April 27, 2009 – Mounting demand from content suppliers and production houses for an easy-to-manage, massively scalable and searchable approach to archiving and distributing video assets has engendered a groundbreaking solution that taps next-generation technology originally developed for NASA, the FBI and other government agencies.
Marketed by Media Distributors, long known as a leading retail supplier of products for professional audio and video production houses, the new Constellation VCM asset management system is under review at several Hollywood studios and already in deployment at Universal Sports, a joint programming venture of NBC Universal and Intermedia Partners, says Richard Myerson, president of Media Distributors. Just launched publicly, the system has received a "phenomenal response," he says, naming Disney and TV producer and syndicator FreMantleMedia as two of the companies now taking a hard look at the platform.
The system is designed to manage and search through voluminous amounts of video content, whether stored in a single location or across a "federated repository" consisting of different types of storage platforms. "There's no limit to the amount of content the system can manage," Myerson says, noting the system easily conforms to existing workflows. The platform is suited for small as well as large production houses with pricing based on the amount of content to be managed.
Advanced search capabilities are a key benefit of the platform, encompassing all types of metadata as well as other information associated with the content, such as scripts, ads, customer names and even email messages. "The search function is like Google on steroids," Myerson says.
Media Distributors has promised customers the search will be enhanced with readouts of closed captioning and then with voice recognition technology, allowing all audio content to be read and catalogued at ingest. "We're presently at about 60-70 percent accuracy on speech-to-text translation," says Mark Armstrong, president of SoleraTec, which has partnered with Media Distributors in development of the Constellation platform. "We want to get that up to 85-90 percent before we offer it commercially."
To find any asset across the entire repository content managers simply choose the type of search they want to employ, type in the topic and click, Armstrong says. "You don't have to know how anything works," he adds.
Finding and reviewing content is facilitated by the fact that all content is copied to low resolution formats at ingest. Producers and editors can quickly access anything they want to see through search, and, once they make a choice, pull out the segment they need from the original high resolution file and move it to the editing station or ship it to a customer, no matter where the content resides.
"The information repository is the embodiment of all islands of storage," Armstrong says. "When you get to national operations, you have assets syndicated to many different areas, and all of that has to be easily accessed. For example, one company we're working with is a big production house with 15 offices across the U.S. They want to be able to pull in footage from all these locations and make that content available throughout the organization. There's no human intervention in the entire process."
The power to find and distribute to any type of end user, at the professional level or below, any piece of content in the repository is of keen interest to FreMantle, Armstrong notes. "They own vast resources of old shows, which they want to make available for sale over a virtual online kiosk to professionals and non-professionals," he says.
Another organization Media Distributors is working with wants to make footage of live events it shoots searchable for sale online. "People will be able to download the content in H.264 based on what they are authorized to access," Armstrong says.
Security, including what Media Distributors says is the first use of fingerprinting in an asset management system, is a vital component to the Constellation platform, Armstrong notes. "We ensure the integrity of data as assets are moved around," he says. "This includes support for setting usage policies and authentication functions in conjunction with whatever type of business model you require."
SoleraTec, a storage market supplier based in San Diego, originally developed the foundation technology used in Constellation on an OEM basis for suppliers to government agencies. The FBI, Census Bureau, NASA and others have huge data repositories which they wanted to easily search and access across multiple storage points. In 2007 Media Distributors, with a desire to develop a technology solutions business that would leverage its strong client base in the content industry, tapped SoleraTec to refine its technology for use in video storage and management.
"Every company Media Distributors talks to needs a solution, and, because they have a long-standing relationship with these companies, they're comfortable to bring them in," Armstrong says. "They're dealing with the who's who of Hollywood, most of them now in the third or fourth stage of discussions."
According to company specifications, the Constellation system recognizes and supports data from the leading video editing solutions, including HDCAM SR, HDCAM, XDCAM, EX3, P2, RED, Codex, Apple Final Cut Studio, Avid, Pro Tools and PilotWare. The system supports all SAN, NAS, RAID, JBOD and external drives. It also supports XSAN, Avid Unity, Blu-ray Disc and DVD library systems, and all tape drives and tape library systems, as well as a wide range of operating systems, including Windows 2000, 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista, OS-X, Linux and Unix.