Video ingest – a case to be made for professional tools

With the continued drive within the broadcast environment for keeping costs down, better productivity and improved efficiencies, ensuring that the workforce has the tools to do their jobs properly is critical. As with other industries, broadcast finds itself in a state of flux, with several trends and changes impacting on businesses over the last decade. These include aspects such as the adoption of cloud, the move away from the use of proprietary hardware, and the increased use of automation throughout the entire workflow.

Mike Beattie is founder and CEO of Mediamano

Another one of these trends that has had a significant influence on broadcast, especially in the newsroom and how news is consumed, is social media. Along with the different ways in which audiences can acquire and consume news, the use of other content such as video has also changed the broadcast environment. There is a wealth of information available online from individuals posting on social media sites and third party websites such as YouTube and Vimeo, to education resources and advertising spots, that broadcasters and professional content providers seek to legitimately repurpose. All that’s needed is a good quality version of the video.

For the newsroom, for example, videos can be used as a source, lead into or complement for a news story and, as a result, must be easily accessible and of the appropriate quality and format. The challenge for the newsroom in this example (and broadcasters in general), is that there is no easy way to take a relevant video, download it, transcode it if necessary, and import it into the organisation’s video editing system.

A number of free tools exist that are able to download videos directly from sites. What these tools do provide is a simple download service. However, apart from reliability issues, these applications do not work on every site. There are also applications known as grabbers or screen grabbers that work by photo capturing the screen at intervals and thus building up a video stream of the content required.

The quality of the captured video is often times not up to the level required for broadcast and while these tools are ideal for amateur or home use, they do not meet the specifications needed by professional organisations.

Broadcasters and professional content providers need to be able to perform this function quickly and easily with little to no human input. Using the host of free tools, plug-ins and applications that are available online means that a great deal of time and effort needs to be spent on obtaining videos. Staff must be trained on each tool, must know which tools don’t work on which websites, and still perform other tasks in a highly pressurised environment. Ideally organisations would like their staff members to be performing their assigned roles and not wasting time on an unreliable and unwieldy solution – especially in a fast-paced setting, such as news production, where mistakes must be avoided at all costs. What this means for video capturing is that it needs to take place automatically and be as simplified as possible.

There are few professional tools on the market for video ingest that do bring tangible benefits to operations compared to their less reliable, and less comprehensive free counterparts. The biggest advantage of such tools is the time that would be saved for staff working on ingesting content. Whether these videos are downloaded to a desktop or straight into the video editing system, and whether they arrive in the format needed or need to be transcoded, the key is simplified, automatic operation. Input a site’s URL, press a button and the video is retrieved.

Some of these professional tools also enable users to select certain footage within a video to download instead of downloading the entire piece and then editing it once it was on the newsroom system. This saves storage space within the organisation’s infrastructure, as well as time because operators get the exact clip they need.

Broadcasters and content producers of all sizes and regardless of industry – news, entertainment or education – are under increased pressure to do more with fewer resources and increase productivity while keeping costs down. Having access to professional tools and software can assist in meeting these requirements at all stages of the production workflow.

Mediamano Product Suite

Mediamano recently launched Webtapper, a professional ingest video download tool that enables users to download videos directly from the Internet for use within the production workflow. The tool is ideal for organisations of all sizes, from small and large broadcasters, to production houses and independent content providers.

Webtapper offers users a number of features, including the ability to transcode video into professional formats, punch in / punch out functionality whereby only selected minutes within a video are downloaded, and ingesting selected footage directly and seamlessly into an organisation’s video server.

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