Parsons attended this year's NAB to show (among other Pioneer products) the Pioneer DRM-7000 FlexLibrary, a DVD jukebox system. Parson's had shown the same product at last year's NAB, and he says that many of the attendees "became enamored with the product" but weren't quite sure how it would fit into their organizations. This was perhaps because Pioneer was showing only a partial solution, he admits. This year, however, Pioneer teamed with Core Digital Technologies to show a "complete" DVD-based storage, retrieval, playback, logging, and indexing solution that promises to simplify and automate video asset management.
Pioneer's NAB demonstration featured a DRM-7000 FlexLibrary combined with Core Digital's Mass-Store software and ClipDeck digital player. Using the Mass-Store software, live video can be encoded, logged, and stored to DVD-R and then retrieved for playback and manipulation using the ClipDeck, which is actually a piece of hardware designed to look and feel like a traditional videotape deck. This combination offers users immediate access to video assets for viewing, editing or on-air playback. Thanks to the DVD-based storage, the system also offers thousands of hours of searchable video and freedom from the horrible hassles and slowness of videotape-based storage and production.
Like Parsons, Jim Harrington, chief operating officer of Core Digital Technologies, also felt a sea change at this year's NAB. "There was a huge difference in attitude toward the whole concept of DVD," says Harrington. "People are starting to realize that DVD is more cost effective than putting things on tape or on video servers. Video servers will continue to be used for modest amounts of information, but people can't afford to keep a whole lot of video footage available on video servers. That's why DVD's nearline storage solution is great for many video production situations."
Parsons echoes Harrington's assessment of DVD's potential for what he calls "near-online" or "nearline" storage. When you have an awful lot of material available and need to access it quickly (but not immediately, as in a real-time, live broadcast situation), this sort of compromise between online and offline storage can save video producers a lot of money, Parsons believes. He concedes, however, that a DVD archival system does not have universal appeal to live broadcasters. Rather, it will appeal to certain niches within the broadcasting field, such as news and sports. Both are arenas where lots and lots of video is gathered which needs to be delivered--if not live in real time--at least very soon after the event has transpired.
Harrington reports that Core Digital recently used a Pioneer DRM-7000 FlexLibrary jukebox system combined with their own technology to cover the U.S. Open Tennis tournament for CBS Sports. At the event there was simultaneous play on five courts and CBS had camera crews on each one with feeds to five edit suites. Core took the video from the feed and encoded it, logged it (live, on-the-fly), indexed it, and stored it to DVD-R. A nice thing about on-the-fly logging is that a director or producer can watch the logs as they are being created and can make decisions on-the-fly. This reduces editing time and ensures that the finished product can go to air as soon as possible.
At the tennis championship Core Digital simultaneously encoded to both MPEG-1 as well as to DVD-resolution MPEG-2. Both streams shared the same time code, so the two could be matched up later on. The MPEG-1 footage then became a sort of reference track for searching through. Once you search through the MPEG-1 footage and find the clip you want, all you have to do is enter the same time code numbers to go directly and immediately to the MPEG-2 footage for the final edit.
"With MPEG-1 we can put eight hours of footage on a DVD. We can then hand that DVD disc to the producer and he can stick that in his laptop and start editing that night's highlights show during his flight back home," says Harrington.
Harrington's experience at this year's NAB has convinced him that there has also been a dramatic change in the way the broadcasters view asset management. "Last year at NAB hardly anyone knew what asset management was," says Harrington. "This year, you could tell these people had done massive amounts of research on the both the topic and the products."
As the name implies, the DRM-7000 FlexLibrary is a flexible jukebox-style disc archival system which the user can configure to his or her needs. For example, you can get the maximum storage capacity by using only two DVD drives and filling the rest of the bays with disc magazines. Or you can install up to 16 drives, but that limits the number of bays available for magazines. The two-drive configuration leaves room for fourteen 50-disc magazines and one 20-disc magazine for a total of 720 discs. If you were to go with the maximum of 16 drives, that would leave room for only 7 50-disc magazines and one 20-disc magazine for a total of 370 discs.
By replacing a typical disc "reader" drive with a DVD-R "writer" drive you can use you storage system for burning as well as just retrieval. Thus you can burn DVD discs and send them immediately to storage, all on the same platform. You can also install a mix of DVD-R and CD-R drives in the same DRM-7000 box. And if you really want serious, maximum storage capacity, you can add the "flip disc unit" and use double-sided DVD media. A DRM-7000 thus configured can store a total of 6.3 terabytes (TB) of information.
Many video professionals accustomed to working with magnetic media fear the reputed slowness of optical drive and jukebox mechanisms, but Parsons believes that fear is unwarranted. He says that even taking into consideration the disc-flip procedure, it takes only 25-30 seconds to start reading information from any side of any one of a full system's 720 discs.
"The access time is better than tape and you won't have to worry about head clogs," says Parsons. Also, at about $6 per double-sided DVD-R disc (a recent, storage-doubling innovation seemingly tailor-made for the flipper-equipped FlexLibrary), the disc media offers a lower cost-per-megabyte than tape media. Plus, one small DRM-7000 can replace an entire room full of tapes.
Indeed, both Parsons and Harrington agree that video professionals are finding it harder and harder to ignore the money-saving and convenience advantages of DVD storage. With the waves their collaboration has made, 2002 may go down in history as the year NABers finally woke up.