Sports Asset Management Forum: The Challenges of Transcoding and Metadata
If not properly maintained and organized, a network’s asset-management strategy can quickly become as messy as a rowdy 12-year-old’s bedroom.
At last week’s Sports Asset Management Forum in New York City, professionals from ESPN, NBC, and Turner discussed some of the challenges they face in championing a robust media-asset–management (MAM) program within their respective companies.
Allison Malan, associate director, media technologies, at ESPN, said her company’s biggest MAM-technology gap is the way content is received and delivered.
“Content comes in, and we have a codec at ESPN that we use, and there’s multiple codecs and formats that we receive,” she said. “So we spend a lot of manual time doing transcoding and trying to figure out how we’re going to [get] it out. We have partners that we send out to, and there’s a lot of manual intervention with the way that we do our transcoding.”
At Turner Sports, the “main challenge is transcoding,” said Manager of Library Services Chris May. “From our broadcast partners and the leagues that we receive [from], everyone has their own flavor that they like to use.”
A similar issue among many in asset management is insufficient and inefficient implementation of metadata. An unlabeled file does an editor or an archivist little good and risks the company’s losing tabs on the asset altogether.
Even at NBC Sports Group, which is operating in its brand-new Stamford, CT, broadcast center, metadata consistency is an issue.“We get drives from various places, and the metadata that we get with them are almost nothing,” said Jim Miles, director, digital workflow systems, at NBC Sports Group. “We’re not quite sure what to do with that. So capturing that information in the field or right as it comes into the facility is critical because we don’t want that to be in our archives.”
Although the idea of standardizing codecs and metadata practices industry-wide seems like a logical solution, the panelists agreed it is mostly an impractical one.
“When you’re out on the road, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Malan. “You can try and standardize as much as you want in-house, but there’s a lot of trucks out there, and you just have to be prepared to bring whatever is available on that truck.”
Instead, the speakers called for a cultural shift, a general acceptance of the value and importance of proper archival of assets.
“Often, the shows are focused on their own productions,” said Miles. “So they only need to know what they need to know for that day, and then they leave the truck and walk away. It’s on us as an organization to make sure that producers bring that [content] back and the folks catching it on the technical side are doing something useful with it and not just letting this drive sit around. Then the information disappears.”
May agreed but added that that will happen only if the media company as a whole adopts a strong MAM philosophy, not just those working in archival.
“It should come from your organization from the top down and have the end users understanding that the implications downstream of that when they, two years from now, want to get ahold of an asset,” said May. “If everybody that touches an asset along the way adds just a little bit of metadata, by the time it hits the archive, that asset will be so rich with metadata. If you can get them to understand that it will benefit them in the end, that’s where you can get them to buy in. If you do some work on the frontend, it will benefit you greatly on the backend.”
That begs the question, in what ways technology manufacturers can design their MAM systems to better fit the needs of the end user.
“As a software company, one of our mantras is play nicely with others,” said Warren Arenstein, SVP, business development, at Primestream. “In that respect, we integrate with as many different types of partners as we can; we try to be able to speak and play with as many different kinds of software as well. I think the key question is coming up with the standards and the naming protocols, but everybody is going to do it slightly differently.
“One of the challenges that we hear from our clients,” he continued, “is, how do we make this process easier? Being a company that sells something called automation, people think it’s all going to happen automatically. There’s almost always going to have to be some human component to it.”