Consider the athletic department at a college with a proud and active alumni association. Chances are the department has shelves of videotapes containing game and practice footage from bygone eras. This videotape is both a problem and an opportunity.

The problem? It takes up a lot of space. It’s deteriorating as magnetic forms of media invariably do. And, unless it was meticulously annotated at the time it was shot, there’s a good chance no one knows exactly what’s on each cassette.

The opportunity? The audience is out there—all those loyal alumni, who would love to watch (and purchase?) team and player highlights if they were available.

This problem/opportunity is not limited to university athletic departments, of course. There are many sports, heritage, educational, governmental, and other institutions sitting on video content that is highly desirable to a niche market, or even a broad market, if only there were a cost-effective way to make it available.

Happily, digital technology and the near universal penetration of the Web today resolve the conundrum by making it possible for institutions of all sizes to automate identification of videotape content and move the best of it from dusty shelves all the way to the avid fan’s desktop, laptop, or mobile phone— whether that fan lives for college football, old airplanes, or obscure sitcoms. In addition, recent innovations, faster computer processing, and cloud-based services have brought to the marketplace technologies that are both affordable and scalable, enabling even smaller enterprises to take advantage of them.

Automated and real-time migration of assets on videotape into the managed digital realm has been available and proven in multiple applications for a couple of years now. These integrated workflow solutions scale from single streams to robotic systems, and not only digitize content currently on videotape, they simultaneously check and report on the content’s condition.

Once the content is in digital file form, it can be managed by a CSM (content storage management) system that performs the necessary transferring within a digital workflow—even if that workflow takes it across multiple sites. The most advanced CSM solutions offer timecode-based, partial- file restore, which saves bandwidth and time by restoring from storage only the clip that’s desired rather than a whole file. Another feature in some CSM systems is in-path transcoding, which speeds and facilitates automated workflow to make it faster and easier to repurpose content, no matter where it’s going.

The latest technology is also the most impressive. Ever faster computer processing makes it possible to take the digitized asset and use facial recognition, closed-caption alignment, and natural language processing, among other advanced tools, to automate creation of frame-by-frame, searchable metadata that describes it in minute detail. In other words, this technology eliminates the single largest hurdle to making stored media assets useful— the countless staff hours traditionally required to watch old footage and annotate its contents.

The metadata map thus created affords detailed content insight that’s invaluable for marketing or otherwise making the content available. Happily, the latest technology can take care of the publishing and distribution step as well. In fact, it’s now possible to use a single, seamless workflow to perform metadata analysis, manage publishing and distribution relationships, schedule, and deliver appropriately formatted content to multiple devices (laptop, PC, set-top box, even mobile phone).

If it all sounds terribly expensive, it doesn’t have to be. That’s because some of this technology is available as a cloud-based service that can be accessed over the Web, eliminating most of the infrastructure expense, then paid for according to use.

These new products have the potential to open up extensive libraries of the world’s best content and make it available to eager audiences.

Courtesy of Front Porch Digital (

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