Virage archives CNN
News net hires video-logging firm for digital history project
By Glen Dickson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/22/2000 8:00:00 PM
Media-management firm Virage has been selected to handle video logging and indexing for CNN's ambitious digital-archive project. The San Mateo, Calif., company will provide visual "storyboards" and metadata information for more than 100,000 hours of analog video footage to be transferred to digital storage beginning early next year.
Virage will work closely with Sony and IBM, which in April 1999 won a $20 million contract to create a digital-archive system at CNN. The system marries Sony's PetaSite robotic data-tape archive with IBM's digital library software and experience in hierarchical storage management.
"We are providing the encoding and also the underlying infrastructure for publishing and Internet exploitation," says Virage Vice President of Marketing Carlos Montalvo. "This is the third project we've successfully deployed with IBM. Part of that is because Virage and IBM have a very complementary and synergistic view of what the data model looks like."
Virage, which also counts ABC News, and Reuters as customers, has been collaborating with CNN for three years on different newsroom and Internet applications. Its Video Application Platform software is used on a daily basis to log CNN's incoming news feeds as part of a $2 million low-res browsing system that incorporates software from Informix and software and hardware from Kasenna (formerly SGI's streaming division). The company is creating some of CNN Interactive's Campaign 2000 content. But the archive contract, which represents an initial order of $180,000, is a new and separate deal.
The digital archive is one component of CNN's big-picture strategy to make content easily accessible in different formats and resolutions, says Gordon Castle, CNN's senior vice president, strategic digital systems. To create what he calls a "common view of content," CNN has three core media resolutions for all material: broadcast resolution, which is MPEG-2 compressed video at 15 Mb/s; editable low-resolution, frame-accurate MPEG-1 video at 1.5 Mb/s (Castle expects this mode to evolve to MPEG-4); and 80 to 300 kb/s streaming video.
"That's to support users all over the world," says Castle. "So users can look at the streaming resolution and browse clips in the archive, the daily feed servers and the playback servers."
Such a system, for example, would allow a remote journalist to sift through streaming video, access and edit low-res MPEG-1 (provided the connection supports 1.5 Mb/s) on the desktop, and then send the edits to the CNN Center in Atlanta to be conformed in broadcast-resolution video. Virage's software is critical, says Castle, because it helps users visualize digital content before streaming.
CNN's archive project is right on schedule. Hardware is being delivered, and Castle expects to start "a pretty wide-scale ingestion process" in early 2001, which will include loading current digital material into the PetaSite and digitizing old analog Betacam 1- and 3/4-inch tapes. He expects it to take four years to convert CNN's 100,000 hours to digital data tape; that number is already closer to 110,000 and will probably be near 120,000 by the end of 2000, as CNN continues to create more analog tape through its day-to-day operations.
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