Saturday, October 25th, 2014

IBM and Fox Networks win Emmy Award

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 Oct 24, 2011 - Armonk, NY - We had the chance to talk to IBM about their recent work in media workflow and infrastructure that earned them an Engineering Emmy® Award for Innovation from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The work was started over 5 years ago at the start of the digital workflow transition from film to file based. At this same time, the large data set issue of HD capture and live broadcast was also addressed and integrated into the flow.

The challenge of HD broadcast, both live and archive for editing/capture, is that the environment needs high performance IT infrastructure that addresses metadata search, analytics, high speed data streams, and storage/recovery methods. The system started in early 2000 with its first integrated file based workflow that did the large object management with DB2 and Java. Fox utilized this system for broadcasts of the NFL then MLB moving to NASCAR and finally American Idol. The flow took the feed directly to tape and were manually put into the broadcast. Now that the system is automated on Intel based servers with custom middle-ware, the data is parsed directly to LTO (Linear Tape Open format) tape. This tape is managed by a robot that resides at the broadcast truck that creates and captures the content entry data and image type (std, slow-motion, HD, etc) as metadata at the time of the LTO write. This effort took about 5-6 years.

In the second phase of the project, about 4-5 years in duration, the systems were optimized for the economics of tape with a throughput and workflow of disk. The basis was the use of 1.5TB tapes utilizing the LTFS (Linear Tape File System format) subsystem directly in the broadcast environment. LTFS allows for indexing of the contents of the tape in a early portion of the tape and / or caching this index in system memory to allow for direct access to contents on a tape rather than streaming the entire tape to find a sub-portion. This methodology was used to create a new open API tech and workflow. The open interface allows for direct storage in the network input from multiple data streams of different formats, that can be tagged and separated by format. The open interface allows for parallel development of source interfaces from new equipment, cameras, and legacy data sources. The LTFS structure also allows for the partial restore of data from tape.

By standardizing on the technology this way, Fox can utilize open-standard, file-based tape in all aspects of production, post-production and distribution functions - displacing costly proprietary tape formats and/or disk subsystems. Using this solution will allow media companies with the consumer equivalent of having their entire library of DVDs online and available at any time, and the ability to go to a specific scene, in any movie, instantly as they would if it were all managed as live rotating HDD. This also allows for the same cost of workflow and data storage for SD and HD content. Per Linda Hunt of IBM “ For example, Fox {has} achieved a 19-1 improvement in recording costs, and eliminated the use of manual tape handling as it migrated to this open standard environment.”


This new tape methodology addresses one of the key issues of digital workflows which is reliability and detection. The LTFS system has the same low BER and archive lifecycle as LTO and provides the workflow access of disk, which has had some long term storage isseus.

The Media Enterprise Framework is an SOA model for IBM. There are several classes of services and with the open architecture being standardized, customers can both develop custom interfaces and deployment solutions or known tested configurations. The framework is compatible with both local data center/server configuraiton and cloud configurations. In the cloud, there are low cost alternatives to support low cost physical duplication of the data which is key for live sports and events, which do not have the opportunity to “recapture” action.

The Media Enterprise Framework is currently available and support SD, HD formats and is also 4K/2K compatible. Steve Canepa, General Manager, IBM Global Media & Entertainment Industry said “The media and entertainment industry is experiencing a fundamental transformation which requires innovative new approaches, We’re proud to be working closely with the industry to capture both the cost-advantages and workflow benefits enabled by standards-based IT technologies across all aspects of production, post-production and distribution.”. The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recently released it 2011 estimates that the copyright industry added over $930 billion in value to the U.S. economy, almost 6.4% of the total GDP. This sector is based on studies tracking the economic impact and contributions of U.S. industries creating, producing, and distributing theatrical films, TV programming, home video, DVDs, business software, entertainment software, books and journals, music and sound recordings. The majority of these content styles can be managed by this framework.

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