TV-BAY August 13 issue 80

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LTFS 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 management systems. 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 the broadcaster. 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.