MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Clear Skies Ahead for Cloud-Enabled Media Solutions

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NAB provides an opportunity to view emerging solutions addressing the needs of the broadcast and media industries. Cloud computing has been a topic of conversation for the past few years, yet it did not seem to be a mainstream solution. Last year, every storage vendor was talking cloud and it was the first year for a "cloud pavilion" on the show floor.  The progress over the past 12 months is incremental at best, yet cloud solutions do continue find traction, as do enabling technologies (more on this in a future blog).

The media industry is rife with software-based solutions for editing, transcoding and digital asset management. In fact, the shift to file-based workflows is still ongoing. This transition is the only reason broadcasters can even think about alternative remote production solutions, lowering their costs for producing and delivering live sports and entertainment. While the current focus for this topic is still squarely on decreasing the OB van footprint, initial forays into the cloud are focused on enabling collaborative content creation. Two options that represent different approaches for cloud-based workflow and collaboration are: 

Forbidden Technologies' FORscene: This post-production toolkit is a Software-as-a Service platform that enables cloud-based workflow collaboration around centrally stored content. However, it is not just cloud-based storage, the intuitive interface provides the tools for content ingest, logging, frame-accurate editing, and content reviews and approvals. FORScene has been on the scene since 2004 and has proven that cloud-based workflows can work and provide measurable value to content producers.  Others capitalizing on this trend include, Adobe and Avid.  Their Adobe Anywhere and Interplay Sphere solutions address the collaboration needs geographically distributed professionals. However, both solutions still seem to require on-premise hardware and software, Forbidden Technologies does not.

Microsoft Windows Azure Media Services: This cloud-based media platform enables media companies to develop their own solution for ingesting, processing, managing and delivering media content. The demo at NAB captured real-time content, encoded the content and presented it in "typical" user interface for editing and delivery. It leverages Microsoft's investment in Windows Azure to provide media processes (e.g., ingest content; encode, convert and generate media assets; log and tag assets) and Windows IIS Media Services to enable content delivery. The flexibility of the platform will be appealing to media companies that want to create their own cloud-based platform for managing assets.

In both cases the challenge is the ingest of high quality content. Each option is dependent on the use of low-res proxies for editing. Advances in codecs and bandwidth availability continue to accelerate the adoption of alternative solutions. For true disruption to occur, both types of solutions will need to address the demands of live content and the requirements for delivering GBs of content. Why focus on cloud? Across the media industry, beyond broadcast, the requirements for streamlining access to assets, collaborating across work teams, distributing to multiple outlets are creating new challenges. Solutions that can address the demanding requirements of broadcast prove that emerging technologies can facilitate cost effective improvements for managing and distributing digital media.

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