A standalone system combining a PC pre-configured for DVD-quality video I/O and proprietary asset management software, Vault promises "unlimited" digital-format storage of television commercials and custom-reel output to videotape or DVD, as the user prefers. Originally released as a Crush product, Vault has been rewritten and relaunched at Blink, according to Blink managing director Jeff Stabenau, with significantly more support behind the product.
Vault's evolution was an "organic" one, Stabenau says, growing out of discussions with clients at Crush who wanted services somewhat different from what the DVD authoring house was providing. "It started with talking to ad agencies about putting their reels on DVD," he says. "They liked the video quality and interactivity of DVD, but they wanted to use it differently. We interpreted that and came up with Vault," he continues. Thus, they created a product that "lives in the client's office" and is aimed "at reps and salespeople more than the tech end of the shop."
Vault 2.0 has been beta-tested over the last several months with Crossroads Films, New York. Crossroads has used the system to digitize, store, and index roughly 30 custom reels per day. Crossroads CTO Dean Winkler says his company currently has more than 500 DVD-quality spots stored on their system. "Crossroads represents many directors, each with a large body of work, and the sheer number of reels we send out each day is staggering," Winkler says. "Our sales people prefer to send out custom reels with each application, but preparing them by editing tape-to-tape is insane. Blink Digital Vault is faster, better, and cheaper."
Designed specifically for custom-reel creation and archiving, Blink Digital Vault allows users to sidestep the complexities of video editing software with a simple interface customized for straightforward asset management. After spots are digitized at "full DVD quality" at the Blink facility in New York using Sony's broadcast encoder, users can prepare custom reels by dragging titles from an archive list and dropping them into a recording queue. The queued items can then be directed to the user's output medium of choice, videotape or DVD-R. The proprietary DAM software also enables remote asset management via Web. Pricing for the system begins at under $5000.
"Blink Digital Vault solves a problem that companies in the advertising industry have struggled with for years: how to create custom reels quickly, easily, and cheaply," says Blink Digital managing director Jeff Stabenau, who established Blink in 2001 after leaving Crush Digital, the DVD production house he founded in 1997. "Companies want to be able to customize the reels they send out. Our system allows them to select spots they want to include on a reel, place them in the desired order, and record them to their medium of choice—and do it all as quickly and easily as making a simple dub. It puts companies in control of their assets."
The system benefits from digital asset management technology provided by Blink's parent company, Liberty Livewire. The Liberty connection also gives Blink the ability to provide bi-coastal service via Liberty's Santa Monica location. Blink's expertise falls on the project management and encoding end, where they provide ongoing services whenever a client adds new spots. According to Stabenau, clients pay $100 for each spot encoded on an ongoing basis; however, when they first purchase the $5000 system, clients get their full library digitized at a "huge discount." With the encoded video, Blink also provides metadata that will ensure the new material's easy integration into the system. "We encode it and give it a description and location. In the management software, you hit ‘add assets,' and the system finds the files and puts them where they need to go."
Stabenau also hastens to emphasize not just what Vault 2.0 is, but what it isn't. "It's not trying to be an edit system, to compete with Premiere," he says. Custom reel creation is purely an asset management function without the learning curve that an editing system requires. The user simply identifies categories and groups spots accordingly, such as by client, type of production, or director, Stabenau says, and almost "instantaneously," the system outputs a high-quality video signal, which may be captured on a DVD-R burner or videotape. "It's a transitional product that allows people to work the way they want to."
While Vault 2.0 represents a departure of sorts from the Blink team's traditional approach—which at Crush resulted in over 300 DVD projects, including the 1998 DVD PRO Discus Awards-winning 411 Digital Showreel—it's still more or less in line with the "big concept" they began with: "to convert media to new formats." To date, that's meant DVD, which Stabenau says is still "our primary focus." But he hastens to add, "Nothing sits still. DVD authoring isn't the answer for every situation."