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The Power of Digital Asset Management and Archiving

Today’s DAM systems do it all – including intelligence work.

There was a time when “digital asset management” and archiving—commonly called “DAM”—was seen as little more than computer-controlled logging and filing of video tapes. But no longer: Today’s DAM systems have evolved to become end-to-end backbones for video production chains; from the time the first frame is shot to when the program is archived away in the ‘vault’.

The Spectra LogicT-Finity Data Tape Archive. All Photos courtesy of Spectra Logic by James Careless

What follows are four unique DAM stories compiled by Government Video magazine. They span the basics of the technology and end-to-end solutions, through to Web-based editing and DAM’s ability to keep American soldiers safe on the battlefield.


The data files currently used are stored on either high-capacity data tapes (available in standardized data tape formats such as “linear tape-open” (LTO) or “redundant arrays of inexpensive disks” (RAID)-arrayed hard disk drives. Spectra Logic makes both storage technologies, and offers them for use in solutions sold by Avid, Grass Valley, Masstech, and Front Porch Digital.

“We basically provide the repositories where digital video files are stored and archived,” says Hossein ZiaShakeri, Spectra Logic’s senior vice president. “In the past few years, the reliability of tape has improved tremendously; making it a wise choice for long-term archival storage. In fact, the reliability and performance of tape is now at a level that majority of our enterprise customers are utilizing tape not just for long-term retention, but as near-line storage.“

This said, deciding which storage option is best suited for a specific government agency depends on its particular needs. Data tape-based video storage provides a tremendous amount of storage capacity at lower cost compared to hard disk. However, what disk-based storage lacks in comparable capacity and low cost, it makes up for in fast nonlinear access and storage.

ViewCast’s Media Platform “It’s a balancing act,” ZiaShakeri says. “It makes sense to use tape-based storage for the bulk of your older, less accessed content; reserving disk-based storage for video files that you may need fast access to. In this way, you balance cost versus convenience and speed — and you ensure that your valuable video assets are not lost due to the degradation of standard videotapes and hard drives.”

In selecting a DAM and archiving system, ZiaShakeri recommends taking an integrated, longterm view. “Consider how the system will work with your entire production workflow, to make sure that it is a help rather than a hindrance,” he tells GV. “You also want to invest in a solution that will stand the test of time,” he said. Therefore, choosing a modular platform that can be upgraded and scaled—with incremental cost—to capture more content will protect a DAM and archiving system investment “for years to come.”


For government video producers looking for an end-to-end digital asset management and archiving solution, the new ViewCast Media Platform (VMp) is worth consideration. Developed by ViewCast, a provider of live streaming and digital media management solutions, VMp addresses all aspects of the digital media process.

In sequential order, they include:

  • Capture of digital video from live or file-based sources, encoders and workstations.
  • Transformation of more than 100 different video and image formats for use on various systems used by producers and end users.
  • Indexing of video assets, including extracting or attaching metadata (information about the origin and content of the video) for use by search engines.
  • Management and long-term archiving of video content.
  • Administrative rules that govern how digital assets can be accessed and altered, and by whom.
  • Support for video editing and Microsoft PowerPoint creation.
  • Distribution capability through an agency’s own network, to external outlets, online video platforms and streaming via the Web.
  • Functionality that allows producers to design and customize how they organize their video production and asset management workflow.
  • Reporting tools that allow users to keep tabs on how their video is being used and distributed.

“ViewCast Media Platform takes care of all the heavy lifting associated with digital asset management and archiving,” says Josh Bruhin, ViewCast’s director of product development. “With VMp, all of the functions involved in the video production process are now integrated. The result is a video production process that is much easier to handle in all aspects. Such a process makes it easy for, say, law enforcement agencies to produce and share evidentiary video with other government agencies, no matter what format is required or how it is to be distributed.”


The availability of digital video via the Web raises the question; if an agency’s video can be streamed, shouldn’t remote editing of a video be possible as well?

SSL DV (a Solid State Logic company) has developed such a program for use with its Gravity Media Asset Management systems. Known as PIXI Web Editing Tools (or just PIXI), those tools allow a user to access their agency video through a standard, but secure, web browser, and edit the content wherever they are. That “includes accessing and editing your entire audio/video database through an iPhone, Blackberry or Android wireless device,” says David Engelke, SSL DV principal. “So now you can not only provide video from a range of web-enabled devices, but edit that same video remotely using the same technology,” he says.

To be precise, PIXI allows a remote user to grab digital video files, line up clips into a playlist, and even drag-and-drop segments on a timeline (low resolution proxy video files are used for remote editing, to minimize download and signal latency times). The user can preview what has been edited, and even use dissolved and wipes that have been pre-produced.

“PIXI supports both basic and advanced metadata searches, and can save the results on a separate tab,” Engelke says. “You can also link the edited proxy video electronically to the high resolution originals, such that a completed high resolution edit will be performed using your PIXI-based instructions.”

A screen shot of the SSL PIXI in action. As was mentioned earlier in this section, PIXI is part of SSL DV’s Gravity Platform. Gravity is an ingest-to-playout digital asset management system that is designed for broadcast, government and industry. It can be integrated with existing video production and editing systems, and can support anywhere from five to 500 users. The Gravity platform is Internet protocol (IP)-based and web-enabled, to allow it to access and serve both conventional and IP-based distribution channels.

“PIXI is the latest logical extension of our technology-agnostic, Web-based approach,” says Engelke. “It allows you to edit wherever you are. That’s a capability that many mobile government users need.”


Harris Corporation is known for its video products; including its Invenio suite of DAM products for broadcasters. Invenio manages the ingest, movement, storage and archiving of digital video files in a sophisticated, transparent fashion. It also integrates seamlessly with existing broadcast production and editing systems.

Invenio’s technology is at the heart of Harris’ FAME. Short for “Full-motion Video Asset Management Engine,” FAME is designed to help civilian and military intelligence agencies acquire, manage, store and distribute surveillance video in real-time. This content can come from video cameras, but it can also be sourced from all manner of surveillance devices and sensors.

“FAME leverages Invenio’s DAM processes to manage surveillance video effectively,” says Fred Poole, director of advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) programs & government digital media solutions. “But it goes a step further, by delivering that video to soldiers in the field who are using handheld devices.”

FAME also incorporates an advanced search engine that enables complex metadata searches; such that intelligence officers can drill down on locations and times as needed. Add the ability to filter through the footage using video analytics, attach geospatial and textual information to the files, and then share these files in real-time, and one can see the power of FAME for tactical military and law enforcement applications.

“One of FAME’s most impressive features is its ability to create a virtual panorama of an area using frames captured by cameras located there,” Poole says. “You can then access the cameras you want by clicking on the area of the panorama you are interested in. Since the footage is stored, you can literally go back in time, to see what was happening at the time an incident occurred.”

In creating FAME, Harris is addressing the overwhelming management issues associated with surveillance video; particularly on the modern battlefield, where a wealth of combat video sources can overwhelm those charged with finding useful patterns and information. “This product does for intelligence agencies what our broadcast products have done for video producers,” Poole says. “This is digital asset management taken to the next level.”