Geographic opens vaults

Oct 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

National Geographic Television has partnered with Convera in a deal that will help the content company get a handle on its vast film library of more than 12 million feet-representing 25,000 hours-of film dating back to 1965.
Not only is the organization using Convera’s digital asset management technology to manage its video assets internally but it also plans to monetize that content by making it available to clients to access and purchase.
The project is a necessity since the National Geographic Film Library feeds many of the programs, including the daily news show, on the National Geographic Channel, which was launched in January to about 10 million homes. “There’s all this footage that needs to get to [the new cable channel],” said Matthew White, vice president of the film library at National Geographic Television.
The project started about a year ago when the National Geographic Film Library created a visual database. It converted 2,000 hours of its most recent footage into RealPlayer and Windows Media streaming formats so news producers could quickly access and view those archives, Mr. White said.
“That’s the genesis of the project-a massive research video tool so those at the channel could get ahold of what we have,” he said.
During the past year, National Geographic began to work with Convera to expand the capabilities of that database. Convera’s Screening Room software digitizes, archives and organizes video assets. National Geographic is currently using the software as an overlay to its database so that users can search, via a browser-based system, through the archives for particular scenes or footage. The software even allows a user to search for concepts such as “loneliness” or “sadness” and it will retrieve scenes that could be used to convey those feelings.
While the technology is being used first and foremost to manage National Geographic’s massive library of footage, customers of the film library can also access and search the archives using the software through a Web site.
Clients include advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett and BBDO, as well as educational producers, museums and TV networks, including MTV, which has used National Geographic footage for its awards shows.
In addition to the search functions, Screening Room will be incorporated into the production process and should start to roll out to producers in the field at the end of the month. When logs are created in the field, the content then will be catalogued using Screening Room, Mr. White said. “We can build efficiencies and gather information up front. We can find places in the production process that are unobtrusive to insert this,” he said.
Each time a scene changes, the software captures and creates a thumbnail image of the scene and extracts metadata about it such as the time code, the spoken portion of the audio track or closed captioning, if available, creating a visual summary.
The companies would not disclose the costs of the deal. However, most companies that implement digital asset management tools will realize a return on their investment within six to 18 months, said Charlie Caldwell, founder of NextQuarter, an information and research services firm in Rye, N.H. “If you make [a file] once and use it again, you can shift it from being a file to an asset,” he said. “If you don’t have [digital asset management], you are doing things less efficiently. Your cost of doing business is higher, and you can’t compete.”
The market for such tools is growing rapidly as companies shift files from analog to digital and as more bandwidth allows files to be transmitted quicker, he said.
Digital asset management was a $210 million market in 2000 and should reach $5.2 billion by 2007, said Mukul Krishna, industry analyst with Frost and Sullivan, a marketing consulting company. The market has expanded from media and entertainment companies to include Global 2000 companies. “Most big companies have realized much of their brand equity is in digital assets-training materials, marketing materials,” he said.