Viewpoint: Automating the Content Supply Chain - The Power of Media ERPs

Considering the unarguably fast clock speed in Media & Entertainment (M&E) today, content enterprises need to be able to rapidly access, preview, share, process and publish content for on-time delivery to an ever-increasing number of platforms and devices. Yet, automation remains in pockets, and work order administration between multiple tasks continues to be manual.

Typically, M&E companies use multiple on premise, non-scalable, media asset management (MAM) systems for content operations such as ingest, annotation, cataloging, storage, retrieval and distribution. Moreover, they use different MAMs across different divisions, departments and locations within the organization. Such multiple systems to manage content during production, marketing and distribution lead to high costs, and provide little room to enhance speed. Automation is isolated to only parts of the workflow, which requires work orders for complex tasks to be handled manually.

Collaboration amongst supply chain participants - production house, post production vendor, studio and the network is limited, and managing a growth in processing, packaging and delivery of content on public cloud infrastructure (like AWSAzure) is challenging.

Drive lean operations by embracing automation

For organizations to succeed in this ‘Digital Next’ era, they need a single MAM that is able to automate the supply chain – one that can manage media operations across global sites, with capabilities for work order management. They need a single MAM that extends beyond technical operations teams and is usable by creative, marketing, legal, operations, sales and senior executive leadership teams - a single software for the enterprise integrating production, distribution, broadcasting & OTT related business activities.

A Media ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution offers all this, and more. It helps broadcasters, studios, brands and service providers lower their Total Cost of Operations (TCOP) by automating business processes around content and managing their business of content better.

When powered by hybrid cloud architecture, an enterprise resource planning solution is well suited to manage content workflows across multiple distributed locations. This enables internal and external stakeholders to access content anytime, anywhere; facilitating easy collaboration with multiple vendors and distributors. Users can perform operations like cataloging and subtitling on a low resolution proxy, while operations like editing can be performed on the high resolution content.

In this way, the workflow engine manages distributed workflows permitting the remote execution of tasks at service recipient sites as well as a central operations site. These tasks can include transcoding, auto QC, file transfer, file management and API integrations to ingest and deliver content. Moreover, data can be protected with encryption, watermarking and backed up to a disaster recovery site. The workflow can easily be tailored to include broadcast tasks like subtitling/closed captioning, cataloging, transcription, VFX and online frame-accurate conform.

Listed below are a few instances of how automating the content supply chain can add tremendous value for M&E enterprises:

Content Acquisition

Often during the shoot of a film/television show, content is captured at a remote location. In this, typically the raw camera files from the shoot are put on a storage device and sent for review, a process which can take up to a week. There is no mechanism to review this content collaboratively in a short time span. A media enterprise solution allows users to upload raw camera files to the cloud even from a remote location. These files can then be transcoded into a low resolution proxy and made available for streaming to any desired destination. The content then becomes available for simultaneous review by stakeholders even if they are in different geographical locations. 

Figure 1. When capturing content, it often must be reviewed by multiple staff in divergent locations. Leveraging the cloud is a good way to enable a cost-effective review process.

Figure 1. When capturing content, it often must be reviewed by multiple staff in divergent locations. Leveraging the cloud is a good way to enable a cost-effective review process.

Asset & Essence Metadata

Today, content needs to be processed, delivered and stored in multiple formats and resolutions. To avoid duplication and ensure easy discoverability, technical and descriptive metadata should be generated as part of the ingest process. With a Media ERP solution, assets can be ingested and cataloged with pre-defined, content specific metadata, and supporting files like poster artworks, external audio tracks, QC reports and EDLs can be added as essences to the primary asset. This ensures best results during searches, and assets can be retrieved at lightning speed.

Collaboration

Creating a film or television show involves the close collaboration of multiple teams, each of whom has to give inputs during the content lifecycle. For instance, in a broadcast environment, various teams like programming, editorial, marketing, promo production, legal and technical QC need to collaborate in order to make content ready for telecast.

For on premise deployments, members from these teams need to be physically present wherever the content is stored in order to review it and provide their inputs. An automated supply chain mitigates this need for physical presence and allows multiple teams to simultaneously work with low resolution copies of the content, thereby driving creative enablement and increasing efficiencies. The programming team can easily provide comments to the editors. Feedback can be easily tracked and compared for all subsequent edit masters, and NLE project files can be shared among editors to help save time on the edit table.

Figure 2. In a broadcast environment, content approval requires inputs from both programming and technical staffs. Through the use of proxies stored in the cloud, all members have quick access to content and can collaborate as needed.

Figure 2. In a broadcast environment, content approval requires inputs from both programming and technical staffs. Through the use of proxies stored in the cloud, all members have quick access to content and can collaborate as needed.

Localization & OTT delivery

Films and television shows typically need to be localized in different languages for telecast in multiple territories. They also need to be published to different OTT platforms, each of which has its own set of technical specifications. Creation of a low resolution copy of the content therefore becomes imperative.

Typically, this is attached with metadata and a few additional files before being uploaded on to an FTP location, which may not be completely secure. This workflow model allows users to select a set of files, watermark them and securely send these to dubbing/subtitling vendors. The dubbed/subtitled files can later be reviewed and validated on a frame accurate cloud player. Once ready, sets of files can be simultaneously published to one or more OTT platforms in accordance with the packaging requirements. 

Figure 3. Content has a world-wide audience, typically needing a variety of languages. Managing the captioning/translation process requires a system-wide solution.

Figure 3. Content has a world-wide audience, typically needing a variety of languages. Managing the captioning/translation process requires a system-wide solution.

Automation Across The Supply Chain

The complexity of today’s production chains mandates a change in workflows. It requires a new model for workflow automation so previous manual tasks can be eliminated. A solution should offer end-to-end business process orchestration for promo creation including versioning automation. The solution should provide end-to-end work order administration, seamless integration with broadcast management software, review & approval processes, post-production and hand-off for play-out.

The automation should provide a method to render multiple versions of promos automatically based on pre-configured versioning templates. The process of master creation for domestic and international syndication can also be automated by leveraging unique elements like a compliance data model, caption re-timing, performing a profanity check tool and QC of captions/subtitles. This kind of automation helps reduces the amount of manpower and edit systems used for these processes and helps achieve faster turnaround.

Key Benefits

With the proper ERP solution, M&E enterprises can rely on one MAM system that will work across all departments; creative, marketing and technical and software that will work across global sites. The solution should provide automated promo versioning, work order administration, mastering automation and many digitization features,

Media ERP offers a low TCOP, often 30-40% less than a siloed solution. Users no longer have to worry about maintaining and managing standalone applications, upgrade costs, system & software support costs, hosting, help desk, etc. Automating the supply chain helps M&E players drive creative enablement, enhance operational efficiencies, reduce cost and realize new monetization opportunities. 

T Shobhana, Vice President and Head Global Marketing & Communications<br />

T Shobhana, Vice President and Head Global Marketing & Communications

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