Avid Keeps AMC Networks "Always On."
Launched in 1984 as American Movie Classics, AMC Networks, Inc. currently owns and operates five of the most notable brands in the cable television: AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel, WE tv and IFC Films.
One of the most important ways the network lives up to its “Always On. Slighty Off” tagline is with unique programming powered by a network-wide deployment of Avid creative tools in 65 edit suites, fully integrated into Interplay Media Asset Management (MAM) and Interplay Production systems, AirSpeed video servers, and the world’s largest installation of ISIS shared storage.
This has allowed AMC Networks to transition from a collection of independently operated channels to one of the industry’s most coordinated and effective production environments using common tools and supporting systems with consistent production protocols and guidelines.
Behind the Storytelling
The key to building this large, cohesive operation has been the asset management technology that automates and streamlines the storytelling process.
Avid enabled AMC Networks to take a uniquely holistic approach to content creation in which all the media production tools and systems work together to provide a level of quality, speed, and flexibility once thought impossible. .
With the Interplay Production and MAM solutions, media can be shared unilaterally. Project contributors can locate, access, view, edit, and annotate assets and associated metadata, giving them everything they need in a single toolset. Moreover, the media is shared not only within their own production group, but among all interconnected groups working on related projects.
An Elegant Openness
One of the primary criteria for selecting Avid was that holistic environment. Rather than assembling a series of different solutions for different specific challenges, AMC Networks wanted to establish end-to-end workflows encompassing the full production cycle from search, ingest, and editing to distribution and archiving within the context of a unified architecture.
“Not only that,” adds Jimm Popowich, VP of Engineering for Post-Immediate Services, “but the whole system had to be platform agnostic. We needed to give our editors the ability to work on both Media Composer and Final Cut Pro and go between the two systems seamlessly. Avid offered us a very elegant way to do that.”
To underscore the point, Popowich explains that the Sundance Channel is solely based on Final Cut. But the kind of open media structure Avid provides gives Sundance editors the ability to interoperate on a network level and share whatever they are working on with editors using Media Composer.
Metadata and Manageability
Every channel within the AMC network has its own set of requirements. Avid management technology allows that system to be configured to meet those requirements, whether it is remapping audio, adding poster art to the package delivery, or marrying the closed captioning to a particular piece of content. Beyond that, Avid management tools give AMC the ability to extract rich metadata from any other system, such as rights management, and connect that to a particular piece of content.
“It’s just a process of setting up custom delivery points and establishing rules around the media that gets output,” explains Caroline Dennis, Director of Media Management. “If the content is available and in the system, projects that once would have taken us two weeks to complete can be done in a matter of 24 hours. That is an extremely critical advantage for us.”
For an editor working in real-time, these capabilities translate into an unprecedented level of distributed production potential. For instance, a producer working from home may create an EDL from a proxy he or she has seen in the system, send it to the editor or straight into a workflow that will automatically pull the necessary clips and have it ready for the edit session the next morning.
All in the Automation
Net-net, the key to success for AMC has been its ability to coordinate and automate as many processes with as little human intervention as possible. Today, Avid keeps AMC at the forefront of that technological curve, giving the network the ability to ingest content, receive metadata from other systems, attach it to that material, and build a parent-child relationship from rights management all the way down to the promotional and distribution levels.
The challenge for AMC is now more personal than technical. The organization needs to help more contributors embrace those capabilities, understand what they can do to help take the production process to the next level, and work together to achieve that end.
“The demands of the digital world necessitate thinking about what we do in new ways,” Dennis explains, “and that just keeps evolving. Right now, we have the right technology in place. We just need to configure our systems the right way, get the right workflows in place, and get everyone on board.”
“I’ve always liked the “always on” part of our tagline,” she concludes, “because here, behind the scenes, that’s something we have to live up to every day.”