Co-Founder, Object Matrix
As media organisations look to improve operational efficiency, by maximising resources and time, there is a growing realisation that a more unified approach to digital asset archive storage is required. Workflows need to be better connected, and in order to work more efficiently, users need accelerated search and access capabilities.
Improved media asset security, better auditing, and more automation aren’t just nice to have features, they are essential tools for companies to respond to the ever-increasing scale of content production. By transforming workflows, media organisations have the opportunity to bridge the gap between creatives and content. However, there are a number of barriers that need to be overcome along the way, such as poor storage practice, legacy infrastructure and ineffective media orchestration.
Outdated, ineffective storage practice
Events of the last two and a half years have really shone a spotlight on how media organisations manage their assets. Poor storage processes are causing real headaches for production and post-production teams as they search and locate content. Delays in finding footage can impact not only the editing workload for that day, but when multiplied across assets it can seriously impact lead time for entire projects. It means that companies might need to allocate budget to additional freelance resources or risk missing deadlines. Organisations need to think about optimised media storage as a crucial component within the workflow. The time saved at the stage where content is accessed can significantly improve overall operational efficiency. By removing any variables that might mean assets are difficult to find, or worse lost completely, teams can respond to project demands much more dynamically.
Some of the most problematic storage practices include lack of formal processes for backing up and archiving content, and the use of separate data silos. These practices can result in lost or difficult to find assets, and the inability to search using keywords and relocate assets when needed can result in duplication and disorganisation. All of these factors contribute towards creating a system that does not enable users to work in a logical and intuitive way, hindering editors’ ability to directly search for footage, and content managers’ ability to control media asset libraries. If producers and editors cannot self-serve access to content then time and money will be lost.
Media orchestration and scaled storage
In terms of media orchestration, the absence of a tiered or hybrid storage platform is another example of poor practice that can and does cause real problems. It’s important that media companies recognise that not all assets are the same. Some content needs to be actively worked on with nearline accessibility, either on-prem using integrated, virtualised access for dispersed teams or with minimal egress costs if stored in the cloud. Other content can be archived but the footage may need to be revisited, perhaps during key milestones or anniversaries. Some assets are very unlikely to be accessed again and just need to be kept for posterity, so these can be placed in cost-effective deep archive storage.
A hybrid data storage system using non-proprietary solutions, which allows ageing assets to be moved from one level to another, makes for a more efficient approach. A clear process for retrieving footage and utilising metadata tagging for automation where appropriate, results in a much more streamlined and integrated workflow. Unless an effective future-proofing strategy is implemented that allows users to easily search across several tiers of storage in different locations, operational efficiency can never be achieved.
Equally important is the need to recognise that storage requirements are not static. As business needs change, storage may need to be scaled accordingly. But many solutions can leave media organisations locked into agreements or struggling to access the metadata associated with their content. The ability to respond in a flexible and agile way to business needs, is arguably more important now than ever before. In 2021, the value of the media and entertainment market reached 2.34 trillion U.S. dollars, experiencing a growth of 10.4 percent compared to 2020. In the following years the growth is projected to slow, but figures are expected to reach 2.93 trillion by the end of 2026. That is a lot of media content, and it all needs to be stored.
Legacy infrastructure and integration
In addition to the influx of new content, companies also need to consider their huge media archives and the legacy infrastructure that supports them, While adopting cloud storage may seem like the answer to establishing a fit for purpose system that addresses the various issues, unless a media company is born in the cloud, there is sometimes still a business requirement for an on-prem cache of storage. This leads to the thorny issue of how to integrate new, shiny cloud-based storage with existing on-premise storage. Establishing cloud-based storage in a disjointed way without integrating with current storage is clearly a path to disaster.
There are a great many proprietary storage solutions on the market, and these solutions may work well in isolation, but they do not, by their very nature, allow for integration with third party vendors, or toolsets. As a media company, if you’re trying to create seamless connected workflows, the inability to integrate vendors and solutions is a real sticking point.
While it can be challenging to integrate cloud storage and on-prem storage in a hybrid workflow, it is not insurmountable. Key components for an efficient storage system, that enables both end users and media managers to locate content, means tight integration, a unified system and the synchronisation of media and metadata. Successful hybrid workflows need media to be accessible across all cloud and on-prem locations, and those assets need to be controlled through a centralised interface.
More staff work remotely now than ever before, and the business case to transition away from legacy infrastructure has never been more pressing. But accessing content through virtualised infrastructure comes with security considerations and its own set of challenges. Clearly, security of assets has to be a top priority when transforming and connecting workflows, but it cannot restrict ease of access for valid users. When it comes to media asset security, features such as firewalls, data immutability, and data encryption, all help to reduce the risk of a security breach. But without a connected hybrid system and a central point of access, companies cannot optimise built-in auditing to track user behaviour. By implementing strong user authentication, media companies can find a balance between streamlining infrastructure for ease of use and keeping precious assets secure.
Media and metadata management
Poor metadata management is a real barrier to achieving operational efficiency. Searchable content goes hand-in-hand with hybrid workflows, if organisations don’t know what they have stored on-premises and in the cloud, it’s as good as lost. Timecode metadata is key to enabling end users to search and monetise an archive. Using AI to automatically enrich media assets with timestamped metadata helps teams to quickly find exactly what they’re looking for among their content archives. Metadata belongs to organisations and not their vendors, and therefore, it is vital that metadata can be ported across MAM, DAM or PAM, on-prem or cloud storage.
As media companies seek to work quicker, better, smarter and more securely, there is a strong argument for reviewing and transforming workflows so that a more unified and connected approach can be taken. But it is also the responsibility of vendors to champion interoperability with their solutions so that content doesn’t become siloed. In the new era of high-volume content production there is no room for inefficiency. By thinking laterally about their storage requirements, organisations can establish systems that are connected, intuitive and fit for purpose. Systems that will, most importantly, help users collaborate and protect content - whilst evolving alongside media organisations as we enter a new future of entertainment.