Mediapro is building out its Corporate MAM infrastructure to connect all of its production and playout sites.
As company mergers, acquisitions and extensive rights management agreements have become part of the new media landscape, it has created large multi-national conglomerates that span the globe. This in turn has revealed the need for IT networking technology and complex software orchestration that tie all of the disparate locations together and increase productivity across the company.
Such was the challenge for Mediapro Group, based in Barcelona, Spain, which produces content for news, motion pictures and live sports. It also owns the rights to broadcast several professional sports leagues, including the La Liga soccer league. With well over a dozen production studio and playout center locations—ranging from Barcelona and New York to Abu Dhabi (UAE), Qatar, Brussels (Belgium), Buenos Aires, Miami, Bogotá, Toronto, Lisbon, Madrid and Singapore—operating in their own individual ways, it was critical to bring everything under a single, far-reaching IP infrastructure that would foster collaboration among the sites and make content assets available to anyone in the company from anywhere in the world.
“Mediapro is a group of companies that cover the global needs of broadcasters and media companies,” said Emili Planas, Chief Technology Officer at Mediapro Group. “Each company has different needs so we’re building a network that addresses all of our staff and client demands. There are many types of workflows and our network infrastructure has to be flexible and scalable enough to accommodate all of them.”
Designing A Comprehensive Network
Unitecnic, the systems integration company of Mediapro, is overseeing the design and building of the multi-site Media Asset Management (MAM) network. The project started in 2019 by looking at the commonalities of the company’s technical infrastructure. For Planas and his engineering team, one obvious place to start was with MAM operations. The goal now is to create an ST2110 enabled corporate MAM that provides several nodes that will be distributed worldwide to Mediapro Group’s expansive real estate.
The final solution, which Planas said they’ll be working on “for years,” will enable operators at every site to search, retrieve and use content stored on a centralized database and accessed via the company’s private Mediapro Cloud or a number of public cloud services (AWS, Azure, Goggle) by each site. This gives the companies the ability to find the most value out of its 25 years of content (some still being ingested into the system), requiring an incredible number of Petabytes of storage.
Some of the content is stored as finished programs at full resolution while other assets either related to each title or for general use can be retrieved as a low-res proxy file before finishing their programs in HD or UHD resolutions. (Planas said they’ve produced content at 20K x 1K for a museum exhibition, and that content had to be archived and preserved as well.)
On-Premise And In The Cloud
He said Mediapro’s own on-premise hardware often is the best philosophy to save clients money and sometimes get the work done faster via manual processes. However, tasks like transcoding are done with the public cloud. But other workflows that are more automated, we use our own private cloud.
“We use the public cloud (AWS, Dropbox, etc.) for signal processing and distribution when it is the best option, but not because it is in vogue,” said Planas. “We analyze the workflow needed and recommend accordingly. For example, when it’s a long-term production, it’s usually cheaper to produce that show with on-premise virtualized hardware and software as a license. When we need to produce occasional content, we can use the public cloud but the same MAM software.”
Employing this cloud strategy in manual mode allows them to use the same equipment for different jobs. For example during “Match Days” [weekends] for La Liga, they have a lot of workflows working at the same time and have a lot of content to deliver. But during the week, the equipment is available for Mediapro’s internal services.
Networked MAM Orchestration
The innovative corporate MAM is tied into a software orchestration that helps manage and deploy apps using container-based abstraction. For each location, this software layer is deployed on-premises or in a cloud and is tightly integrated with the MAM. Also, there are different MAM local node types to allow the system to adapt to the different Mediapro companies' needs. This provides unfettered access to the company’s database of content, which is tied into the MAM, and is used to manage content as well as a digital rights management application from SAP. The catalogue is accessed via a new GUI and website developed by Mediapro thanks to the full MAM API that makes it easy for Mediapro’s clients and staff to pick and choose content they want to use.
When a piece of content is requested, the MAM fulfills the order and sends the files to the person that needs it, in real time. So, in the worst case a one hour program takes about an hour to download from the MAM. Right now bandwidth and file accelerators are used extensively, but they also use FTP when there is no delivery time requirements to exchange files.
Building The Right Solution Takes Time
Mediapro has developed a series of apps for each of its genres: sports, drama and news. Each is tailored with specific tools directed at each type of workflow. They have also created a fourth workflow for ingesting legacy content. This app handles a wide variety of old and new formats found within Mediapro’s archive—from Betacam SD in 4:3 w/mono audio on up to today’s most common digital HD and UHD-HDR formats, as well as any new format.
“We use it for content that is ready for air, but might be in a different format than the client wants to use,” Planas said, adding that they are in the process, and will be for many years, of ingesting decades worth of programs and adding them to the corporate content catalogue.
So far there are two sites hooked up to the corporate MAM—in Barcelona (two studios) and Globomedia in Madrid (four studios)—that are now sharing content seamlessly. The entire infrastructure will continue to evolve into the future. The two sites are sharing content easily. We have a lot of content to ingest (more than 25 years’ worth) and that will a take a long time.”
Right now they are doing the ingest and logging processes manually. That’s why, Planas said, they desperately need to get this networked MAM system active across all of its companies as soon as possible.
Adapting Network To A Changing World
“Technology and the way we deploy it is constantly evolving and changing fast,” said Planas. “We started using private networks only because the public Internet had no capability to preserve the quality of service we need. But now we are using a hybrid strategy of public and private cloud and connectivity services. I’m sure we will change the technical design of our networks a few times, because we now consider the Internet a valuable tool for distribution and we can rely on it to deliver the good quality we need. Sometimes it’s better than private networks.”
When the Corporate MAM is complete, someone in New York can request and retrieve a piece of content stored in Singapore as easily as if they were sitting in the next room.
Simplicity In A Complex Design
“We are happy with the simplicity and reliability of the network we are building, said Planas. “The bigger challenge is teaching our people, what they can do with this network. We’ve given them a powerful car, now they need to learn how to handle it. Because we are working with different countries and workflows, it’s going to take some time to introduce this new system to our staff across the company.”
Providing multisite MAM for its operators across the world will allow Mediapro to easily share content between sites and facilitate a fully integrated production workflow approach. TV programs can now be completed faster and with more storytelling depth—because they can pull from the different countries’ resources—than ever before.
Managing media company growth with the right technology stack in an era of rapid expansion is the challenge CTOs like Planas have to address in order to remain competitive in a multi-platform world that is hungry for ever more content.
“We’re taking a careful approach,” said Planas. “We also know that to be successful we have to connect all of our assets to make each of our production centers and program distribution sites more productive and competitive in the various markets we serve.”
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