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WNET’s report on designing and deploying a preservation-compliant media asset management system for television production is now available.

This report describes the design and implementation of a functioning video production media asset management (MAM) system designed specifically to facilitate the preservation of digital public television programs and associated content at public television station WNET in New York.

The implementation of a preservation-compliant production MAM at WNET followed on the completion of the NDIIPP Preserving Digital Public Television project (PDPTV), a six-year partnership between public television stations WNET and WGBH, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and New York University. PDPTV sought to address challenges and develop solutions for the preservation of born-digital public television content, primarily by developing a prototype digital repository at New York University. After several years of testing, and many lessons learned, repository staff concluded that without the adoption of standard file formats and the consistent collection of uniform metadata at public television stations, the repository would not be able to scale to serve the wider public broadcasting community. The processing required to ingest diverse file formats and inconsistent and haphazard metadata records that did not conform to any standard was simply unsustainable. The project concluded that, “this is one of the biggest problems that public broadcasting will have to solve in order to design a successful long-term digital repository.” [1]

US public television production has traditionally been performed by numerous fiercely independent production units, sometimes several within a single station, using a variety of working methods, tools, and formats. Archiving in the analog era was typically an afterthought, performed locally on an ad hoc basis by only a handful of dedicated stations. The result was that databases were homegrown, catalog records incomplete, and archives contained a multitude of tape and film formats.

As public broadcasters moved to file-based workflows and environments in the digital era, these practices proved not only challenging for preservation, but also extremely ineffecient for day-to-day production and distribution operations. WNET recognized the irreconcilable shortcomings of the traditional production working methods as they moved to file-based workflows. They also saw the opportunities that the digital transition provided to streamline creation, distribution, and archiving procedures for all business units within the organization. New tools, protocols, and policies would be needed, including a robust and versatile Media Asset Management solution.

WNET’s MAM was designed to adhere to a set of core principles that address the dual requirements of production and preservation. These include the systematic collection of metadata throughout production, management of a limited number of standard file formats, tools and technical integrations to enable the flow of media and metadata from inception to archiving, use of the PBCore metadata standard, safe and efficient internal storage of content, and automated exports of rich packages for distribution and delivery to a preservation repository. As can be seen throughout the System Description in this report, every aspect of the MAM’s design has been carefully thought through to ensure effective and reliable production, distribution, and preservation.

The selection, development, and deployment of an appropriate MAM has not been without challenges. Changing the institutional culture and working methods of the entire organization is an ongoing process. Yet the new system has already helped WNET to create more rich and standardized preservation packages while creating efficiencies in the production process. As the MAM is used for more projects — including new production projects and the American Archive Content Inventory Project — more and more born-digital content will be preserved for future audiences.

This report was written and edited by Jonathan Marmor (WNET), Kara Van Malssen (AudioVisual Preservation Solutions), and Daniel Goldman (WNET).

We’d love to hear your comments. Please send any feedback to MarmorJ [at] thirteen [dot] org.

[1] “Repository Design Report With Attached Metadata Plan” by Joe Pawletko, 19 March 2010, p. 2.