facility’s system. LTFS frees the owner of the content from any ties to vendors offering proprietary archive formats. Without a doubt, LTFS will be a hugely important archiving format for anyone storing media.
In applications where the content must be available instantly or within seconds, for operators in news for example or in on-demand web applications, the media must remain on a disk based system. These systems must be scaled not only in capacity, but also be able to support the data throughput requirements demanded by the users’ workflows. This mainly relates ‘on premise’ hardware. Should the demand for the content be huge and that demand from all parts of the world, then other storage solutions will be required. The cloud is now being viewed as a realistic alternative to on-premise storage, where content is stored on hardware which accessed via the internet but is owned and managed by a 3rd party provider. The physical storage can and will be in multiple secure data centres, allowing the providers to balance the data throughput requirements of the customer, as well as protecting against data loss. Trusting the security in the cloud will be the main issue here, and building this security trust will be the main sticking point that may hold back the use of the cloud as a primary content archive. As with any new technology, this trust will be built between vendors and customers in the same way any trusted partnership is built, and by early adopters proving the technology and leading the way for the rest of the market. The other significant benefit to customers using the cloud as a media repository is that the cost of the service will move from capital expenditure to operational expenditure, permitting a far wider range of customers to benefit from the use of digital media storage.
It is an exciting time for the industry, content creators must manage their valuable media as cost effectively as possible, due to the squeeze on production budgets. Vendors must provide innovative and flexible solutions at attractive prices, which can securely serve content whereever it is required.
Read the article in the online edition of Regional Film and Video here.
(IT)
VMI.TV Ltd

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