Content Aggregation and B2C Publishing Solution

VOD asset aggregation and publishing from ingest via metadata, picture, audio, subtitle, enhancements to publishing and finally presentation on end devices.


Why is VOD Publishing more than just transcoding and uploading?

To answer this we need to determine whether the content is ready to be published. If it is, we can fully automated content publishing or perform part manual content aggregation + fully automated publishing.

The first question is, other than the video essence file, what else is required for the content to be ready for publishing. The answer can be given by questioning what is required for content presentation at the VOD portal and its consumption on users devices. We will need at a minimum, a preview picture, a trailer, a scrubber board, and a short & long description. In some markets, we will need censored versions, audio dubbing/translation or subtitles. For managing the VOD portal we will need to categorize and link the individual assets. Finally, we will need licensing and pricing information to achieve revenues.

This leads us to the second question about how these additional essences are added to complete an asset package and how this asset is then presented to the end-customer. Therefore, this article describes the end-to-end process starting with the content aggregation and ending with a content presentation at the end-customers device.

There is an alternative article about our VOD Publishing end-to-end Solution which describes the fully automated end-to-end process starting with ready to publish content packages to be processed and published on a VOD portal.

The VOD business process - more than just a publishing process.

Ideally, the business process starts with the acquisition of content usage right licenses from a broadcaster or network operator for example or the production of content and therefore the generation of rights to be licensed (see B2B Content Sales Solution). Usage right licenses are transferred via contracts and listed in attached tables. Such contracts and lists can be used as a primary source to set up assets within the content right management system and to fill them with initial contractual and basic descriptional metadata. So far no essence files are transferred but placeholders are being generated in the production management system.

Next (or as first) the actual video essences are delivered and ingested into the production management system. This is the starting point for aggregating the various essence files and metadata to complete the asset package for VOD publishing. A preview picture is either ingested or taken from the source video. A scrubber board (to navigate within the VOD player) is usually automatically taken from the source video. A trailer is either uploaded separately or cut from the source video. Basic metadata including a short and long description is derived from EPG text, TV magazine text, internal databases, external databases or added manually by an operator. For certain target markets or customer age groups, a censored version of the main video is cut. In multi-language environments, audio dubbing/translation and subtitling is required. Often these tasks are performed by external suppliers. Therefore a branded and marked low-res version of the main video is sent to them and uploaded on task completion.

Publishing Solution Processing Workflow v2

So far no VOD specific metadata was aggregated or requested to be inserted by a human operator, but such data like category assignment is required for proper portal management. Furthermore, pricing information or assignment to other business models (e.g. subscription) is also required. The content right management system will fill in the usage time window and distribution channels. It will also control distribution channels and the total number of views.

Organization of the VOD portal happens in the Content Management System (CMS) backend via assignment to channels and sub-channels. The content order might get influenced manually or remotely from the content right management system by applying a campaign. On manual or scheduled publication, the content is moved to the CDN and made available within the front-end content catalogue. It may be that more content (e.g. new artwork, newer audio language tracks or subtitles) will update the currently published one. Once the end of the license time window is reached all content and metadata is unpublished and deleted automatically.
But there is more functionality required for professional VOD business. Most often content is secured from abuse via a Digital Rights Management System (DRM). Such a system consists of various elements. Content is encrypted either prior to moving it onto the CDN or once it reaches the CDN. Encryption keys are stored within a Key Management Service. This service is contacted by the player application every time the end-user wants to watch the content. Whether a decryption key is handed out to their player depends on the business model. In the case of a subscription model, the Key Management Server checks with the Customer Relation Management System whether the user is entitled to watch that content. In the case of a pay per use model, it will bring up the micropayment system to offer a purchase option. In the case of an advertisement based model, it might issue the key immediately but will use an ad server to compose a playlist with customer-specific commercials. Various other models are possible with our solution.

Aside from Video On Demand, there might be live programming as well. This is either given by restreaming of existing satellite TV channels or it can be exclusively produced for the portal. Special interest channels or local program channels are good examples of such exclusive content. They might be composed of the playout of VOD files, additional content or live sources. Within the portal, they are presented separately from the VOD content. But live content might refer to related VOD content. New business can be achieved this was as the related content might promote physical goods for purchase.

What are the elements that our Content Aggregation and B2C Publishing Solution is based on?

Publishing Solution Building Blocks

Who are the product partners for our Content Aggregation and B2C Publishing Solution?

Publishing Solution Product Partners

Atende: CMS, CRM, CDN, DRM, Player
 File transcoding and live transcoding
CreateCtrl: Content rights license management
FlowWorks: Content & workflow management
VJU: Live playout scheduling
Woody: File ingest

An example of a typical network architecture

Publishing Solution Network Architecture

Ingest is a topic itself. Our Ingest Master-Solution addresses all kinds of ingest. The complete solution or relevant elements from it can be an integral building block of the Content Sales Solution. Therefore, we focus here on typical ingest needs for content publishing.

Central Ingest Station
The Central Ingest Station is the main place for ingest operations. It's usually located in a room where all new content is brought to. A number of dedicated workstations are used by a team of ingest specialists to bring files from various storage devices into the sales and delivery environment. While doing so, files are previewed, selected, pre-cut and stitched. Technical metadata is automatically generated and descriptional metadata is added manually. The product used for this function is Woody in2it. It can transcode and re-wrap the files to the platform-internal format.
A variant of central ingest is offered when the source devices are attached to a server or files are being moved there in advance of the ingest operations. In this case, X-Dream-Media's Ingest Browser is the right choice. It allows you to remotely browse, preview, select and segment video files. Compared to Woody's in2it, the X-Dream-Media Ingest Browser sends the files for processing to X-Dream-Media's Workflow Manager (WFM). WFM orchestrates transcoding, re-wrapping, QC, virus scanning and other operations. It's usually used to manage larger amounts of material.

Remote Contributors
External contributors might require high resolution video files if they are providing special effects, graphics, or low resolution for subtitles or translation. In return they will send their work results as source to post-production. Some contributors may have a permanent engagement while others may provide essences only occasionally and in smaller volumes, but the number of individual contributors might be very high. Therefore, a simplified way to up and download video files with related metadata is required. Tools have to be accessible globally and intuitive to use. We address this need by "upload and download rooms". Technically these rooms are a website that takes or provides the essence file and requests or provides mandatory and optional metadata. The contributor either has access to his up or download room as they are a permanently registered user or they get invited by an operator to a temporary room. The essences, qualities and functions within their room can be limited and all activity is logged.

After files and metadata have been ingested, fully automated actions can take place under the control of our Production Asset Management System (PMS): Transcoding and re-wrapping to a house format or browsing proxies, audio processing (e.g. normalising), video processing (e.g. standard conversions) and quality control.

The asset packages to be made available on the B2B sales portal are composed from video, audio and subtitles in various languages, preview pictures in various resolutions and sizes, descriptional metadata and text in various lengths, business metadata, licensing and pricing information. Information might come from various sources like storage and databases or needs to be added manually by operators. Our production asset management system supports this process either by automatic retrieval from electronic sources or by requesting it from operators in as a software assisted process.

Publishing and Consumption
Publishing comes from the catalogue presentation on the portal, delivering the live playout, actual content delivery and finally the presentation one the end-customers devices.

The portal is based on a content management system and gives access to a content catalogue. Users who are not yet registered or logged will be able to preview VOD content trailers and can check on what live programming is available. The portal also manages the end-users, their subscriptions, and payments. To do so, it includes a customer relationship management system, ticketing system, and payment gateways.

The live playout is derived from a scheduling system and the stream playout engine. 24/7 schedules are built from a playlist which can be looped. The content to be arranged in the playlists can be taken from the VOD repository, this means the production management system can make them available for live playout. This way, a relationship between live and on-demand programs can be leveraged, for instance, to promote similar content or to link to commercials for related physical goods. The sources for live scheduling can also be provided fully independently from any VOD content preparation. This might offer additional content owners to leverage the platform to sell content as a linear program.

Once an end-customer has selected either a VOD asset or a live program to watch, an OTT streaming delivery takes place via our CDN. Certain content might require protection via a digital rights management system. This requires systems for the encryption between transcoding and delivery, the encryption key management, micro-payment or subscription management and the decryption in the players. Not forgetting buffer storage to allow additional access models like time-shift, start-over and catch-up.

Finally, the content is presented to the end-customer on their playback device. This requires the catalogue front end and the player plugIns for all relevant browsers, smartphones, tablets and smart TVs. Furthermore, the players may need to support multi-language audio and subtitle handling.

An example of the service architecture Content Aggregation and B2C Publishing Solution

Publishing Solution Service Architecture

The Content License Rights Management System (RMS) is the element within our solution that tracks expenses, owned/acquired rights and return on investment. For essence file handling, it connects to a production management system (PMS). We've selected the Suite 10 from Create Ctrl as RMS within our solution.

The Production Management System (PMS) is the heart of content aggregation within our solution. It acts as the Media Asset Management System, Workflow System and Traffic System. The PMS we've selected is FlowWork's FlowCenter. For customers with distributed organizations, the PMS can be deployed at every facility and connected to act as one global system via the flow-to-flow module.

The Transcoder and Processors are engines that help to fully automate the end-to-end business process. The PMS allows integrating with any other existing or future software solution. For the transcoder, we've selected Cambria FTC from Capella Systems. Sound and video processing can happen as part of the transcoding process or in certain cases via specialized software services. Picture rendering and metadata processing are implemented based on components of the PMS. Subtitle generation and audio dubbing might be outsourced to external suppliers. We integrate with those companies via interaction user interfaces. For automatic quality control we integrate with specialized software services and for manual quality control, we offer review user interfaces.

The Content Management System (CMS) is the backend of the content portal. This integrates with the player applications for browsers, smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs, the Customer Relation Management System (CRM) and the payment gateways.

The Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a distributed server network that takes the VOD or live content to the end-customers devices. It includes functionality for time-shift, start-over, catch-up, and on-demand consumption. It also manages the content encryption as a basic function of Digital Rights Management (DRM). The provider for CMS, CRM, CDN and DRM we've selected is Atende Software.

The Live Playout provides live streams produced from files or live source streams. For this, we've selected VJU.