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April 2006

"Supply chain" for digital media

Enhanced system a pipeline for global media distribution


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To support the increasing prevalence of digital entertainment – from gaming to film and broadcast – media companies need a new kind of digital media supply chain.

by Julian Richards, April 2006

As the world of creative media gathers for the annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, HP’s digital entertainment service offerings at the Las Vegas event will be underpinned by technology from HP Laboratories.

An enhanced version of the HP Digital Media Platform (DMP), developed by researchers in HP Laboratories, plays a central role in the company’s Digital Entertainment Services business.

The media and entertainment industry is facing a rapidly evolving digital shift as it moves towards new methods of distribution and storage, new devices and new ways of consuming and accessing digital video and audio content, including video on demand, video podcasts, DVR and broadband.

At the same time a dramatic convergence is under way, bringing together the IT, broadcast, film, Internet, telecom and consumer electronics industries.

To support the increasing prevalence of digital entertainment – from gaming to film and broadcast – media companies need a new kind of digital media supply chain so they can take advantage of opportunities to save money, generate new sources of revenue and access new channels of distribution.

Pipeline for content

The HP DMP is one of the innovations offered by HP. With HP DMP, a digital supply chain can be built by integrating media storage, processing management and content distribution. Think of it as a virtual pipeline, with digital packages of film, video and audio entering through one end.

As the content packages move through DMP a series of pre-selected actions automatically take place: a video may be re-formatted for different use; a low-resolution video may be created for viewing on a web site; still images may be extracted for advertising; the package may be sent for dubbing in to a foreign language; then it is distributed to a customer for broadcast, internet, DVD, podcast, and the like. And at the same time the original digital file is securely stored for future use.

Platform enhanced and extended

It was announced at NAB 2005 that Ascent Media Group had selected DMP to help its client, Sony Pictures Entertainment, to create an advanced digital content management system. Since then DMP has been further developed and extended by the research team at HP Labs Bristol. The enhancements mean that:

  • DMP is now closely tied to a client’s digital media business workflow. Instead of issuing instructions to people to do a task instructions are sent to DMP, which automatically carries them out.

  • New functions have been added – workflow edit, for instance, in which an operator can select sections of a video feed, edit them together and then store the package for later distribution to outlets such as the internet, television and cell phone playback.

  • Work can now be carried out globally: content repositories can be placed anywhere in the world and digital content – a sports feed for instance – distributed between them.

  • System resilience and failure management have been enhanced.

Digital media services

Demonstrations of the augmented DMP will be shown at NAB, underscoring the system’s role in the critical digital media supply chain. These will be a core part of the digital media services offerings being built by HP for content companies, distributors, and retailers.

So how does it work? DMP is designed to provide a foundation for end-to-end digital media solutions as well as hosted managed services. It allows media companies to use their existing, legacy software – transcoding applications, for example – and media storage to enable broader, more flexible, better integrated solutions for content processing, management and distribution.

Nick Wainwright, who manages the DMP project at HP Labs Bristol, explained that a key aspect is a service-oriented architecture approach. This enables new and existing services to be plugged in to form a composite, or virtual, application without the constraints of traditional, packaged applications that were tied to single servers, systems or platforms. These service components may then be re-used and recombined to support other business processes.

Content that crosses borders

DMP allows the creation of media flows that cut across multiple companies, geographies or even industries. It can connect content creators (studios), content service providers (post-production companies), content distributors (broadcasters, telecommunications providers, portals, cable companies, retail outlets) and content consumers.

For network operators, the platform can enable the deployment of global distribution networks that simplify the process of getting content across borders without customs delays.

Wainwright said: “The unique technical capabilities and characteristics of DMP allow companies to achieve important business benefits, including increasing the value of their digital assets, accelerated time to market, reduced costs, enhanced security and improved flexibility.”

Julian Richards is HP Labs' media relations manager in Europe and the UK.

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» Digital media platform
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» 2005 feature story: HP Labs helps transform film, tv distribution

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