Tom Coughlin Report: Maximizing Content Value with Workflow-Optimized Storage

Growing consumer demand for higher resolution content on an ever–increasing number of delivery platforms is forcing content producers to reevaluate their content production workflows, with storage being at the forefront. Higher resolutions, higher frame rates and new technologies such as HDR place greater demands on storage infrastructure, both in terms of storage capacity and performance. Meanwhile, collaborators on a single project may span great distances and time zones, requiring greater flexibility and new methods for accelerating video projects while controlling project costs in a collaborative workflow.


Content producers must assess not only initial content creation and first delivery, but also how to deliver that content efficiently while managing it for the long–term in a readily accessible content archive in order to encourage content reuse and monetization. To adapt to these changing content models, storage must optimized for the workflow and provide three types of value: process value, creative value and content lifecycle value.

Purpose-built for Media Workflows

Storage optimized for video workflows is distinctly different from general purpose or monolithic digital storage. Moving and streaming large, high–resolution media files places different performance demands than storing and accessing databases, documents and content created by other common business functions. Also, where files in a general business environment are quickly moved from a primary, active storage environment to a more static archive, content–centric workflows may require content to move from online storage to different storage archives, and back several times for monetization and re-use.

Workflow-optimized storage tailors the type of storage, both in speed or performance as well as cost, to the various stages of the workflow and each stages application. One workflow step’s needs may be very different than the next and great efficiencies can be gained by segregating workflow steps using different types of storage, rather than assuming that all steps will use the same class of storage, no matter how large the workflow may scale.

Process Value

The simple economic consideration of process value measures the economic return on investment gained by adopting one solution and its inherent technology over another to accomplish the same tasks and deliver the same capabilities. As content ages, it may retain the same value in terms of monetization in re-use, but it doesn’t have the same access requirements and thus can be stored more secure, yet less expensive storage. Workflow-optimized storage accounts for this need and others by providing the right storage in the right stage of workflow: from fast, low latency, high throughput and therefore expensive online storage (usually SSD or fast SAS hard disk based NAS or SAN connectivity) to secondary extended online, which is less frequently accessed with relaxed latency and throughput requirements, but built with greater resiliency for longer term retention (e.g. object or cloud storage), or even to tertiary low cost and often vaulted off-site storage (magnetic tape). This can dramatically reduce the costs to store the content while providing greater flexibility for re-use and greater content protection compared to a single tier of generic or monolithic storage.

The true economic benefits come when workflow storage is integrated with automatic migration and recall of content from one type of storage to another so that no additional staff time is required to manage the content across all storage types and all workflow stages. With monolithic or generic network storage there is often only a single type of storage and it may require third–party data management applications and/or manual steps. This can increase the basic cost of the monolithic or generic network storage and make it difficult to find and restore content when it is needed with a non–optimized storage management system.

Finally, process value includes not only the initial cost of acquiring the initial solution, but also the longer term cost of the solution as it grows or scales to meet new needs.

Creative Value

Creative value measures how much work or how good a job a creative team can do using a particular solution in a certain period of time. The more work, or the better the work a creative team can do in the same period of time, the more projects they can do and the better those projects turn out. This can result in more revenue that a facility can earn from taking on additional creative projects or producing higher quality content with greater demand.

In a newsroom workflow, creative value is manifested in retrieving managed assets faster, and getting stories to air faster. In a post-production workflow, creative professionals can spend the time they have allocated for a project to focus on their creative effort rather than manually managing their workflow. In both scenarios, the content owner benefits by having a better creative product, which can translate into more revenue.

Here’s an example: Dropped frames during editing result in glitches in video playback, leading to repeated playback that slows down creative work. If we assume 1 dropped frame every hour, playback of a 5­minute clip would result in 5 minutes of repeat playback per hour. This means 5 minutes of lost productivity by the media professional every hour, which is 40 minutes of lost productivity every day. This lost time could be used to get more work done or to do higher-quality work, without frustrating the operator with glitches that impact creative work.

With workflow-optimized storage, delivery of video frames to the underlying applications will be deterministic, predictable and 100% accurate.

Content Lifecycle Value

Content lifecycle value generates value by intelligently managing and controlling content over time. Content assets only have value to the extent that they can be easily found, retrieved and utilized, either as part of new content packages or as remonetized existing assets distributed on new distribution platforms.

Building an easily navigable, readily retrievable content library makes the owned content far more valuable, and much more attractive to prospective customers and content licensors, thereby increasing the annuity revenue of managed content.

Workflow–optimized storage helps you make sure that you can find assets and that the right assets are where they need to be. There is a time value to this consideration but there is also an even greater value in predictability and manageability-­knowing what assets you have and making sure they are where they need to be so they are ready for rapid re­use.

In comparison with generic storage infrastructure composed of different storage types that cannot leverage a unifying intelligence layer, e.g. NAS and Tape, management of content requires multiple copies of files and it is often not clear where content resides or how quickly it can be recovered for reuse.

Content value provides a higher return of knowledge and management of content over the lifetime of the asset. If an asset can be managed and available indefinitely, it can be used for ongoing monetization and can thus generate ongoing revenue streams. These factors can also lead to additional productivities beyond those of the creative value alone. Content owners with a generic storage infrastructure risk missing revenue opportunities due to the inability to locate and retrieve desired content.


A Fully-Optimized Workflow Storage Environment


A Storage Area Network (SAN) when combined with intelligent workflow-optimized software managing the movement of content across the stages of workflow provides the greatest efficiency for high performance storage needs and delivers it at the lowest cost. This solution allows an optimization of all three type of value in order to simultaneously deliver process value, creative value and content lifecycle value in a single system.

A properly managed SAN can span different types of storage that may require different performance and efficiency characteristics for streaming, rendering, and archive steps, thereby allowing more rich content to be accessed throughout the workflow as efficiently as possible no matter where the actual file resides–thus delivering faster production times and a greater creative return on the investment.

 

  • The lowest level is the basic block based storage network hardware, where the actual data resides. At this level a fibre channel block based storage hardware provides fast basic access and delivery of content managed by the higher layers.

  • The next level up is the file system that combines the delivered block content to create the working content files.

  • Above the file system is the workflow intelligence layer. This layer contains the API software available to all stages of the production workflow, allowing access and use of lower level capabilities as well as content management, content optimization and general media awareness.

  • The final and top layer is the solution layer, typically the primary user interface to their creative workflow. This is the traditional Media Asset Management (MAM) or Production Automation Management (PAM) layer. The capabilities of this layer are enhanced by the use of block-based optimized content delivery as well as the media intelligence in layer 3.


Each building block in the overall environment brings value to the entire workflow. The highest value is realized when all levels work together in delivering process, creative and content lifecycle value.


Conclusion


The all-digital content workflow must be prepared to meet the challenge of ever–higher resolution content and a multiplying number of delivery formats. Monetization of content requires a workflow storage system that can cope with various demands including the ability to scale out for capacity or scale up for more performance. This workflow-optimized storage must have the ability to accommodate a mix of content enhancement steps common in video workflows including ingest, editing, finishing and QA, all delivered in the most efficient way possible.


 Purpose–built workflow-optimized storage delivers value throughout the entire production workflow in many ways. It saves time, it eliminates costly human errors and it allows the creative users to focus their valuable time on core creative pursuits that yield more revenue to the organization rather than waste their time on manual and unpredictable content workflow steps. Purpose–built intelligent workflow storage extracts more Process Value, Creative Value and Content Value with the same staff and facility, over the entire managed lifecycle of the content produced.
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