Anyone who accepts content from multiple suppliers knows that making sure it has arrived, then checking that what you’ve received is what you’re expecting, can be quite the headache. Nik Forman explores how we should let the systems take the strain.
As broadcasters access wider international distribution to satisfy OTT libraries and broadcast schedules, they need to control and automate the input of the content they receive into their broadcast operations. If you ever accept content from external providers, you’ll know from (possibly painful) experience that the process of acquisition and ingest has its own particular challenges.
They said they sent it but where is it?
Delivery mechanisms may vary from supplier to supplier. One may submit by couriered LTO tape, others via file transfer web site, and another into a shared environment. One or more team members has to be responsible for monitoring these various drop mechanisms, and you have to ensure that you deploy and maintain all required hardware or software transfer tools to accept all varieties.
Manual processes can consume a lot of resources
Once the content packages are received, an operator usually has to manually check that what has been delivered is as you require it. Despite detailed submission instructions, documentation and requirements, all too often content arrives that doesn’t comply with your stated requirements. Common submission issues include:
- Incorrect format/encoding/resolution/bitrate/wrapper
- Missing content (episodes etc)
- Missing language tracks or caption files
- Incomplete or missing metadata
- Incorrect naming conventions
When content has been checked, there are two possible next steps: if the content passes the compliance checks it is submitted to the asset management platform for the next step in the processing chain; or if it fails these checks, the supplier has to be notified, and a fix and re-submit request issued to them. Without automation, all of these steps can consume a significant amount of staffing resources. By automating all aspects of the submission and compliance-checking process, overheads are reduced, you and your teams don’t have to perform manual checks and notifications, and onboarding new suppliers and commission partners is easy.
Okay, so what does an automated system look like?
i) Access-controlled web portal
The key to saving on acquisition costs is standardisation throughout, and that begins with the delivery mechanism. A secure web portal provides both you and your suppliers with a consistent, always-available delivery location, and allows you to provide each supplier with their own login, through which they enter into their dedicated submission area. This allows you to tightly control access, and to monitor, record and auto-notify departments when individual suppliers log-in and submit programming.
ii) Templatized submission workflows
It’s likely that you’ll have different compliance workflows for different types of content that you receive; a different check-list for foreign language content, for example, than for domestic programming. An automated portal allows you to create specific templates for checking workflows, and to allocate a template to a submission location. In this way, all content submitted to portal X is subjected to a specific checklist, whereas portal Y material goes through a different set of requirement checks. And of course access to each of these specific areas is defined with the credentials applied to the user as they log in. And you can create templates for individual suppliers, for a specific season, or even for individual episode types.
iii) Easily configured checking workflows
An automated system allows you to pre-configure templates, each of which contains specific parameters to which content submitted must conform. These parameters can be file-based (size/name/codec/wrapper/bitrate/format/audio channels/languages etc), or metadata based (scripts, associated files, re-use rights, cast lists etc). When a template is assigned to a submission portal, all content has to conform to the parameters it contains. Of course, you may also wish to include some manual checks as part of the acquisition process, and the automated system should provide notification when content is available to do so.
iii) Automated notifications
Submitted content either passes the templatized checklist, or it doesn’t. In either case, the automated system should take care of the next step. For rejected content, automatic notifications are sent to the supplier, listing the status of the submission, and highlighting parameters which it failed to meet. If content successfully passes all checks, it is moved from the submission portal to the location required by the controlling application or media supply chain platform. Whether success or failure, the administrator receives appropriate notification.
Speaking of administration, the content acquisition platform should also provide real-time web-based reporting. This typically takes the form of user-configurable dashboards, which highlight content by status, or by submission or even production deadlines, with the ability to issue urgent alerts for content that is imminently required by other systems such as playout or delivery.
One of the key characteristics of the content acquisition platform is integration with the organization’s other systems. The ability to transfer content automatically from one location to another, to make copies in secure DR locations (cloud or on-premise), to transcode to multiple formats or even to submit the content to metadata generation services (such as facial recognition, speech to text etc provided by cloud providers like AWS and Azure) can save a huge amount of time and resources. But crucially, integration also applies the standardization that means correct content is always delivered exactly where it’s needed, in the right format, with all of the required supplementary files and information attached.
Kumulate Gateway is the content acquisition portal for the award-winning Kumulate video storage and content management platform. It provides secure delivery for suppliers, automated compliance checking, automatic notifications, and comprehensive reporting and administration via a simple and intuitive browser interface. Kumulate Gateway provides the entrance point to the Kumulate platform media supply chain, or can be implemented as an integration to 3rd party MAM systems.