BBC Scotland: Viz One Media Asset Management Workflow
BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow. Image Batchelor at en.wikipedia
2014 was a momentous year for Scotland with a historic referendum on Scottish independence from the UK, as well as the Commonwealth Games. These two major events added hugely to BBC Scotland’s already heavy production workload. In preparation for the eyes of the world being on the country, the decision was taken to migrate its digital library from its existing Vizrt Ardome MAM system to Vizrt’s latest MAM system, Viz One. Viz One’s simple and clear user interface allows anyone to do their own research efficiently. Better research allows programme makers to create the best possible programmes.
Taking care of assets at Pacific Quay
Vizrt's Viz One provides asset management across every aspect of production, for radio and television, at BBC Scotland. It stores all content defined by the media management team, and allows any user to search through the metadata, identify and choose the material they need, and transfer it to the production network.
Currently there are around 700 users who have access to the content, and who routinely use the system. Because the Viz One user interface is a web client, it can be accessed from any location, not just inside BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow, or other BBC buildings. It can also be accessed securely by users outside of BBC Scotland. The Culture Show, for example, is produced in both London and Glasgow and its researchers and producers in London can search the Scotland archive and transfer clips, automatically, via Dropzone, or as FTP file transfers.
BBC Scotland also has a unified production system, based on an Avid ISIS network. Users can select content, and even compile a rough timeline, in Viz One. Then with a single click, they can recover the material and transfer it directly to Avid and the user’s own edit bin. The next stage will be to implement Viz One’s Easycut. This will give selected users simple editing tools on their desktop, enabling them to create their own packages without the need of a craft edit suite.
Journalists using the BBC-wide Jupiter news production platform can also search the Scotland archive and transcode and transfer selected clips directly to Jupiter. Similarly, there is a direct interface between Viz One and the Dira radio production system.
Viz One was transformational for the staff at BBC Scotland. The simple and clear user interface allows anyone to do their own research efficiently. This has a huge impact on production values. Staff can access the whole archive and find precisely the material they need. This is the real win: the result is better programme visuals, created with efficiency.
As well as an excellent search tool, Viz One also includes logging functionality which allows extended descriptive metadata and tags to be added quickly. Content can be recycled very quickly, which proved extremely valuable in the Commonwealth Games and the run-up to the referendum.
At the Heart of the Workflow
The enterprise-class MAM Viz One sits at the heart of the production at Pacific Quay. Behind the scenes, it accepts material for ingest as files or as broadband video and automatically generates a low-resolution proxy for each clip. The system transparently manages transfers between the 200TB server and the LTO tape archive facility offsite. The architecture of the system was designed to provide a high level of reliability through redundant hardware and storage.
Viz One allows content to be blocked from use – it cannot be recalled or transferred from the library by an ordinary user – although everything is available for searching and viewing in proxy resolution. This allows users to access all material at any time. Importantly, it means they can research content out of normal working hours, without the need for support, something that would have been impossible in the days of tape.
The MAM system also enables the partial restore of a file, so only the required clips are delivered. It can recognise multiple requests for the same material, using this to minimise the load when a number of users are working on similar stories.
This facility, and fast data circuits between the archive and Pacific Quay mean that, once identified, clips can be retrieved, transcoded and delivered extremely quickly.
2014 Commonwealth Games
For the 20th Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow between 23 July and 3 August 2014, BBC Sport was the domestic rights holder. Some of the extensive broadcasting operations involved in the delivery was based at Pacific Quay, while the rest was located at the BBC Sport base in MediaCity in Salford, 216 miles further south.
BBC Scotland had access to all the content being generated, which gave Scottish journalists and sports producers’ immediate access to the material, and enabled historical clips to be archived for posterity.
A team of three media managers were tasked with making clip selections directly from the BBC Sport content they could see on its EVS server network in Salford. These clips were transferred using Viz One’s Importer utility for ingest into Viz One. During this process, additional tags were simply added on top of the existing BBC Sport metadata. Where needed, multiple clips could be tagged with a single click using Importer.
Content was then released for use almost instantly, giving local producers rapid access to the parts of the action likely to be of interest to Scottish viewers. BBC Scotland made careful decisions on what content it would archive, based on its experience of what might be needed in the future. This keeps the archive manageable, but still provides a great deal of production value for the future.
More than 500 individual items were added to the archive over the 12 days of the Games. On top of these clips, all the daily highlights programmes and specially shot news items were also archived, building a valuable future resource.
Browsing curated folders of content in Viz One
Scottish Independence Referendum
In probably the most significant political event in centuries in Scotland, on 18 September 2014 the Scottish people voted to determine whether they would remain a part of the United Kingdom or become an independent country. This naturally put a huge additional burden on the news and current affairs operation at BBC Scotland.
In the run-up to the referendum, BBC Scotland media managers eased the load on researchers and journalists by proactively bundling material they would be likely to use. Viz One allowed them to act like traditional broadcast archivists in anticipating content requests, retrieving the material from the archive and packaging it in convenient folders.
As the date of the referendum approached, and through the polling day and the night following as the results were announced, coverage became more or less continuous. The team of media managers were monitoring and archiving the BBC national feed, the Scotland feed and a ‘best pictures’ feed.
All the content was captured in Avid ISIS. Media managers then worked to select clips to be archived and added tags. They were operating with a delay of around 15 minutes to give them a clearer understanding of how the story was unfolding. Because they knew what was coming next they could make better decisions on which parts of the story to archive.
The one part of the story which was not clear was the result, which had become too close to call. Knowing that the vote could go either way meant that logging the speeches, reaction and interventions became even more critical as no-one knew what might be needed over the coming hours, days and weeks.
This process added more than 450 hours of content to the archive. As soon as material was checked and tagged it was transferred to Viz One allowing the disk space in Avid ISIS to be released.
Delivering Creative Freedom
In migrating from the Viz Ardome system to Viz One, the BBC Scotland media management team made some refinements to the metadata structure to make the search more powerful. Its goal was to make it more productive, and more intuitive, for journalists, researchers and producers - ensuring they could find what they needed and releasing the media managers to concentrate on managing the archive and focusing on more creative tasks.
The response at BBC Scotland has been overwhelmingly positive, with journalists very happy to work unassisted. There is now pressure to extend the capabilities, for instance through the use of Easycut for desktop editing, which will be trialled by the sports department for its online packages in the near future.
The implementation of Viz One made it easier for BBC Scotland to manage its digital assets better in a year where it was responsible for documenting two of the biggest events in Scottish history.
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