Once considered a task primarily for those in media and entertainment, delivering high-quality, attention-grabbing video content has become an important piece of the puzzle across industries. Many companies now employ a media production team dedicated to creating content for uses as diverse as marketing, internal training, and corporate communications. To make it all happen, the IT/technology department has to support the tools of the creative team—including optimizing storage for all of the media assets used.
At times, the priorities of the IT/technology department and the media production team seem to be in conflict. Those producing video want to work with the tools that give them the highest-quality results and best ease of use. Those supporting the systems are under tremendous pressure to stick to a budget and maintain a wide range of systems for different needs across the company.
In the first part of our three-part series, we looked at this equation from the IT/technology perspective. Now, we'll look at what information the media production teams need in hand to facilitate these discussions. The more that the teams creating the media understand the technical requirements of their tasks, the better positioned they'll be to collaborate with the IT department and implement a fit-for-purpose media storage solution.
Defining the Video Production Workflow
When considering storage, it's common to assume the most important factor is determining how much storage is needed. For media production, though, the kind of storage you use can be just as crucial. Most IT teams will be more than comfortable with the movement of corporate data—video data requires additional considerations.
While editing video, data doesn't stay in one spot; it moves back and forth at high speeds and in high volume as the playback streams, potentially requiring drives with higher disk I/O or throughput ratings. Additionally, complex connectivity needs may necessitate more robust systems than simply logging into a server to access media assets. Understanding the complete workflow helps ensure the storage will be up to the task.
During an IBC365 webinar on storage for creative teams, Neal Bilow, managing partner for Chromata Solutions, described the importance of defining workflows in order to predict storage needs. He suggested asking the following questions to identify the key requirements:
- What are you trying to achieve? Fast turnaround? Connected collaboration? Do you need to allow multiple editors to access the same media at one time or from multiple workstations or locations?
- One and done vs. reuse?
- Editing only, or will you transcode and deliver on the same storage?
- Single activity, or multiple activities at the same time?
These questions represent vital disk I/O considerations. Both allowing multiple editors to connect to the system as well as using the same storage space to ingest and deliver video to be edited can raise throughput requirements for the system.
Assessing Why Formats Matter
The format will drive all future decisions about optimizing storage. Bilow suggests weighing the following elements:
- What format of video will you be working with, and what do you need to deliver it?
- What codecs are you using?
- What editing software will you use?
Higher-resolution video formats require more storage space, but they also rely on systems designed to deliver data at higher rates, such as Avid NEXIS. In addition, the software and codecs the team implements will help determine whether specific software or media management systems are needed—creatives need their tools to effectively "speak to" the media and read all of the formats in play.
Managing Media Once It's Stored
Once you figure out how much storage and performance you need for your media and what types of drives it should be stored on, bring it all together with a management system for your media. This may be the part of the discussion that yields the most resistance from IT/technology departments.
For most data managed by an IT department, tasks such as searching for the right piece of data can typically go through standard server interfaces. Being able to efficiently put your hands on the right piece of media, however, hinges on having a system for creating metadata. Additionally, media management systems contain tools for managing different aspects of the process, such as letting multiple users accessing media simultaneously. They can also streamline archiving media after a project is complete.
So, why the potential pushback? These systems are often perceived as "additional" or "luxury" line items—a cost that may feel unjustified to those facing budget pressures. By discussing the specific features that make a media management system a good investment, you can build a stronger case for the tools you need.
Systems designed specifically for media storage and management carry a few critical advantages over storing media on a regular corporate server, including:
- Reducing the time spent finding the assets needed for a task.
- Streamlining administrative, non-creative work, letting teams focus on creative tasks.
- Improving collaboration between creative team members.
- Decreased downtime from difficulty accessing media assets.
Going into these discussions prepared with information about the benefits of storage and media management solutions can foster a sense of partnership in these discussions and help decision-makers see past their assumptions that the technology is just a "nice to have" for the media team.
Using Resources Wisely
After the decisions about system requirements are through, media creation teams can do their part in using those systems wisely to keep the systems running well. As Bilow pointed out, "Be vigilant in monitoring the use of your storage. Watch for the holding of content, especially personal archives, on expensive storage that could be moved to less expensive archive storage. Media management systems can automate the back-and-forth movement of media when needs change and archived materials once again need to be active."
The truth of the matter is that video media is high-density data. Leaving unused, inactive media in place rather than moving it to less expensive, less accessible archive storage can drive up costs. When implementing new systems, technology and media professionals can work together to create plans that emphasize efficiency and address both groups' concerns.
Focusing on Collaboration
When the time comes to make decisions about implementing new tools and processes in a corporate environment, avoid the temptation to see the discussion as just a battle between those asking and those approving. Armed with good information, both sides can come to the table prepared to find solutions that fit everyone's needs. In our final installment of this series, we'll explore how to balance all of the concerns and needs that arise during this process.