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Redefining the archive
by Raj Patel, Product Manager, SGL
T he entire broadcast workflow has changed dramatically
in recent years. Predictably, it’s been a slow-process.
The enormity of transitioning from an analogue to a digital
workflow is huge for a variety of reasons - planning, testing,
implementation and budget, can mean some installations taking up
to two years to complete. There are instances where a new digital infrastructure
is in place but the facility continues to use tried and tested analogue workflows,
somehow unaware of the potential that’s now available to them. Almost as if
there is a fear of embracing change or lack of understanding as to how they can
fully utilise the system to create new workflows.
However, as broadcasters and content facilities make this transition,
opportunities do arise for new ways of working, ways that take time to evolve.
One of the biggest evolutions happening at the moment in the industry is in the
role of the archive. For many years a last thought for broadcasters, the archive
is often envisaged as the dusty, musty element at the end of the broadcast chain
where material ends up once all the bells and whistles have been added and it’s
been aired. Archived material sits there quietly in the background until someone
needs to use it again after which it’s put back on the ‘shelf’. Until recently, like
many other elements of the broadcast chain the archive was a fairly closed
system: data was written to the media archive in a proprietary format, which
meant there was no interoperability between systems from different vendors.
Additionally, archive libraries could generally only be controlled by archive
Not any more. With the successful take-up of LTFS, broadcasters and content
owners have true interoperability between what were once disparate systems.
Now material can be acquired directly to disk and then dragged and dropped
to data tape and transported back to the facility. This removes the need to
re-ingest content to the archive and also enables large amounts of data to be
transported and archived on a single LTO tape. This type of workflow is just as
valid on location as it is in a production facility. To banish the ‘end of the line’
archive message, once the tape has been loaded into the archive, duplicate
copies can be made automatically to back-up the valuable material. The archive
system can also automatically copy the content to a disk portion of the archive
so that craft editors can start working with the material as swiftly as possible.
This places the ‘archive’ much further forward in the production process
alongside the ingest element of the chain. Instead of ingesting in the traditional
sense, the material can now be moved directly into the LTFS archive. We can
see how the archive begins to shake off the dusty tag, to create a more cool
way of working.
So how did we get to this point? How did the archive leap from the back to the
front of the broadcast chain and how does the MAM system know what’s been
ingested into the archive?
LTO has grown to become one of, if not the de-facto tape format installed
in tape libraries by broadcast-centric organisations implementing tape (and
52 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 80 AUGUST 2013
disk)-based archives. What has to be
kept in mind is that LTFS is not a file
format or even a wrapper. It’s a way of
writing data to standard, off-the-shelf
IT storage media. It presents an open
standard for broadcasters to provide
real interoperability between systems.
Any tape written according to the LTFS
specification can be read by any other
system using the same specification.
As for the MAM system knowing
what’s arrived, intelligent archives can
quickly read the index information from
an LTFS-formatted tape (that may, for
example, have been used on location
to capture material directly from HD
camera or intermediate disks) and
directly assign UIDs to the content,
populate the archive database and
generate a low-resolution proxy
(used for editing). Using a simple
subscription setup, a Notification
Service then announces the arrival
of the new material to the controlling
MAM system and pushes relevant data
to the MAM describing the archived
material based on rules selected by
With all this in mind perhaps an archive
really is no longer just an archive but
what name should we give it? Answers
on a tweet please @SGLFlashNet.