Media Supply Chain panel artwork

Understanding the Cloud Media Workload: Media Supply Chain

Filed under:

The HPA Tech Retreat is the pre-eminent gathering of industry-leading thinkers and innovation-focused companies engaged in the creation, management, and dissemination of content. At the HPA Tech Retreat, the most compelling topics facing the media and entertainment landscape today are presented, explored and debated.

The rise of AI-driven modularized microservices in the Cloud are enabling supply chain innovation at a rapid pace. A global supply chain, secured by unifying technology standards worldwide, is quickly becoming a reality. Gain future-facing insights from this in-depth dialogue with executives and leaders from Metal Toad, Vidispine, Venera Technologies, and EZDRM, who are helping Hollywood navigate this innovative and increasingly complex process.

Featuring:

  • Erik Åhlin, CEO & Co-Founder at Vidispine
  • Fereidoon Khosravi, SVP & Chief Business Development Officer at Venera Technologies
  • Olga Kornienko, COO & Co-Founder at EZDRM
  • Tony Rost, CTO at Metal Toad (moderator)

Tony Rost 

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Hollywood Professional Association Tech Retreat panel discussion on the media supply chain in the cloud. I am Tony Rost, Chief Technology Officer of Metal Toad, an advanced cloud consultancy, specializing in content and media solutions. Panelists, let's go around the table. Please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about your company and its work. Olga, let's start with you.

Olga Kornienko

My name is Olga Kornienko, and I am the Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of EZDRM. We are the original DRM as-a-service company, specializing in hosted managed DRM in the cloud. 

Tony Rost  

Erik.

Erik Åhlin   

I am Erik Åhlin. I'm also Co-Founder of Vidispine. Personally, I have a background in computer science. And with Vidispine, we created — I dare to say —  the first API only MAM backend ten years ago, and I'm calling in from Stockholm.

Tony Rost   

And Fereidoon. 

Fereidoon Khosravi  

My name is Fereidoon Khosravi. I'm the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Venera Technologies. We are a cloud-based quality control software company specializing in cloud-related QC tools. 

Tony Rost  

So, I’d like to open today, talking about the media supply chain -- I want to help our audience put into context the difference of the 2020s versus what we've understood in previous decades about the supply chain. So for those of us who've been in the industry for a while, the analog media supply chain was much different than what came out in the early 2000s. With more monolithic solutions, on-prem solutions, and as the cloud emerged in 2010, a lot of new microservice approaches -- which begs new standardization -- started to emerge. And now that the dust is starting to settle, we're starting to get a good picture of the global, digital media supply chain. I'd like to help our audience understand what the differences are and what's new and upcoming in this decade. Maybe, Erik, let's start with you.

Erik Åhlin 

Yes, thanks. So we've been talking about media supply chain for quite a while. We always had this vertical, horizontal thinking of how things fit together, and with cloud, it's much, much easier to scale the components but also pull together favorite tools for an ever-changing media supply chain. So for us, it's really about taking things from digital to audience. The benefits in driving it all cloud — of course, as I said, scalability — but also possible to integrate it. I challenge the listeners here to think through what to do today and how you can kind of try and fail and build out and modify your supply chain on a daily, or short notice, or weekly basis. It's really from digital to audience. That's how I would summarize it. 

Tony Rost 

For the other panelists, what are some of your observations about what is emerging and different in the 2020s versus the 2010s and the 2000s?

Olga Kornienko 

So for us, one of the interesting things is that first of all, we started our company in 2003, in its current permeation. We kind of took the cloud approach right from the very beginning, or the microservice approach right from the very beginning, just strictly specializing on DRM. The cloud approach, or the cloud infrastructure, came in a bit later. With AWS and other companies like that allowing us to spread our services, if you will, all over the world, and allow the services to run closer to the end users -- which in our case, that's where you want the servers to be -- which kinda made life easier from the cloud perspective. Erik said, with so many different parts and moving pieces and everything that needs to be put into place, it is much easier within the cloud. Within some sort of an infrastructure, you have a standard that every company — regardless of which side of the supply chain they come from — they can talk to in the same language and make the process much more cohesive.

Tony Rost   

What are we observing with how much friction and churn there is in the kind of global acceptance of standards, versus as the dust settled? Are we all unifying worldwide on certain standards that enable more throughput?

Fereidoon Khosravi  

You know, what we're finding out is that this notion of decentralization that really has taken hold, and it's very easy. I could have our stuff integrate with Olga's stuff and work on Erik's platform, really just based on all of us, using this same guidelines rest API that allows us to communicate back and forth.

Olga Kornienko  

From the standardization point, we at EZDRM are part of an organization called the DASH-IF, or the DASH Industry Forum, where companies from all sorts of different parts of the industry and all over the world, have joined together to work on a standard format. There are various working groups that work on the ad insertion parts and on content protection and the playback side to make sure that all of us within the industry can use the one standard format. And to just as Fereidoon said, pick the best of what you are looking to do within the sphere that you need it from. So you need to pick the best player, the best encoder, the best quality control software, and the best ad service, and they all can talk one language, which is pretty much a very different situation than when we had five, ten, or fifteen years ago.

Tony Rost  

One phenomenon that I've been seeing is although we had standards for metadata around media assets that we kind of all solidified around, I'm seeing a lot more innovation. That innovation is being driven into the intermittent metadata. The innovation is being driven by feature engineering and AI. And then, some of the metadata standards that are popular are not necessarily compliant or ready for feature engineering. They add steps, so it's causing companies to revisit their metadata schemas. What are some of the observations you've noticed in metadata standards, and how that relates to growing opportunities with machine learning?

Erik Åhlin   

Yes, let's pick that one up. There's an interesting paradox here. I think innovation is very close to my heart. I've been living and breathing that for a long while, especially driving small startups. I think there's a paradox in innovation as standardization, which creates an interesting, almost like force field here in that standardization can bring innovation in that it simplifies building new things. But on the other hand, then you show somebody, "What if I could only do this?" And then they can tweak it, or do this and that, and then you're back in that almost like force field, a lot of interesting stuff is happening. Metadata specifically, I think that our industry is still what you might say is lagging a bit. If you look at other industry, like telco and medical and so on, who do much, much bigger systems and so on, they're much stricter in how metadata is applied and everything. But if you look into things like, have you used metadata in things like drones, automated reading of images and video files? Then it's much more loosely coupled to the output from the AI engines. I think at this phase of the innovation cycle -- I think that's actually a good thing. So I think that we are now in the early days of AI. We should let loose of much of that and try to get things organized afterwords. Let innovation kind of flow for a while, and then structure again on that specific topic. But there's an interesting paradox, and it goes over the innovation cycle on how much you standardize or not.

Tony Rost   

Any other observations from panelists on the evolving pressures that machine learning introduces to the media supply chain?

Fereidoon Khosravi 

Machine learning and AI has introduced a very interesting aspect to particularly our area, which is quality control. We are starting to use more and more machine learning because analyzing video and audio — it is rather complicated. The old, traditional way of the algorithms don't quite work as well. So, we see quite a value. We have deployed machine learning in what we are doing, and we're seeing quite a lot of value in doing that. And as an industry matures and as the technology matures, I foresee a lot more of that and a lot more accuracy in the work that we do relying on machine learning and AI.

Erik Åhlin 

If I may continue on the machine learning topic for a little while, because it interests me quite a bit. In the machine learning required state that are being fed back into the algorithms: I would be interested to see how the media supply chain and AI applied to the various stages then has an impact on things like audience viewability and how much they actually appreciate certain sitcom shows and whatever. That would probably be an interesting data point. Like, how much more popular was this when we ran through this part of the QC compared to that one? Or this streaming format compared to that one? I don't know anyone doing that yet. But I would love to see someone picking that up and see how that actually can impact  on your loyalty to viewers and things like that.

Tony Rost  

It seems to me that there's a never ending race to introduce new renditions of assets. We spent the past 20 years adapting to new screens, and that doesn't seem to be slowing down at all. It's increasing. And not only that, but the need for more diversity and encoding and rendering assets is making its way upstream all the way to production. What do you see as, or what are some of your observations about the versions and renditions, that assets need to go through in order to satisfy new revenue opportunities with modern cloud technologies? 

Fereidoon Khosravi  

You know, in conversations with some of the studios, I found out that a given title could have three to 400 different versions that they have to produce. It was mind-boggling the first time I heard it, but it's true. It's a fact of life. And it's more so as the content becomes globally available, and each studio creates this content, there is such an investment in that really that they need to monetize it properly. They have to have all those variations, all those versions — whether it's the language, resolutions, different codecs, whatever the platform requires that they need to do. It's the requirement on their side from the business perspective. But of course, that adds complexity onto everything else that has to do with the post-production and preparation, media management, or DRM — the whole works in quality control that we do. And that's where they rely on us — on all the technology that's behind this — to provide them the ease of use to be able to still supply those 300, 400 different versions to the proper market. But, all the things that they need to do in terms of MAM, and in terms of DRM, in terms of quality control, still needs to happen.

Erik Åhlin 

And new renditions are not just about the standard, you know, performance and things. I think also there needs to be — maybe we'll see that soon — some more experimenting on very cross channels, so to speak. What about Star Wars on Tik Tok for example? Or is this something that's really outside of the box thinking, and with a growing interest in these super new, super fast-growing social media things — for example, Tik Tok, along with those others — I think it's a matter of time before we see the big studios start experimenting with integrating their major supply chain into completely new ways.

Tony Rost  

Supply chain vulnerabilities have always existed. They existed with analog. They existed with our early evolution in digital supply chains. What I think is interesting to contemplate now is the global reach of our supply chains, the global pipeline that we have access to, and the number of people who are involved in the global supply chain. What are your thoughts on where we're at in the 2020s with securing the global media supply chain and where some of the gaps still remain?

Olga Kornienko  

As far as securing the global supply chain, at the end of the day, as long as you have control over your content, then you basically have control over your everything. There are two parts to the security puzzle, as far as I'm concerned; what we call the active DRM piece, where you physically prevent somebody from being able to view the content. And passive, where you apply watermarking that would allow you to either hunt down the person who's leaked the content down the line. Or, be it with some sort of actual thing that says, "Olga Kornienko is viewing this content," or forensic watermarking you can see, but you can hunt it down eventually. But, the other part of it that becomes important is keeping in mind that, as Tony just mentioned, a global supply chain. So we are looking at the fact that there are a lot of devices out there that may not fall into the standards of what the US DRM security, content security companies view as protectable. So, we have to keep in mind that you have to cater to a larger audience and a larger set of devices and work with companies that you may or may not want to politically work with in order to reach a broader audience.

Tony Rost  

My final question for you today is, in our audience, we have folks that are still working in firms that have on-premise and aging media supply chain management solutions in place. And despite all the innovation that is happening, there's still a lot of hesitancy and cost restraints on migrating to cloud technologies. What counsel would you offer these companies — may be on their five, ten-year roadmap — to adopt more cloud technologies and get over some of the hurdles that are slowing them down?

Fereidoon Khosravi 

I can give you a real-life example of a discussion that I had very recently with a production company, in fact, in New York — in Olga's part of the world — that had been on-premises for a long time. And they were looking specifically to move everything in the cloud. And this comes from the owner of the company, the executive, who looked at this. And when you look at the hardware that you need in-house, you need the staff that you need in-house — then now the fact that you really have to work remotely more often than you think. The longer-term cost of moving your business to cloud has reduced to the point — on top of the fact that you have the likes of Vidispine and EZDRM and what Venera does — to have components that you can do all of this in the cloud. The pieces are there. Everything works together, integrates together, you can reduce your in-house footprint and then deploy your talent to work in the cloud. There is an ROI in there, and there's a business reason to do that, aside from the technology and all the advantages and so on. There is value that you can gain in five years or ten years by not staying on the on-premise approach that we have had in the past.

Olga Kornienko  

Well, and also to build on what Fereidoon is saying, at the end of the day, you have to make a decision of where the components need to be. In the case of DRM, you may want the components for encryption to be closer to the encoder. Where is that encoder? Is it on-prem, or is it in the cloud somewhere because you're using a cloud encoder? And the licensing part of it is — you want the licensing servers to be closer to your clients or to your end-viewers. With the world being so spread out, and our clients being all over the place, and our viewers being in — we're just talking about where we're from in Stockholm, and in Russia, and in Canada, and in Mexico — they could be anywhere. So the idea is that you want your licensing servers close to you. That's not very, you know, logical because that is a longer hop, if you will, to get the license. You want the licensing servers to be closer to your clients. So if the idea is to make the process as seamless as possible, you've got to figure out what makes sense to put where the components should be, and then use the cloud to the best of its ability and also use the redundancy that comes with the cloud to be able to make sure that your business and your services work seamlessly.

Erik Åhlin  

The cloud really, really facilitates — or some of the microservices and APIs — really facilitates trade and prototyping culture within a company. So my very concrete recommendation would be that take one of your supply chains — that is maybe not, you know, seven o'clock news — but something that is a little bit less important. Try it out. Rebuild that on the cloud. Try it out. See how much work that goes to build that. Do we ROI? If it's sticky, if people like it, and you find efficiencies, go on. If it doesn't, kill it. So that kind of culture of tried and fail and scale, that I think is never been easier or cheaper than before. It's not a million-dollar project. It's not even 100k. It's far less than that. It's something that you can put your developers on. Yes, try it out for two sprints and see what happens.

Olga Kornienko  

Yeah, and to add on to what Erik is saying, I fully agree with you. Because the ability to take a little microservice and just say, "I don't need to build this whole server in this infrastructure. I just need to test this for 10 minutes for a day and be done with it." That gives you the ability to try and fail or succeed and know that this worked, but this didn't. And maybe this is way more efficient than what we're doing in the past.

Tony Rost  

Well, panelists, thank you for joining today's Hollywood Professional Association Tech Retreat, panel discussion of media supply chain in the cloud. We all appreciate your time.

Date posted: July 21, 2021

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • You can enable syntax highlighting of source code with the following tags: <code>, <blockcode>, <cpp>, <java>, <php>. The supported tag styles are: <foo>, [foo].
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Metal Toad is an Advanced AWS Consulting Partner. Learn more about our AWS Managed Services

About the Author

Tony Rost, Chief Technology Officer

Tony believes that customers' technology problems can be solved with deep respect, sound data, strong process, and adventurous teams. He uses data-driven methods to improve all stages of the development lifecycle – from design, to beta, to final deployment. With numerous ties to the open-source community, Tony also works to solve client problems faster and more effectively with well-tested open-source solutions.

Several dozen products have shipped under his guidance over the past 14 years: collaborative internal sites at Nike, social networking integrations with Adidas, server-monitoring websites at Hewlett Packard, open source contributions to Drupal, entertainment sites such as The Emmys, community sites such as FearNET, and HTML5 apps for tablets and Smart TVs.

Have questions?