iNDEMAND Discovers A Way To Automate Audio File Workflows

iNDEMAND, a distributor of premium Video-on-Demand (VOD) and Pay Per View (PPV) entertainment to more than 200 North American TV operators, had a problem. How did they cost-effectively distribute thousands of audio files in different formats each day?

iNDEMAND distributes, with a reach of more than 60 million homes, movies, TV shows, events, boxing, wrestling and digital out-of-market subscription professional sports packages for MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS. It is a dizzying array of diverse content. Processing and moving these files caused labor-intensive and expensive workflows.

The solution for the VOD/PPV distributor came from Minnetonka AudioTools Server, which now automates about 1,000 files each day. That's 40,000-plus hours of content per year.

It was not just the number of files that were staggering, but the associated internal audio channel identification and processing workflows required to prepare content for distribution. They had become unmanageable.

The content is provided by hundreds of vendors and contains a wide variety of program configurations. This ranges from silent tracks to tracks with tones to foreign-language tracks to content with non-compliant loudness levels.

Before, once each audio file was identified and analyzed, every program had to be processed to the distributor’s specific content file requirements. Formatting the tremendous number of content files was arduous, time-consuming and expensive.

Before discovering Minnetonka AudioTools, the company used several methods initially to achieve the task, including laboriously inspecting individual files manually to determine the audio configuration.

The manual approach posed several issues, especially if the audio configuration was incorrectly identified. This led to the output of incorrect files, which then needed to be redone from scratch. This inhibited effective workflows and led to substantial downstream cost inefficiencies.

Realizing that a manual workflow was unsustainable for the company’s growing library of content, Jacob Gragard, iNDEMAND’s director of engineering, was tasked with finding a solution to streamline this workflow process.

“I consulted with many trusted industry resources researching this, and because of our unique situation, I knew it was going to take more than just an off-the-shelf solution,” he said. “What we needed was a technology partner who would be willing and able to customize a solution for our particular application.”

After the research, it was determined that Minnetonka AudioTools Server (ATS) provided the best solution for iNDEMAND. Minnetonka ATS is an enterprise software system for file-based workflows that is designed to automate even the most sophisticated audio tasks.

It’s a comprehensive solution for managing and processing linear PCM, Dolby E, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus content, as well as the audio essence in MXF, QuickTime and other types of clips.

The software includes loudness measurement and correction; pop, click, and dropout detection; program correlation plus channel detection and validation, modification and correction. It also reconfigures channel assignments as required before content repackaging.

Perhaps more importantly, Minnetonka ATS detects and logs metadata embedded in audio files, which is essential to iNDEMAND’s Telestream Vantage media processing platform. “All of these customized features offer efficiencies not only in cost but in workflows and overall operations.”

Minnetonka's software engineers were able to custom-design audio file workflows that met the needs across the iNDEMAND platform. About 200 audio profile categories were reduced to a more reasonable number. Intelligence was built into each profile for its specific application.

This intelligence greatly increased workflow efficiency and accuracy by analyzing the audio, performing channel identification and determining loudness levels for dialog — all without relying upon accompanying metadata, which was frequently incorrect.

The information generated by Minnetonka ATS is used along with an in-house proprietary database that originates from the program’s audio configuration information, allowing operators to precisely identify each file.

When Minnetonka ATS alone cannot confirm a profile, an alert is sent to management for further action. Custom features were also created, such as generating a silent channel report and a customized Minnetonka-developed plug-in for integration with iNDEMAND’s Telestream Vantage media processing platform.

Minnetonka ATS also presents its client with future business opportunities by creating a “clean” file — one in which all information is known and accurate with all necessary corrections completed and re-wrapped with metadata. These clean files can be archived for future use, allowing specific delivery requirements to be immediately met. 

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