Implications of a Tapeless workflow


The rise of ‘Tapeless Workflows’ is dramatically changing the way broadcasters and post-production facilities protect the content they are working on or own.
The traditional workflow relies on tapes to record and protect information, usually stored on a shelf to be used again if necessary. However, due to changes in technology and the demands of an online age this tape-based workflow is becoming increasingly redundant. Producers and clients want their content immediately, which is not so easily arranged if the clip required is stuck in a vault hundreds of meters under the streets of London.
In a digital (tapeless) workflow assets are created digitally, ingested and then processed on the network without the need for creating physical copies. Whereas once the “tape vs digital” workflow arguments raged, the fact that many manufacturers are entirely dropping tape-based camera ranges in favour of digital based ones is forcing the issue. With a digital workflow there isn’t a tape to put on the shelf.
When working with digital information it is important to take into account the following two maxims:
1. If you do not have two copies you do not have it.
2. If you can’t find it you do not have it.
Those maxims lead to challenges that need to be successfully addressed, such as: What tools are available to enable the Data Wrangler (or D.I.T) to ensure multiple authentic copies of the rushes are protected in a resilient fashion? Where can the post facility temporarily keep the mass of footage that comes with every job and how can those assets be tracked? How can the company’s (often expensive) production servers and storage (SAN - Storage Area Network) be kept free from overloading and/or overflowing?
And ultimately, since there isn’t a tape to keep anymore, what data should be kept, how should it be stored and how do I track it?
The problem of multiple secure copies of content is being addressed by the emergence of “Pre-production” archives. A pre-production archive is a scalable and highly secure disk based platform to place data until it is required for editing on the SAN platform. It places an emphasis on data resilience and data security combined with fast data access. However, it is not required to provide the speed of access that comes with production servers and storage (SAN), which, e.g., may need to deliver uncompressed HD in real time.
A “Nearline archive” is later used to store assets after they have been edited on the SAN until the final cut and archiving takes place. Thus it allows the SAN to remain lean and mean. A nearline archive is an excellent place to keep a library of useful assets that can be accessed at the click of a button and re-purposed into different parts of the same production or into new productions altogether. This can significantly increase productivity over tape, especially in workflows where tapes need to be manually pulled off shelves.
An example of a pre-production and nearline archive is “The MatrixStore” from Object Matrix. Using The MatrixStore, digital assets are stored on state of the art server hardware with powerful software to provide an easy to use, scalable, secure and cost effective method of archiving multimedia projects. Archives are always available at the touch of a button, and the ease of installation and use mean that businesses are free to concentrate on their core competencies.
Another, very important piece of the puzzle is the ability to track the hundreds or thousands of assets that make up a production. Increasingly organisations are turning to Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions like Final Cut Server from Apple or CatDV from Square Box. These applications can help to simplify, streamline and automate the digital workflow process allowing more time to be spend on the creative process and less on file management. DAM applications manage the location and status of assets whilst adding the ability to tag the content with meaningful meta-data so it can be easily found at a later date.
Where there is seamless integration between DAM applications and archive platforms it is possible to move content into the archive with a single click of a button. This is key as most production facilities to not have the in-house expertise to manage large volumes of data.
Moving to later stages in the digital workflow, the answer to the question of how to archive data when there is no tape to put on a shelf largely depends on the organisation storing the data: Are there a number of requirements to re-use data? Is there a commercial reason for requiring fast access? In cases like those, fast, readily available access to data would point to keeping the data in an “online” digital archive.
Having complete access to archive material can provide the ability to generate new programming using legacy content. Not only does this save valuable time and money spent searching for the correct piece of footage in a vast tape library, but it can also dramatically improve the time devoted to the actual program development, rather than administrative procedures. In a recent blog article Jonathan Schwartz (ex Sun CEO) recalled a conversation with a Hollywood studio executive:
“His company had recently pulled a more than fifty year old movie out of a salt mine - where it was stored on 35mm film color separations...They pulled the separations to remaster and reissue the film on DVD... After release of the digitally remastered version, the DVD rose to number 8 on the Amazon best seller list.”
Protecting your assets in an online disk-based archive ensures this type of exercise in content re-use is relatively simple to execute.
In summary, a digital workflow enables new efficiencies for creative organisations to benefit from the value of keeping all assets live and just a mouse click away. Digital workflows are a paradigm shift that is revolutionising the way creative professionals conduct business not because tape cannot do a job, but because efficiencies, speed and revenue opportunities of digital workflows are essential to business survival and growth.

Tags: tapeless workflow | object matrix | iss034 | protection | asset | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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