NAB Reflections: VSN’s Doug Wynn on the Company’s North American Push, the Power of AI

Focus is on new features for VSNExplorer, tight integration, cloud workflow

VSN arrived at NAB 2018 with the latest version of VSNExplorer media-asset–management (MAM) software, which incorporates the 100%–web-based editing tool Wedit with brand-new functionalities, such as voiceover capability. Wedit’s features are also fully available in the cloud, as demonstrated at the booth, where all VSNExplorer demos were conducted from the cloud.

In addition, VSN launched a web plugin that allows editors and journalists to visualize all assets and videos stored in VSNExplorer, as well as graphics in the CG system, via the interface to their newsroom computer system (NCRS), and then allocate, drag, and drop those video files into the NRCS to complete a news item.

After securing a solid footprint in the European MAM market over the years, VSN is now looking to make a bigger splash in North America and hired Doug Wynn to lead sales there last August. SVG sat down with Wynn in Vegas to discuss the latest enhancements to VSNExplorer, how the North American market has reacted to the renewed focus on the region, and how he sees AI streamlining MAM.

Doug Wynn (right) and Juan Valcarcel at VSN’s booth at NAB 2018

What new features is VSN highlighting at NAB 2018?
We have gotten certification with Spectra Logic’s Black Pearl, and it’s a very tight integration. So we’re excited about that because it creates a really interesting cloud workflow for us. Black Pearl has several different tools to get into object storage and also allows us to do direct connect to the LTO robotic libraries to create a hybrid system with partial-file restore and a lot of other really cool features. Plus, the price point is really, really good. So we’re excited and getting into object storage.

We will also be announcing full integration with one of the major sports-logging companies. We’ll have more info on that soon.

VSN has a strong footprint in the European market, but you were brought in last August to help grow the company’s footprint here in the States. How has that process gone over the past eight months?
The market has [reacted] very favorably so far. We’ve already had several [customer] signings with resellers and system integrators, which is key since we don’t have a big team [in North America]. Being part of the SVG has been a great way to grow our visibility, and we’ve already seen some opportunities come from that. We’re very excited to have Juan [Valcarcel, pre-sales and solutions architect, North America] in place now. He’s got a great pedigree in the industry and adds a lot to the team.

What do the VSNExplorer MAM and production-asset–management (PAM) systems offer that other asset-management systems don’t, and why do you see it as a good fit for sports-production environments?
First of all, it’s very open-ended; we want to play nice with everyone. For example, we’ve got a brilliant integration with Avid PAM, and we work with EVS on ingest and that type of thing for sports. It’s all on our VSN Spider platform, and there are four modules: enterprise-level MAM, PAM, BPM [Business Process Management], and Business Intelligence. We really specialize in automating workflows. If you have repetitive tasks, it’s really easy to automate them within our [system], and, that way, you allow [production] folks to focus on creativity.

I think our VSN Wedit cloud-based editor, which is included with the MAM product, is really valuable and now has voiceover capabilities. You can push content from that [editor] out to an Avid [Media Composer], Adobe [Premier Pro], or whatever platform you like and do your finish editing there. But, for just doing some storyboarding and basic tasks, Wedit is pretty cool.

The best thing is, since these four modules are all on the platform, it’s very flexible: you just need to turn them on or don’t turn them on. If you’ve already got a PAM, obviously, you wouldn’t want our PAM, so you turn that off. But we work with Adobe and that type of thing very closely with the tight integration.

We also have business-intelligence reports, [featuring] artificial-intelligence capabilities with providers like Google, Microsoft, and IBM Watson. We can extract metadata from videos like sentiment or a description of the speech. We can read faces, identify people, and create links to the web for famous people like celebrities or athletes.

We also have a seamless workflow for social media, so you can publish directly to YouTube and other [social platforms] straight from our interface. And all that’s included.

You mentioned the integration of AI, which is definitely one of the biggest themes at NAB 2018. How do you foresee AI-based tools being used in sports-production environments?
I think the big [organizations] want to have AI within a year, while the other [organizations] are still trying to figure out how it’s going to work for them. But almost no one is saying, “This isn’t relevant to me, and we’re not interested.” I think AI is definitely going to be incorporated more and more into existing ecosystems so that menial tasks like cataloging and metadata [capture] can be automated. If it can be done automatically, you can focus on the creativity side, which means delivering better content. And I think ultimately that’s what a viewer wants.

Facial recognition, especially in sports, as well as recognition of logos and numbers on the back of jerseys, will be huge. Also, creating segments for a sports clip and then extracting metadata is going to make creating melt reels and that type of thing much quicker.

Initially, I think it’s going to be a crawl-walk-run type of thing, but I think AI is going to arrive quicker than any of us think.

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