Metadata Driven Workflows and the Modern MAM

Years ago, the consultant gurus of Digital Asset Management said the ultimate value of metadata in asset management systems would be to improve efficiencies and content re-use. That time has come. Today, metadata driven workflows and orchestration are fundamental to a production or broadcast facility’s success.

Modern Media Asset Management (MAM) tools have been deeply integrated into workflow management software. Except for a few legacy systems, hardware appliances are no longer necessary to integrate most systems and functionality. Most professional systems have divided their workflows into logical product divisions to enable faster deployment, and easier, more reliable updates.

The basic workflow platform is often an abstracted integration layer that processes and moves media for the host MAM operations in an automated fashion. At a higher level, Business Process Management or BPM processes (often employing the international standard notation BPMN 2.0 for flow-chart-like design) manage the human interaction with the software tools and provide enterprise orchestration across the entire organization, including multiple departments, locations and even separate tenants. 

This image illustrates a clearly defined set of workflow tasks. It can automatically ingest and post-process content without user input. The workflow can be modified whenever production needs change.

This image illustrates a clearly defined set of workflow tasks. It can automatically ingest and post-process content without user input. The workflow can be modified whenever production needs change.

Orchestration of the media supply factory through nested and connected workflows has become the best way to apply Deming management principles to our industrial media systems. Workflows have been growing in elegance and simplicity, many now are “user definable” or adjustable, and measurement tools have been added to monitor processes, display active dashboards and provide reports for efficiency tuning. During the past year, more systems have moved from only on-premises deployments to cloud based infrastructure and hybrid cloud-local systems.

Metadata driven workflows allow data from any source to trigger actions, such as commands to conform or distribute media. Examples abound in MAM workflow solutions, from automated media ingests with sub-processes initiated by attached metadata and business rules established by the media company, to external work orders triggering automated fulfillment, to traffic/master control automation driven media preparation and automatic OTT/ VOD supply.

Today it is just as likely an automated system will trigger a MAM workflow as a human initiated activity. And the top systems provide complete audits of all activities whether they are machine generated or human activated. Never-the-less, some unfounded and confused beliefs about metadata and its applications persist in our industry. Let’s debunk a few.

False belief number 1: Metadata annotation is labor intensive.

While this was true in the past, it is not any more. Modern MAM systems employ auto-detection tools to generate technical metadata, they can read/ingest data from files and various external sources, automatically associating the data to the proper asset using Universal Unique Identifiers (UUIDs).

External source deliveries can augment data, including industry input from sources like the Entertainment ID Registry (EIDR.org). Thoroughly connected MAMs, especially via SMPTE BXF 2-way integrations, can harvest metadata from systems like Rights Management, Traffic, and Content Management Solutions.

The newest source of automatically generated metadata comes from Artificial Intelligence (AI) software like Zorroa and Graymeta. This software can generate frame accurate annotations that can be ingested by a MAM and automatically applied to a proxy for user access or automated workflow operations.

False belief number 2: Bad data or partial input results in failure.

Actually, controlling your user input has never been easier. Most MAMs can control input with “required fields,” selections from “pull-down menus,” and other mnemonic tools that ensure your user input data is clean and applicable.

False belief number 3: Humans must run the system.

Most MAM Workflow systems integrate with project management tools and work order tracking systems, so that work orders can be automatically checked and fulfilled by “version factories.”

False belief number 4: This all costs more….

IMF packages (IMP) contain metadata that can drive MAM operations. Studies and analysis by consulting firms, like Mesclado of France indicate that companies implementing IMF throughout a modern media plant will save an average of 27% over 3 years, including savings in storage, conforming costs and distribution.

Applying a modern MAM with metadata driven workflows can lead to measurable efficiencies, and most of these systems can be purchased in an OPEX payment model as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to control initial capital expenses.

Processes are continually monitored by the system. Any errors or needed operator inputs will be clearly noted.

Processes are continually monitored by the system. Any errors or needed operator inputs will be clearly noted.

False belief number 5: Some processes are too difficult for metadata driven workflows.

This is changing rapidly. For example, MAMs that use the EBU Core for their data model can leverage disparate media associations and control transformation engines to include seasonal artwork, photography and associated content for OTT and VOD systems.

Full-featured MAMs can manage “cut-and-splice” EDL work, controlling pre-rolls, mid-rolls and post-rolls in the creation of VOD and OTT media. Graphic inserts in the digital realm can modify media versions. Many processes that were difficult are fully automatable in 2017, and more software driven solutions are becoming available every month.

Do these metadata driven workflows completely remove the human element? Frankly, no--Good personnel are always important to a company’s success. Distributed operations benefit from talented individuals, regardless of location. But to accomplish true multisite collaborative task management, storage management must evolve as well.

NRK broadcast tower in Trondheim, Norway.

NRK broadcast tower in Trondheim, Norway.

Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) traditionally controlled vertical tiers. Now HSM must address horizontal nodes across many departments and locations, accessing, monitoring and managing multiple tiers of storage at each node site—modern enterprise MAM HSMs can move media and even provide partial high resolution file restoration as a background process for human task assignment.

A prime example is the multisite MAM Workflow deployed by NRK of Norway: 12 geographically distributed sites with workflows for collaborative media productions, media preparations for linear play-out, and a version factory OTT/VOD distribution. Crucial to these orchestrated operations is security of access, security of media and permissions assignment for the users and user groups.

These software tools are available today and the metadata driven MAM workflows are being deployed in projects around the globe.

Jay Batista, general manager, US operations, Tedial

Jay Batista, general manager, US operations, Tedial

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