By Greg Taylor, Technical Services Engineer
With the progressing proliferation of content being produced from a widening variety of sources and creative teams these days, the challenge of being able to manage this content effectively is becoming paramount.
In some ways, it almost feels like many of the traditional rules and stringent workflows we used to see have been all but abandoned, due in part to the increasing ability of modern NLE’s (Non-Linear Editors) to accept a wider variety of source material (frame rates, resolution, codecs, wrappers, bit rates, compressions).
The relaxation of these common practices and parameters has allowed non-traditional sources to enter our workflow pipelines with higher expectations to just work without a hitch.
Here we see a fork in the road – a wider choice of source formats, and a wider choice of personnel employed to create it – having a MAM (Media Asset Manager) and/or PAM (Production Asset Manager) help cater for both needs.
A quick consideration of the former…
While it is agreed that current NLE’s are great at understanding many sources and utilise CPU and GPU much better than they did a few years ago, it is often overlooked that throwing a mix of varied formats into a single timeline will likely expose bottlenecks. RT (Real Time) playback can drop out due to the extra processing involved – I like to analogise this to reading a book written in 3 or more different languages… a sentence in German (1080i50 prores mov), next paragraph in Greek (4k uncompressed 60fps r3d), a few words of Chamicuro (720p 240fps mp4), etc.. our heads are trying to process all of this and translate into a single language (what we perceive on the screen).
The more we request and receive a consistent source, the less our machines need to translate on the fly.
For ease of use and management, a decent MAM solution will streamline this by transcoding content to a consistent (often lower res) medium from a variety of source formats. This will both benefit your NLE for RT playback, and further reduce the bandwidth required by clients to continually cut their content directly off the storage. Importantly, freeing up bandwidth for other users on the system.
Heck, we can always online it in high-res at the end, right?
The only downside to this is needing to transcode the material - this takes work, but as mentioned, the closer we get everything on par at the start, the less that will be required on the way… a stitch in time, as they say.
Ok, over to managing the content once it’s in the system.
Having a stringent folder structure and naming convention can be very helpful and I do see a lot of places use this very well – 100’s of TB of data across several volumes and/or folders and everyone knows exactly where to find what they need.
This does take diligence in management. If you have a high staff turnover or a steady flow of freelancers, things can easily stray from convention, land in the wrong place, or even become lost entirely.
Having an overseeing MAM helps teams categorise their data, add custom metadata, keywords and even thumbnails with ease. By a simple and relevant search, they can then locate content that was obscurely placed and use it immediately.
A good MAM will allow the user to drag content directly from the MAM interface into the NLE with ease (as proxy or full resolution, depending on connection), maybe even with a custom plugin for the client system’s NLE of choice. It can let us add our own custom metadata, map metadata from other sources into the system consistently. Even transcode, review, approval and delivery options at the click of a button. It will also allow the team to work remotely using low-res material stored in a private cloud, enhancing real time collaboration between users in geographically diverse locations… the list goes on!
With a bit of consideration into one’s workflow, it’s exciting what can be leveraged out of the various MAMs, PAMs and associated automation tools that are now available from vendors. How do we choose productively for our formats ad future from an impressive list, including:
At Digistor, we are fortunate to work closely with a variety of solutions, specialisation and vendor products, such as Editshare's Flow, which offers a very interesting range of collaborative tools that can be tailored to suit almost any workflow, and will even work off the back of your existing storage(s)
At the end of the day, it must be asked - How important is your data access and retrieval? - The benefits of having a versatile tool that can accommodate the varying format, process and user requirements all the way from capture to playout and archive is well worth consideration.
I understand this is a broad topic and lightly covered – it’s definitely a challenge to cover the variety of ways in which these systems can create efficiencies in workflow. That said, I feel that seeding the idea and the benefit is important – I’d love to be able to make work my days shorter, and I’m certainly not alone. Our quest continues…