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NAB 2010: It's All About the Workflow
Despite the buzz about 3D TV, the true star of the show was workflow automation, as exemplified in new releases from ViewCast, Telestream, and Microsoft

The lovely, seasonably cool weather in Las Vegas during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show this week was balanced out by scorching competition on the NAB show floor for dominance of broadcast and streaming workflow automation.

ViewCast VMp
ViewCast showed off its Video Management Platform (VMp), which is a web-driven tool with live, production and portal modules.

Jeff Kopang, ViewCast's VP of sales, called VMp a "lightweight content and asset management system" during a show floor demonstration. The content management system descriptor is accurate, given the platform's ability to not only control devices and store content and metadata, but also to play the content out.

"The portal is YouTube for the enterprise," said Kopang. "Using our web-based user interface, VMp Portal allows the standard upload, tag, search, and share options for content."

The portal, which is API accessible, doesn't just display video and audio. VMp Portal will allow viewing of images and multimedia content alongside audio and video.

The portal's ability to publish content to other systems, as well as corporate web sites, is built on top of VMp Production.

VMp Production handles the ingest of content, but again goes beyond just audio and video to include still images, Adobe Acrobat, and Microsoft Office documents as well as a number of other document types.

These assets are scoured for metadata, which in turn can be used to search via the portal.

One level beneath that is VMp Live, which is used to control ViewCast Niagara encoders. With the launch of ViewCast's SCX 6.2 management control software, VMp Live allows for scheduling (in list or calendar form) of any live encoding asset on the network. Once the encode is scheduled, complete with the option to archive and stream the live event, information about these events can be exported to a local calendar by any end user.

Once a live event stream is complete, users can also view the archived version from the same list or calendar that was used for the initial scheduling.

"VMp Live can manage and operate any number of video encoders," said Kopang, adding that the centralized automation allows "basic tasks such as start/stop encoding, assign encoding profiles and record feeds to be triggered manually or automatically based on pre-defined schedules."

Telestream Vantage
Telestream announced its Vantage automation solution, which the company bills as an "enterprise-class software solution that integrates silos of digital video processing into a single managed workflow." The company has a history of working with watch folders and other forms of ad-hoc automation with its FlipFactory line and, more recently, with the desktop encoding software, Episode.

Episode has been turned into a cross-platform stand-alone or server-based mid-level transcoding solution, but the real work the company has done over the past two years has been around Vantage.

"Vantage allows users to design and automate any number or type of video workflows," said Barb DeHart, VP of marketing for Telestream. She demonstrated the modular approach that Vantage employs, and talked about how Vantage is geared toward enterprises who want to migrate from ad-hoc to more formal IT and video workflows.

Vantage consists of modules for video capture, transcoding, analysis, quality control, metadata processing, graphics assembly, and video file management. Like Viewcast VMp, Vantage is split into three segments: Workflow, Analysis, and Transcode.

"IT video workflows are getting more pervasive, so it is important for a nimble workflow to accelerate cycle time through automated processes that are proactive and not just reactive," said Mukul Krishna, global director, digital media at Frost & Sullivan, in a Telestream press release,

Microsoft
Microsoft also showed off several interesting workflow solutions in its booth, a few of which touch the entire supply chain. We'll cover the integration of content management and the supply chain in more in depth in a future article, but three pieces of news bear repeating here.

First, Microsoft announced the release of Silverlight 4, with features such as content hardware protection (HDCP compliance for those in the know) that will supposedly force HDCP compliance across both Windows and Macintosh computers. The company also said it plans to release a version of Expression Encoder later this year capable of doing live Smooth Streaming from a standard desktop computer.

Second, Microsoft showed off an integration of business intelligence analytics with its SharePoint 2010 collaborative application, in which video workflow automations could be created within SharePoint for transcoding and approval of content prior to release. In addition, the workflow can be visually represented in a Visio flowchart, allowing for monitoring and visual confirmation of the various stages of the automated workflow, such as transcoding, review and approval.

Finally, Microsoft open-sourced its Rough Cut Editor, which rides on Silverlight and was used during the Vancouver Olympics. Several companies have implemented the rough-cut editor into their online video platforms (OVPs), including iStreamPlanet.

"Rough Cut Editor allows our users to create highlights from live content, prior to completion of the live event," said Bhavesh Upadhyaya, iStreamPlanet's VP of operations. "By integrating Silverlight RCE into our Video Workflow Automation Platform, our customers don't need to wait until a show is finished to edit and publish highlights, and they don't have to use an expensive editing system for simple rough edits."

The Rough Cut Editor also eliminates the need to transcode the content out of and back into Silverlight, creating instead a file combination of the back-to-back trimmed clips.

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