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Extending rich media management to the enterprise

This article appears in the issue May 2004 [Volume 13, Issue 5]


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By Judith Lamont, KMWorld senior writer

Outside the media industry of film, broadcast and advertising, most companies have focused on managing their text and structured data, typically employing document management systems and databases to store corporate information. In recent years, however, those companies have become more interested in improving management of rich media such as images and video. New and easier-to-use software products are helping companies achieve that goal, incorporating additional digital assets into their information base and making them part of their business processes. One of the leading applications for digital asset management is in brand management. "Companies want to have a uniform, homogenous message," says Mukul Krishna, program leader and senior analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "We expect broad-based corporate usage of rich media to become bigger than in the media companies such as film and broadcast. There is a huge amount of rich media that needs to be managed." Companies that are going through a product launch, for example, can be sure that multiple teams in different continents are using the same master copy of a product image, component such as color or background, or advertisement.

Stories abound of companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-shoot photographs for a catalog because they could not find the needed images on a collection of CDs. Even if the images are available, development of sales catalogs, whether printed or online, is dramatically improved by a coordinated approach to integrating images, text descriptions and other descriptive information such as SKUs.

An analysis from GISTICS indicates that a marketing content repository with a graphics server or robust internal rendering capability can reduce the time it takes for a marketing manager to localize a promotion for a specific market. A manual process that takes 93 minutes to accomplish can be reduced to 13 minutes with the help of automation and "smart media"— graphics and media files engineered for reuse and automated rendering. GISTICS research reveals that just this sort of automated rendering can result in annual savings for a large organization on the order of $250,000, a savings that results from reduced labor and logistics costs. However, the greatest benefit comes with a shorter time to market for a product launch, averaging five days.

Facilitating customer fellowship

Fellowes has been providing business supplies to retailers since 1917, and as part of its services, delivers product images and specifications to help its customers with promotional campaigns. Observing the trend toward portal-based applications, Fellowes was eager to use sophisticated technology to facilitate a more customer-centric approach to that aspect of its services. In addition, the company's legacy systems for images were not accessible to external customers, so images had to be distributed on CDs. Moreover, internal users had to access the images from a third-party vendor, a time-consuming and expensive process.

The company devoted significant time to analyzing the needs of employees and customers, and conducted a detailed evaluation of several software options. "We have used the same methodology for other enterprise applications," says Brad Hillebrand, manager of enterprise technology at Fellowes. "We always want to make sure we understand the requirements and business processes before selecting a software product and launching our application."

After about two months of assessing needs and product alternatives, Fellowes selected MediaBin Asset Server, which was recently purchased by Interwoven. MediaBin was first rolled out internally in the United States and later to European employees of the company. It is now being used by half a dozen retailer customers who served as a beta group, and will be gradually rolled out to the remainder of Fellowes' customers.

Retailers log on to the portal and can download images and product specifications according to the permissions set in the system. Images can be re-rendered into other resolutions and formats as needed. Besides being used for delivery, MediaBin is also being planned for use as a collaborative development environment for the creation of images. Those images can be reviewed over the Web by creative staff who are in different locations.

Having been pleased with Interwoven's MediaBin, Fellowes is now taking a careful look at WorkSite, Interwoven's collaboration and document management product. "We started with digital asset management because we believed it would provide the highest value for our most pressing needs," notes Hillebrand, "but we also recognize the need for document management and Web content management, so we plan to circle back and address those."

MediaBin was designed around the concept of providing access to large media assets along with a transformation engine to deliver them on the fly in whatever form the user needs. "We saw the potential for moving beyond the established DAM markets of media, entertainment and print publishing, particularly in the area of managing rich media content for marketing initiatives," says Brian Meek, director of product marketing. One company that showed early interest, and remains a MediaBin client, was the Ford Division of Ford Motor Company . The division was manually maintaining numerous renditions of each image for different output requirements. Now, MediaBin dynamically generates different renditions on demand from a single source image.

Meek highlights a feature of MediaBin that is particularly useful for managing brand-related images: its ability to map renditions of an image back to the original. With that technology, MediaBin can, for example, quickly determine whether images on a Web site are still current by comparing them to the "approved" version in the repository. Its integration with Interwoven's MetaTagger software for content intelligence means that MediaBin can work with standard and organization-specific taxonomies to automatically apply more specific and relevant metadata to digital assets. Finally, business rules can be set up to establish workflows that route and distribute content both at the creative stages and in fulfillment.

Space-age video

For all Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) missions, NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), receives and records both downlink television and videocassettes recorded onboard the shuttle and ISS by space crews. That totals approximately 200 hours of video per shuttle mission, and 500 hours per ISS mission. A high-quality master recording is routinely created from the video signal, but NASA also had a need for an online digital version that would be more accessible to researchers in the organization. NASA engineers and flight controllers use video to evaluate the on-orbit performance of space flight hardware and troubleshoot anomalies. Most onboard experiments are documented with video. NASA video producers use mission video for educational, public affairs and training videos.

After checking out products at conferences, JSC solicited proposals through its procurement system and selected Screening Room, a commercial product from Convera. Screening Room captures video in digital form, automatically creates storyboards of key frames and provides an interface for adding descriptive cataloging metadata. Users can then search for segments based on those parameters.

Prior to deploying Screening Room, the process for identifying segments on the videotape was labor-intensive. "We used a word processing application to


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