My interest in this subject started when I joined the broadcast equipment manufacturer,
Chyron. For a few years I was the product manager for their playout automation and
asset management product lines. These were one of the first applications that gave
television broadcasters the means to manage the ingest, storage, archiving, and playout
of programmes and commercials using the video servers that had just been introduced.
The use of video compression, and the availability of high capacity disk drives,
meant that the server had become a viable replacement for videotape.
Before that time, television programming had been broadcast from a combination of
automated videocassette libraries (usually referred to as cart machines) and manually
operated videotape recorders. The cart machines had sophisticated control systems to
manage playlists and even make backup tapes for commercial breaks. As the broadcasters
migrated to disk storage they demanded a similar functionality. The asset management
system needed to handle multiple copies of a television commercial or
programme, whether a tape or a file. The complete system had to be highly available
and to fail-over gracefully–a spoilt commercial slot is a revenue opportunity lost forever.
I must thank Spencer Rodd, now of Pharos Communications, for introducing me to the
many issues involved in television channel playout from video servers.
Since those days, transmission from servers rather than tape has become the norm.
The old methods for managing tapes, little different from a public lending library, have
been replaced with digital asset management to control the ingest and playout of files.
I then moved to an industry working with much smaller video files–streaming media.
I joined a team that was planning the system architecture for an application service
provider that was to offer media encoding, archiving and distribution. Part of my role was
to evaluate the leading digital asset management systems. That knowledge gained was the starting point for this book.
As I looked through the collateral from the vendors, they promised object-oriented
software architectures with XML interfaces. The storage products offered helical or linear
tape transports, NAS or SAN? The list went on and on. I had to sift through all the
information and decide whether the claimed product benefits really gave a clear advantage
in managing the content workflow, or would deliver a better return on investment.
The problem was that the products covered many disciplines, from software engineering
to video technology (for me familiar ground). Furthermore, no deployment can be
successful without a deep understanding of the processes and workflows of content
creation and publishing.