Bitcentral’s Web-Based Storage Proving Its Worth

Jul 16 2009

Web-Based Storage Proving Its Worth

By Debra Kaufman

TVNEWSDAY, Jul 16 2009, 11:45 AM ET

While WNBC Los Angeles chased the story of Michael Jackson’s death and its aftermath, other NBC O&Os were able to dip into its many reports that were quickly piling up in the group’s centralized news storage system at Universal City in Los Angeles and insert them into their own local newscasts.

“The [Bitcentral] Oasis got a good workout with the Michael Jackson story,” said Doug Thurlow, NBC vice president of digital assets for the Local Media Division. “Over the week of the Michael Jackson memorial, we moved 2,439 broadcast-quality clips.”

Web-based centralized storage is becoming a real choice at station groups and other media organizations that share assets, as not just Bitcentral, but also Front Porch Digital, Avid, Crispin and others are offering solutions.

But so far the application is still in its infancy. Other than NBC, the only station group in the U.S. with centralized news storage is Raycom Media. It, too, has adopted the Oasis.

“Customers came to us with this idea,” said Bitcentral President-CEO Fred Fourcher. “The networks were spending a lot of money on satellite feeds and moving assets between the stations. We put it on the Internet and, more importantly, we took the expensive dub-and-feed process and turned it into a self-serve process.”

Technology has also caught up with what’s required to create a robust centralized storage asset management system. Booming bandwidth — easy accessibility of bigger pipes at a cheaper price — and improved codecs (such as MPEG-4 in Avid’s case) allowing even more video compression are two of the driving factors.

Another factor is the dramatically lowered cost of storage. “You can pay $6,500 for 15 terabytes from Dell that goes into two rack units,” said Fourcher. “It’s so cheap to add storage; it’s not an issue.”

NBC was the pilot site for Bitcentral’s Oasis.

“We have it to avoid the cost of satellite windows,” said Thurlow. “It pulls the metadata from iNews and associates it with the clips, and it’s all done automatically. As the clips go into the Oasis box at each station, a proxy goes into Universal City, and makes the story immediately viewable by all the O&Os in a Web browser.”

For the NBC stations, the original assets are stored at the originating station for two to six months, and the proxies and metadata go into NBC’s Isilon storage cluster at Universal City.

“If someone at another station wants a clip, they click a box and the system will deliver either out of Universal City, if the high-res version has migrated there,” said Thurlow. “If not, it sets up a peer-to-peer transfer.”

“You can quickly find the clip with one click, no matter what station it is in the group,” Fourcher added. “You click to request it, and you’ll have the video on your desktop in 10 to 15 minutes with a T-1 connection.”

For NBC, added Fourcher, 80 percent of the news they request gets where it’s going faster than real time.