Archive eXchange format (AXF) explained


S. Merrill Weiss TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
by S Merrill Weiss
Issue 85 - January 2014
The proprietary nature of archive storage long has made it challenging for content producers and owners to exchange archive files and media between systems. Thus, when faced with the need either to migrate archives to new generations of storage technology or to consolidate archives, media companies have been forced to undertake exacting and costly custom software development to facilitate the transfer of archives between systems and media types or generations.

To minimize the costs, avoid the danger of archives being orphaned upon the end of support for the systems that created them, and to enable transfers of archives between systems with only a single software structure being required, the Archive eXchange Format (AXF) was created as a common format that enables interchange of media and interoperability among content storage systems. AXF ensures the long-term availability and utility of digital content as both storage and file system technologies evolve. AXF offers a mechanism by which users can store an unlimited number and variety of files within a single wrapper. Independent of any particular archive system, the resulting AXF Object can be stored on any kind of medium and migrated easily from one media type or generation to another. Because AXF Objects are both self-contained and self-describing, assets are formatted in a way that makes them readily retrievable over time.

AXF includes a well-defined metadata storage structure that supports a uniform approach to integration of archive systems with other key systems such as automation, editing, color correction, and traffic systems. Serving as a lingua franca between systems, none of which need to have AXF as a native format, AXF gives media organizations a much faster and less-expensive way to establish interoperability and to realize their ability to interchange archived files.

All of these valuable capabilities are part of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) AXF standard, ST 2034-1, Part 1 of a suite of documents defining and describing AXF. Now in the final stages of adoption, this standard represents a tremendous step forward in establishing a universal storage format, abstracted from the applications that create Archive Objects and the hardware and software platforms that support the applications. Already, a number of well-established media organizations are implementing AXF within their operations.
Any type of content may be included in an AXF Object, which may be stored on any kind of medium or in the cloud. This gives media organizations enormous flexibility now and in the future. In the realm of professional content creation, to consider one example, an AXF Object might include a million frames of Digital Picture eXchange (DPX) content, a Material eXchange Format (MXF) file including edited image and audio content, an Excel spreadsheet including the project budget, a Word document including the script, an Access database with information on locations and props, and even executable files that serve as second-screen apps running on tablets alongside the content or functioning as games promoting the finished product. All of these elements, along with metadata and provenance information, can be reliably extracted from AXF Objects with ease.

AXF provides numerous services such as Spanning, which enables storage of a single AXF Object on multiple media, thereby effectively eliminating capacity constraints of any given media type. Spanning allows for flexible and cost-effective scaling of storage resources. Thus, a content owner conceivably could store an entire 8K cinema production within a single AXF Object.

Collected Sets are an extension of the Spanning concept. They facilitate changes to the payload files associated with an AXF Object through additions, substitutions, and deletions of files through compilation of Product Objects that represent later versions of an AXF Object. Thus, for example, a caption file in another language could be added, an audio file could be replaced with a new one, and an obsolete application could be deleted from the Product Object. Since all members of a Collected Set are retained, complete with all of the files that constituted the set at all stages of its life, any version of the Product Object can be recreated at any time. The Collected Set concept effectively permits updating of AXF Objects even on write-once media.
Redundancy of information in the structural elements of AXF Objects helps to assure that, even if a storage medium is damaged and the structures used to wrap content are lost, content remains recoverable to the maximum extent possible. An added advantage of AXF is that it supports the recovery of content without requiring the original archive system. It is planned for SMPTE to distribute AXF utilities that will enable extraction of content stored in AXF Objects on any hardware platform, operating system, and file system. While the use of an archive management system would be preferable, such utilities will offer an ultimate preservation backup.

Further SMPTE standards work will focus on workflow and the extended capture and use of metadata. ST 2034-1, Part 2, will expand the usability of the XML schema to allow its use to facilitate production activities and to enable it to flow through the entire workflow process to the AXF-aware archive system, which could then recognize data and use it to populate structures within the AXF object. Once Part 2 is complete, then SMPTE will finalize ST 2034-1, Part 3, the Recommended Practice (RP) that guides AXF implementation.

S. Merrill Weiss is a consultant in electronic media technology and technology management. In a 47+ year career, he has spent over 37 years involved in work on SMPTE standards. He participated in the earliest work on digital television and has been responsible for organizing or chairing many SMPTE technology-development and standards efforts since. Among other duties, he served four years as Engineering Director for Television; he co-chaired the joint SMPTE/EBU Task Force; and he currently chairs the Working Group on AXF. Weiss is a SMPTE Fellow and has received the SMPTE David Sarnoff Gold Medal and the Progress Medal. He also was a recipient of the NAB Television Engineering Achievement Award, the ATSC Bernard Lechner Outstanding Contributor Award, and the IEEE Matti S. Siukola Award twice. Weiss holds four U.S. and two international patents. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


Tags: iss085 | merrill weiss | axf | archive eXchange format | guide | explained | article | S. Merrill Weiss
Contributing Author S. Merrill Weiss

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Front Porch Digital at IBC 2014

    Front Porch Digital at IBC 2014

  • Guided Tour of the Polecam Stand at BVE 2016

    Guided Tour of the Polecam Stand at BVE 2016

  • Guided tour of the Global Distribution Stand at BVE 2016

    Guided tour of the Global Distribution Stand at BVE 2016

  • Guided tour of the Holdan Stand at BVE 2016

    Guided tour of the Holdan Stand at BVE 2016

  • PAG talk about flying with batteries at IBC 2014

    PAG talk about flying with batteries at IBC 2014

  • TMD talk workflow on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

    TMD talk workflow on BroadcastShow LIVE at IBC 2013

  • Triveni Digital at NAB 2012

    Triveni Digital at NAB 2012

  • Robotic bulk ingest of DigiBeta media explained with Spot and Spin at NAB 2019

    Robotic bulk ingest of DigiBeta media explained with Spot and Spin at NAB 2019


Related Shows
  • Talking Streaming with Stream UK: BVE Day 3

    Talking Streaming with Stream UK: BVE Day 3


Articles
Making the Workflow Flow
Bruce Devlin - new The toughest things about being the Standards Vice President (SVP) is that everyone expects standards to be the most important thing. In all the systems that I’ve designed and deployed over the years, I've yet to find any production workflow that is 100% standards based. True, the core technologies may well be standards based, but the overall workflow is made up of many technology pieces from open source code, through de-facto delivery specifications based upon SMPTE or Trade Association Specifications that in turn depend on full, International Standards to work. I can already hear some folks saying "In the good old days, everything used standards", but I beg to disagree.
Tags: iss138 | pye museum | pye-philips | smpte | ietf | ieee | w3c | aes | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read or download PDF
Centre Stage for Cameras with All About Eve
Anthony Newton Taking its inspiration from the classic 1950 film, Ivo van Hove’s stage production of All About Eve, starring Gillian Anderson as theatre darling, Margo Channing, and Lily James as the eponymous Eve, retains the themes of ageing, celebrity and obsession. The piece, produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and Fox Stage Productions garnered stellar reviews during its recent run at London’s Noel Coward Theatre.
Tags: iss138 | blackmagic design | micro studio camera | ronin | smartscope duo | Anthony Newton
Contributing Author Anthony Newton Click to read or download PDF
How the Womens World Cup was Boosted by Broadcast
John Griffiths As we write this article, England’s Lionesses have just beaten Norway 3-0 and are smashing viewing figure records, with 6.9 million viewers tuning in to watch them play Cameroon on BBC One. Rewind to the previous World Cup in 2015, and England’s group and early stage knockout games tempted up to 2.5 million viewers for each match. It’s safe to say that women’s football is finally having its moment; what was perhaps once considered a niche sport is finally gaining momentum in the mainstream space with broadcasters giving it the attention it deserves.
Tags: iss138 | wwc | world cup | spicymango | diversity | John Griffiths
Contributing Author John Griffiths Click to read or download PDF
Make Time for Remapping
Alex Macleod For my 4th Kitplus article I thought I’d highlight an effect in Premiere Pro that frankly I would be lost without. Namely - time remapping.
Tags: iss138 | premiere pro | post production | editing | speed remapping | remapping | mediacity training | Alex Macleod
Contributing Author Alex Macleod Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation: Wings, Fine Coffee and Fake Nudes
Dick Hobbs - new One of the many attractions of this time of year is that I get to meet with my fellow judges for the IBC Innovation Awards, and see what the industry sees as the most important, most forward-looking projects of the day. For me, this says what the key talking points are going to be in September, far more eloquently than the endless press releases from vendors which are already tumbling into my inbox.
Tags: iss138 | ibc | smpte 2110 | deepnude | cisco | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF