Thomson To Debut dMax

New digital-asset-management products smooth workflow

Stations have struggled to make large-scale digital-asset-management, or DAM, work. DAM systems promised an easy way to find and share video and audio content. Instead, they were derided as overhyped expensive failures.

Now Thomson Broadcast & Media Solutions thinks it has the solution.

It will launch dMAX (digital Media Asset Maximization) at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in April. Thomson says its approach to DAM concentrates on maximizing assets rather than simply managing them.


How will Thomson escape the money pit? “The real trick is to take database and other technologies and embed the functionality into the products,” says Mike Cronk, vice president/general manager, servers and digital news production, Thomson Broadcast & Media Solutions.

“We have a framework for doing that,” he explains. “We take the pieces—like the server, switcher or camera—and place dMAX hooks into the product’s DNA.”

Such products provide the bulk of the asset-management functionality. With video servers and editors, for example, DAM information is tagged to the content as it moves through and outside a facility. That built-in approach is seen as essential to long-term success.

Thomson’s edge is focusing on workflow and end-to-end solutions, rather than concentrating on individual products, says Executive Vice President Marc Valentin.

The company’s Consultative Service Group is charged with integrating all the products. It will help build the software pieces that glue the products together and ensure that installation is properly done.


Key to dMAX is Thomson’s XMS, an eXtensible Management System, and NetCentral 4.1 comprehensive facility-monitoring software. XMS controls all Thomson Grass Valley SD and HD, MPEG-2 and even MPEG-4 transmission gear and can now be integrated with third-party devices via SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) and rights management. NetCentral 4.1 enables monitoring of equipment from a PC (it also supports SNMP-based devices), providing alerts in the case of failure.

The benefit of using NetCentral as part of dMAX is that it monitors “all software and platforms installed on the system, which is important when trying to troubleshoot,” says Ray Baldock, chief technical officer, Thomson Broadcast & Media.

Cronk is confident that the value to customers will make his products more attractive than their predecessors.

“By offering products with this level of integration, it makes it easier for clients to get their jobs done,” he says.

One weapon in Thomson’s arsenal is its NewsBrowse desktop editing system, which lets reporters and producers search for the video clips they need.


Many of the earlier DAM initiatives tried to take third-part asset-management systems and drop them into an existing TV facility. The goals were noble: TV organizations were in search of greater work efficiencies and new revenues. (The most common effort was to make it easier to port content to broadband services.) The software would build a database of video and audio content searchable by key word.

At its most exciting (and expensive), the cue was given by face or voice. The problem: Because the systems tended to fit awkwardly into existing operations, much of the functionality paid for remained unused.

Thomson’s system won’t offer face or voice recognition—at least not yet. (Cronk says his company will work with third-party DAM suppliers for customers looking for more-traditional DAM features.) But Thomson believes that its approach will help clients keep, find, send and use digital assets more easily.

The ABC TV-station group, for example, is already using part of the functionality inherent in the NewsBrowse nonlinear editing system, which allows users to share and access video clips at the same time.


Building DAM applications into products makes DAM easier to use. It makes use as simple as plugging into a Gigabit Ethernet port. (It’s also cheaper.)

“For larger applications with specific needs, we’ll have engineering resources available for customization,” says Cronk. Special requests, however, mean that TV organizations may have to invest at least $100,000 in a DAM system. The tradeoff: Those costs should fall as the technology is improved.

“We want to make asset management so ingrained in our products it becomes a non-issue,” says Cronk. “Asset management is a success when we don’t have to talk about it anymore.”