A guide to understand what a MAM system is
Why do you need a MAM system?
A guide to understand what a MAM system is
Nowadays, competitiveness within Broadcast and Media industries has grown to a point where every second is paramount in content creation and production. Therefore, it is impossible to understand the Broadcast, Audiovisual and Media & Entertainment industries without paying attention to one of the most crucial tools to its daily operations: the Media Asset Management (MAM) systems.
At VSN we want to offer a general vision on this technology, paying attention to how the rise of new video files, with different formats and aimed at different platforms has created a complex environment that makes it necessary for media companies to correctly manage every media asset and automate repetitive tasks as much as possible in order to increase efficiency and avoid mistakes
What is a MAM system and how can it help your business?
To begin with, let’s first define the concept of a MAM. A Media Asset Management (MAM) system is a tool that manages, organizes and catalogues any type of assets of a company in a centralized way, with the possibility of associating them one or several files and customized metadata to ease the content searching, retrieving and distribution tasks.
At this point, to fully understand Media Asset Management (MAM) technologies, we need to have a clear knowledge of what media assets are and why it is key to have a MAM tool to manage them. So, what is an asset?
In its most basic definition, an asset is a resource. Let’s see some examples. For any person, an asset could be a house, a car, definitely any good that someone appreciates and wants to keep in a safe place, use for gaining a profit, sell or even share with others. In the industry, assets are goods or values on which every business depends for its daily work. For example, in a building factory the assets could be the workers, the raw material, the machinery, etc.
Obviously, every company has different ways of keeping and taking care of its assets. In the broadcast sector, an asset could be a movie that you buy from some producer; an advertising campaign that you generate for selling more units of your product; news stories created by journalists in the newsroom; ingest of raw footage for editing… Now even closed captions and subtitles, too, have become primary assets.
All these assets need to be managed as well, placed in a safe location, with specific permissions, specific metadata to have a complete description of them and of course, they have to be ready for being searched and distributed at any time and from anywhere. In fact, in a multiplatform world like the one in which we live nowadays, an asset sometimes is a more complicated concept. For example, instead of an asset being just one single episode that needs to go on air at a specific time, it could actually be several episodes or an entire series.
Generally, all assets need to be managed and protected, in order to extract the most value from them. That’s why it is key for companies to count with the best and most advanced systems to handle and correctly manage their own assets.
Now going back to talking about MAM systems, what advantages does the use of a MAM
give to companies?
- Precise media files cataloguing using custom metadata fields.
- Advanced Searches based on search rules/criteria to have quick access to any media content, at anytime and anywhere.
- Increased Interoperability. The MAM system is the core of every deployment. That is why it is extremely important to rely on an open system that can be integrated with third-party technology and be customized to meet any specific requirement that users may have.
- Increased revenue since more content quality and more efficiency in the management of resources make audiovisual companies more profitable.
Some words about Metadata
We have been talking about the importance of the metadata for the correct management, cataloguing and recovering of digital files. At this point, the natural question before talking about MAM is: what is Metadata?
Metadata is “data about data”, that is, information that allows us to descriptively know data regarding certain file or content and that eases its identification, description and classification, optimizing its management.
Let’s see an example. Let’s imagine that we work for a sports channel and that we are editing a video about a goal scored by Messi in the World Cup. Together with the editing process, we can introduce information related to that video, in the form of tags, that will help us to find it in the future if needed. In this case the metadata that we could associate to this video is: Messi goal, World Cup 2018, Argentinian national team, Lionel Messi, far away goal… We could even automatically detect metadata from the media file, such as its duration, quality, format, objects, emotions, etc.
In this way, if in the future one of our colleagues is making a documentary about this football player, it will only be necessary to put in the search field of its management system keywords such as Messi or goal Messi, in order to immediately find this video (and similar others), saving time and resources and increasing the quality of the final results. That is, the metadata associated to media digital files allow us to identify, describe and catalogue content.
As a conclusion, the more metadata, the more valuable your content management tool and archive are. Metadata has become one of the most important aspects of content management, and it has a crucial role in the distribution of content between Broadcast and Media & Entertainment companies. That’s why its correct design, implementation and development are essential in a world that is being flooded with digital content. Metadata is no longer a technical requirement, but a business and operative one. And, as we will see in the following lines, a MAM system uses metadata to find, manage and distribute the media, making it very important for a company.
Asset management through history
If we go back in time, during the 80’s after the disappearance of the magnetic tapes, the media assets were usually contained in Betacam tapes, and located in some shelves inside one (or more than one) building. Obviously, as soon as the audiovisual material increases, it becomes impossible to track where the content is, and furthermore, using tapes means having a dependency on the technologic support, with the consequent risk of the obsolescence of technology or the deterioration of the tapes. At this point, some primitive MAM systems began to be shown at the NAB meetings (National Association of Broadcasters) around 1995-1996.
The implementation of such a revolutionary and complex system as MAM is difficult to date accurately. However, it seems to be agreed that the very first system to be tested on a significant TV station was Sony/EDS at the well-known US news channel CNN, at CNN-Center, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The project started in June 1998, and the technology was so new that it did not have even a commercial name back then. In fact, at the end of 90’s started the digitalization from tape to file thanks to the possibilities offered by these new technologies. From this moment, we are entering into the “tapeless” world, where tapes will start to be substituted with digital files. It is the time also when the name MAM (Media Asset Management) would start becoming prevalent to refer to this type of systems.
Due to all the challenges that came with the transition from tape to digital, Media Asset Management systems started to spread in the Broadcast industry at the beginning of the 21st century to manage the new digital content. And nowadays, these systems are familiar to all of us in some way. We all process digital assets (files) following a system of folders’ structure, labels or hierarchies.
In this scenario of a digital environment managed by MAM systems, one of the new challenges that appeared from 2010 on is that all the material has to be stored in a physical place (Optical Disk Archives, LTO’s, etc.) and not all the companies want to assume the cost of acquiring and maintaining this infrastructure. That’s why more and more, companies are looking for Cloud solutions and MAM systems that can actually be deployed in these, providing advanced protocols for transferring content between the clients and the storages located in Cloud.
During the last years, the MAM has stopped being a simple archiving and content management tool but it has become the heart and soul of most actions and procedures within a media company. For instance, a MAM is crucial for the multisite and multiplatform access and distribution of content, whether that is on an OTT platform, Web TV or a social media channel. In addition, we live in an era were the more automation, the better. Thanks to the increased development of advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence engines, now MAM systems can automate many more tasks, such as metadata detection and cataloguing or workflow automation to avoid repetitive tasks.
And we have to be ready for the future because the industry keeps changing very quickly.
10 + 1 requirements of an advanced MAM system
- Ingest and transcoding: The MAM system is the organizer and manager of the media assets of a company. That is why it must be able to control those assets from the very moment of their ingest in the system. It must also be capable of changing the format of those files (transcode them) depending on the needs of each moment or system that we are planning to use afterwards during the production, editing, delivery and broadcast processes.
- File cataloguing, retrieval and distribution: In order to save time and resources, it is essential to have all files correctly organized and easy-to- access in order to offer a clear and transparent vision of the resources of a company and allow their use when necessary. For this, the cataloguing process is paramount and for sure, one of the key features that a MAM system needs to include. The better a MAM system is prepared for cataloguing media (either manually or automatically), the better it will be our performance.
- Rights management: Users from a single company have different needs, so their access to the system and resources must be correctly administered. A good permissions’ management allows to organize users, departments and hierarchies in an efficient and productive way.
- Cloud ready: An HTML / web interface with a fast and reliable transfer system such as VSN’s acceleration protocol in IP networks, is crucial to install the whole system (MAM in Cloud) or part of it (Hybrid Cloud) in cloud platforms.
- Automatic metadata detection: The integration with Artificial Intelligence engines is not a mandatory requirement of a MAM system but nowadays, it is becoming a key tool for media companies. Essentially, it allows for the automatic and comprehensive detection of metadata directly from the media, advanced content search and advanced transcoding to multiple formats in the Cloud. It also facilitates content moderation (automatic adult content detection, blurring faces, etc.), content identification through digital footprints, and association of additional information based on metadata, among other features.
- Security: Assets are the most valuable resources in an audiovisual company. Their management must be carried out with the most strict security protocols, in order to avoid losses or damages, and with the adequate encryption of the content, to keep it safe at all times.
- Multiplatform access and distribution: Multiplicity of platforms and screens is a consolidated technological trend. That ́s why an organization with a multisite and multi platform MAM, which is also integrated with the main social media (such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc) and with non-linear platforms (such as WebTV, OTT, VOD, etc), is key to access and distribute content directly from the media management system and be able to get the most from its assets in all possible devices and platforms.
- Maximum search features: For a broadcast company, it is essential to locate in a fast and comfortable way all its media assets. A tool for quick and advanced searching allows to save time and to access every asset when it is needed, without losing time.
- Customizable data models: Different clients have different needs. Classification for areas and the chance to determine different metadata layers depending on the type of asset make it possible to define the system as if it were custom- made, increasing their efficiency and productivity.
- Scalable: When choosing a MAM system it is necessary to be sure that it can grow as the business grows. If not, the risk of having to replace it in the future is very high and costly. That’s why a scalable system is not only very beneficial, but sometimes also a crucial component to evaluate.
- Open architecture: We need to take into account that MAM systems are becoming the core of all broadcast and media companies, being the technology in charge of managing all video and media files that are being used, produced and broadcasted or distributed from a facility. Therefore, another key aspect of a MAM is to, of course, be able to easily integrate all the existing systems of a client’s facilities, in order to become the ‘orchestra director’ of all workflows taking place in them, making sure that we will not experience any problem or error when transferring all the information and files from one system to the other.
Our MAM, VSNExplorer
Owning a powerful and robust Media Asset Management (MAM) system has become a major need in order to survive in today’s industry. VSN, conscious of that need, has developed a VSNExplorer MAM, perfectly adapted to the new challenges that companies face in this new context. A MAM that is prepared to get the best from the cloud environment, with a web interface accessible from any location, a safe and secure file exchange system, advanced ingest features, metadata detection, cataloguing, search and archiving capabilities, easy-to-integrate with third-party systems and the main video editors in the market, multi-site and multi-platform for a quick distribution of content, and scalable to grow as the user’s needs and business grow.
To sum up, VSNExplorer makes technology an ally so that professionals in this creative industry can be as efficient as possible and focus on what they do best: creating.
If you would like to have access to the full version of this White Paper and to know in depth the history of MAM systems, the advantages that VSNExplorer MAM can offer to your business, and the opinion of our experts, complete the form below to get your copy.
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