By Bill Admans, Chief Operating Officer, Aletliere Creative Technologies
This story first appeared in InBroadcast Magazine, April 2022 NAB Edition

As I gathered my thoughts for this article, I flashed back to the earlier days of the mobile phone and MP3 player. These devices performed only a few tasks but did them extremely well while meeting and even exceeding our needs at the time.

As our personal and work lives grew increasingly complicated and interconnected, these “dumb” devices were outpaced by today’s smartphones and networked entertainment devices.

It’s not much different in the media and entertainment worlds, where the global demand for content is exploding across multiple platforms, in different languages and different versions. Everybody involved with content creation and ownership is constantly searching for new and better ways to manage, distribute and, of course, monetize their growing libraries.

The media asset management systems of even just a few years ago are not up to the task. They’ve evolved in response to a changing industry. In many ways, even the name Media Asset Management is outdated, traditionally referring to single-function repositories for storing assets.

Now, we’re looking at connected workflows that intersect through a content hub, which is what these systems have evolved into. Digital and media asset management has become more complex. It’s an integrated process, not just a single asset management system, with many systems and platforms interacting and communicating through a content hub

Even the audience for these systems is a much broader ecosystem — broadcasters, studios, streaming services, brands, and online content creators. It even extends beyond media and entertainment since rich content is being generated or collected in almost every market segment: surveillance and security, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and on and on. In today’s distributed economy, the ability to easily search for, access and share the right piece of media is highly valuable to any business.

The asset management process needs to provide a robust structure for creating, managing, and distributing content to any device, system, or workflow — from concept to consumer.

DAM/MAM systems are still effective repositories for multiple assets and metadata. However, they need to “think” holistically about the entire media lifecycle and how we track and use media.

We’re now dealing with much more complex media relationships that need to be managed and tracked. Through the use of APIs or BPEL and other standardized formats of exchange such as XML, JSON, MXF, and IMF files, these systems can allow for data transfer to other platforms and systems further down the line.

Security has always been a critical issue, and it’s only increased in importance as more files get shared more often and more easily. When you’re dealing with movie titles that could represent investments of hundreds of millions of dollars and with revenue potentials in the billions, knowing who has access to what piece of media and in what format is vital. Content owners need to control that access and track who has used and touched a piece of media at every stage as part of a forensic process. These access and tracking capabilities are crucial elements of the new asset management systems/content hubs.

Today, there can be many pieces of media attached to an individual title: essence files, master files, various localized versions in different languages, and more. It can relate to the media needed for monetization, such as the artwork or the descriptive metadata. Media management also involves connecting with the different business process systems exchanging metadata and information through an orchestration process to drive workflow automation. That’s why “content hub” is a more accurate term.
There’s one contributor to the rise of the content hub that can’t be overlooked: remote operations, especially in terms of cloud-based collaboration.

If we’re not already past it, it’s getting to the point where the only way to do modern asset management efficiently and effectively is in the cloud. That’s partly a result of our post-COVID world; also, companies have become more distributed. Today’s big media organizations have global operations, and they deal with suppliers and customers worldwide. The cloud is the easiest way to manage distributed workflows because you can connect anywhere and interact anywhere.

That’s the mindset we’ve applied to the development of Ateliere Creative Technologies media supply chain platform, which acts as a content hub orchestrating all the workflows in the media lifecycle from ingesting, asset management and transcoding to localization, mastering and distribution.

Each platform function is extensible via APIs to interconnect with all systems and processes, especially the ones vital to monetization such as rights management and finance. Ateliere Connect can import masses of information about archives through XML and CSV files and use this data to enrich the media on the platform. Connect associates all media types with a title, not just the sound and video files. Users can attach subtitles in multiple languages and alternate video sequences and audio files for localized versions. They can also attach artwork and marketing metadata that OTT platforms may need. With built-in automated QC, Connect stores and shares the various reports end-users may need. This combined data-driven functionality allows the platform to easily automate the creation of new versions of titles and deliver them to hundreds of streaming platforms and OTT services.

The way media is generated and used throughout the content lifecycle changes constantly. At the creation stage, you’re dealing with camera files and raw media being transcoded.

That file coming off the camera has tons of metadata associated with it, either embedded in the file or coming in separately from different systems. Those are also assets that need to be managed, coordinated and made available at different stages, whether it’s post-production, editorial or visual effects.

Without the new content hub-focused types of asset management that wouldn’t easily be possible. Then when you come to the finished product, it’s like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly, a finished master ready for monetization and distribution.