Workflow Orchestration in the Content Supply Chain
“There are over seven and a half billion people in the world today. What challenges and opportunities does this hold for those of us in the content supply chain?”
Already, there are more mobile phones than there are people. And today it is hard to buy a mobile which is not a smartphone. When Apple launched their most expensive phone in 2019, the iPhone 11 Pro starting at a mere £1,049 ($1,099), the demand was so high Apple had to order an extra 8 million units from suppliers within 2 weeks of launch. And the annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) tempts us with an endless array of the latest gadgets and devices to keep us connected wherever we go.
There is a multitude of devices in circulation. And no-one would even try to estimate the number of computers in the world. In 2019, Statista found that 26.66 billion devices were connected to the internet, they predict that by 2025 there will be 75.44 billion devices. Newer technologies like 5G and 802.11ax and ay not only make it easier for all those devices to get online, they provide faster, more stable, more predictable connectivity.
So what does this mean for organisations participating in the content supply chain? It means:
- more consumers
- more devices
- more formats
- more delivery platforms
- more content
…all of which will be digital and will require significantly more management across digital workflows.
Content management in television used to be relatively simple. We made a master version of a programme, and if we sold it overseas we told them to subtitle or dub it. Then we made HD masters, and told SD broadcasters to down-convert it. All generally being consumed on a single device.
In today’s world we have consumption on a multitude of devices, each one demanding a different combination of screen resolution, frame rate, codec, wrapper and delivery format. To maximise the experience on mobile devices we invented sophisticated variable bitrate delivery, and even then we got not one but multiple different systems. And if anything, the rate of arrival of new platforms is still increasing.
Content management for this level of consumption is not something that can be tackled manually. Some of the biggest media organisations in the world have survived up until now by managing workflows on Excel spreadsheets and small in-house developed systems: those days have gone or going fast due to the demands on the business to deliver more, faster. To achieve operational efficiencies, processes need to be automated along with the business being in control of defining those processes without the need for extensive development expertise every time a process change is required.
Workflow orchestration, although not new, is one of the big phrases in the industry today. Along with IP connectivity, it is the only way we are going to survive. In simple terms, workflow orchestration means we define all the things we might want to do with content as process tasks, and we push the content from task to task, whether fully automated and/or with manual human interaction, until we reach the required deliverable. Workflow orchestration is our friend. It gives us both a technology and a business platform that can quickly adapt to changing business requirements for broadcasters, media organisations, content owners, producers, and the wider creative community. Where once, for a broadcaster, it could take months to put a new channel on air, today we can often measure that in hours. We are no longer hard-wiring workflows, but drawing them on screen and allowing the orchestration engine to manage them.
But the orchestration engine is only a mechanism to carry out the processing. What really enables operational efficiencies to be unlocked and is critical to success, is metadata. If you acquire, manage and use metadata efficiently the capacity for delivering more content to more devices on more platforms is maximised. Inter and intra organizational departments all have individual applications. Whether it be rights information, technical parameters and content descriptions, each business area cares about each of them. But taken together and adding AI derived metadata, such as speech to text, facial recognition, people detection, text on screen and brand/logo detection, as the content is processed enables a significant level of automated decision making, and it is this which releases the power of the modern content supply chain.
Content Intelligence and Automation
When the word metadata first appeared in media circles, one convenient definition was that it is ‘bits about bits’. It is a digital description of a digital content file. Virtually all digital content today has some form of embedded metadata including a raft of technical information and in some cases intellectual and content descriptive information. This means you can “mine” the metadata to make decisions in business process management. At TMD we call this content intelligence. And it is critical to making all these new deliverables happen.
Lets take a simple used case. A new piece of content arrives at the broadcaster from a distributor. Although there may be a delivery format that has been agreed between the parties it is often the case that the content delivered does not conform. So first, you have to determine what the content actually is and what needs to be done to it: does it come from a trusted source: is it in the correct format: does it need transcoding and a manual QA? Is it for immediate transmission – so needs a priority path through the system – or is it for later use? What rights do you have for it? Which platforms can it be used on?
How many rescales, transcodes and transwraps do you need to perform? Workflow orchestration driven by CI (content intelligence) and AI derived metadata can manage all of this automatically and thereby increase operational performance. Automation is the key to improving efficiency and, as complexity grows, to even making it possible. Take CI and AI and use it to make business decisions, then update the metadata so the next process down the line can make its decisions accurately and automatically. The result is an environment in which workflows are software defined in business process terms. Essentially, you state in what forms your audiences expect to see the content, and therefore how you will achieve your revenue goals. The software-defined workflows, driven by Ci and AI, makes it happen securely, accurately and efficiently.
Mediaflex-UMS Artificial & Content Intelligence
The Mediaflex-UMS (Unified Media Services) platform, delivers media aware, software-defined workflows. These workflows can process tasks totally on-prem, totally in the cloud and in a hybrid environment. The platform supports the management of both physical media (i.e. film and tape), and digital content. It enables organisations to manage media content, including acquisition, creation, digitisation, repurposing, preservation, enrichment, delivery, publishing, and archiving, through modular functionality and from integrations to an extensive list of leading technology and platform integration partners.
The platform incorporates comprehensive business and media-aware workflow orchestration management and the powerful workflow composer enables workflows to be easily created, cloned, and edited in-house at any time, without recourse to expensive programmers or TMD’s professional services. There are no restrictions on the number or complexity of workflows and no need to restart the system to implement workflow changes.
Solutions can be deployed on premise, in the cloud, or as a hybrid configuration and scale for either (stand-alone) workgroups or integrated enterprise solutions.
Many of the world’s most prestigious broadcasters, media organisations, archives and content providers rely on Mediaflex-UMS, and it’s agile, software-defined workflows to fulfill all their content management needs.