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
"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