25 Jun 2019

BASE Media Cloud on Software-as-a-Service for Production, Post and Delivery

Cloud-based infrastructure is enabling some of the most profound advancements in 21st century production workflow, yet it can be hard for facilities to get their media in place to take advantage of different cloud applications, from archive and asset management to transcode and delivery. That’s where a cloud services management company like BASE Media Cloud comes in. Base looks to open up possibilities for media companies by creating a single cloud gateway network and storage platform that its customers can use not just for cloud storage of their media, but to access applications in any public cloud service. For example, Signiant’s Media Shuttle, a workhorse for fast file transfers, is central to BASE Media Cloud’s offerings, giving customers the technology they need to whip their media files to different locations around the globe. The idea, according to company co-founder Ben Foakes, is to allow businesses with modest amounts of on-premise storage infrastructure to operate as global media companies. We talked to Foakes in more detail about BASE Media Cloud’s offerings, the implications of end-to-end services in the cloud, and the future of media workflow.

StudioDaily: BASE Media Cloud’s website says you offer “tailored cloud solutions for digital media companies.” What does that mean, beyond that you’re hosting media libraries on behalf of owners?

Ben Foakes: Let me share some backstory. I started out in this industry in the early 2000s. Running a post company [Sequence in London], I realized there are huge costs running your own infrastructure on premise. I started to see people in other industries moving toward more online, cloud-based work — but it was very early for media. Around 2011, I started to research the capabilities of the cloud and what it could do for us in post, storage and distribution. I left my post house in early 2013 and spent two solid years creating a business plan with my co-founder, Bob Rainford, before going on to design and launch the first iteration of BASE Media Cloud in May 2015. The company began with very simple cloud storage-as-a-service. That wasn’t the long-term vision, but more of a foundation. We knew that if we did something simple to start with, and encouraged companies to move their data to the cloud, we could build other services on top of it.

What kind of services?

The vision has always been multi-cloud storage and software-as-a-service [SaaS] applications available on a pay-as-you-go basis. You store all your media in one central cloud location and then tap into it with different cloud-hosted applications, depending on your needs. One customer might need to back up content, another might need a full MAM plugged in, and another might need encoding, QC and delivery. Separate solutions can be tailored to every conceivable workflow. But what we realized is that while forward-thinking software vendors have started migrating applications to the cloud, it’s very challenging for media companies to have one service in AWS, one in Google, and one in IBM and make them work together. If we invest time and money in a clever, centralized cloud network, so that we can manage data through one cloud-storage gateway, then we can tailor solutions to our clients’ needs. They can pick and choose their preferred SaaS applications that can run in any public cloud and read and write to their centralized data core with Base. So we’re not just selling one thing. Depending on what a customer needs, we’re able to spin up a service to fit them, while also helping them remain agile and able to adapt to a fast moving market.

And you’re saying this is more affordable than doing something similar with on-premises infrastructure?

The big thing is that we were the first company in the world — that I am aware of — to provide cloud storage with zero egress fees, zero retrieval fees, and zero API call charges. We never charge for access to the cloud bucket — it’s always been free with BASE. And the cost saving is enormous if you compare doing it through our cloud network versus doing it directly with the public cloud providers. All of the different public cloud vendors want to get all the data and processing onto their platforms, but that’s not in the best interests of the customer. Customers need to move workloads around and swap software tools, changing dynamically as their business changes and as new, different products and services become available. If you choose a single cloud or point SaaS solution then you are, arguably, exposing yourself to the same perils of traditional hardware vendor lock-in.

You worked with Copa90, an online media network that’s all about soccer, on World Cup-related projects last year. Can you explain what you set up for them?

Copa90 had to move around 100 TB of data between Russia, the U.K. and New York City. We used Signiant technology on our cloud network and provided high-speed cloud storage transit for the whole event. We’ve continued that solution, and they’ve used it to upload old hard drives into their Base Media Cloud account and migrate old servers into our platform for back-up and archiving purposes. We have ingested multiple hundreds of terabytes with them over the last year. Running adjacent to the original Signiant solution was Veritone’s Digital Media Hub and CORE media asset management stack, providing a multi-cloud MAM service hosted between AWS and IBM Cloud. Behind the scenes, we’re using Telestream Cloud to do all their transcoding. We are now working on implementation of podcast distribution, Veritone aiWare powered automated content metadata enrichment, and new ways to seamlessly distribute content to additional global Copa90 partners. Copa90 have multiple constituent parts, all integrated together through Base. They’re keen on modularity — their business is growing fast, so they need to be agile.

We’ve also been working with a company called Little Dot Studios. They’ve been a customer since we opened in May 2015, when they were our first Signiant and storage customer. They’re a similar use case where, because they’re an online video company, they made a business decision to go cloud instead of on-prem.

Is it harder to convince companies that haven’t necessarily been online-native to make that jump?

The Football Association had sunk investments into physical infrastructure for all their storage and archiving. It got to the point where their hardware was failing and losing data. It was a compelling moment to switch to cloud, but it took us six months to get there and actually migrate their video into cloud storage. It’s automated now, but it was a big project and it took us a long time to do. We come across some big post-production houses with millions of pounds invested in hardware, and they cannot make the move. Senior execs at big post houses have said they love what we’re doing but they have to wait until their current kit reaches its end of life. We respect that. But other digital-first companies are raring to go and are able to move much more quickly.

What misconceptions do people have about the cloud?

The big ones are cost and security. Unfortunately, because there’s a lack of understanding about how cloud services are designed and how they work, a lot of people assume that if their data is online, it’s vulnerable. Our architecture is so much more hardened than traditional movie companies — you could walk out of most London post houses with a hard drive in your backpack and nobody would notice. With us, your data can be protected behind multifactor authentication, accessed via secure SaaS applications and stored in ISO-rated data centers. It’s another level.

On the cost side, there’s a perception that it’s way too expensive. Since we started the business, our storage pricing has dropped by two-thirds. We’re only four years old. There’s a whopping saving there. We’ll sit with the client and do a forecast for two or three years out, and we’ll show them the real-world costs of the Base platform. More often than not, we are cheaper than building, buying and running the same capacity in house. We’ve reached an inflection point where the costs are more reasonable, security is proven and it’s way easier, without teams of in-house support to manage it.

What trends are you seeing in the market for cloud services?

We’re getting approached by a lot of big content distribution facilities who do manual processing and store everything in-house on LTO tape. In a big shift, they’re looking to move it all to the cloud, into a self-service model. Doing it the old way, sending one master to a VOD platform might take a week, but if everything is in the cloud it takes minutes. So there’s a big trend in distribution toward looking at the cloud. Also, a lot of creative customers and rights holders we work with have asked Base to help them run their own SVOD services. We’re developing that as one of the modules we offer. We will go from shoot and back-up of rushes, through to post-produce, master, and QC, and then at the end of the chain push it to your own branded channel. All of this is based on what customers are asking for. Feedback is driving it in every case. The companies approaching us are having explosive growth in viewership, so many more videos will need to be produced and securely dealt with all the way back through the content chain. They are thinking three to five years ahead.

By Bryant Fraze

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06 Jun 2019

TOP 5 Cloud Myths Debunked

BASE Media Cloud Founder and Managing Director Ben Foakes sets out the facts about using the technology.

THE CLOUD IS ALL UP IN THE AIR

The cloud consists of large-scale IT infrastructure and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), hosted in physical data centres, that can be accessed via the internet and rented on a pay-as-you-go basis. When you upload a media file to a professional cloud service, it’s stored and processed inside a highly secure environment, with strict physical-access security in place. Data is distributed across multiple data centres or even multiple geographical regions, for additional data protection and service redundancy.

MEDIA STORED ONLINE ISN’T SECURE

As cloud providers, we have to build all our solutions with strict security. When you are dealing with business-critical assets, this cannot be achieved without a multi-layered security architecture. For the service we offer, users have the option to enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for logging into applications, bypassing traditional user names and passwords. Media file transfers are encrypted in transit. Data storage can be encrypted at rest and is automatically spread across three separate physical data centres in the UK.

FILES CAN BE TOO BIG FOR THE CLOUD

Today’s cloud services are hugely scalable and the media-focused SaaS solutions available for accelerated file transfer will support the high-speed upload and download of unlimited numbers, sizes and types of media files, to and from secure cloud-storage platforms. We regularly see our clients transferring hundreds of terabytes and millions of video files in and out of cloud storage as part of their day-to-day operations, over standard internet connections.

YOU CAN’T CONTROL THE COSTS

When not managed correctly, public cloud services such as AWS, Google, Microsoft and others can be very expensive and hard to predict. The killer is storage egress fees (charges for pulling data from a cloud storage bucket). One of the ways BASE differs is we don’t charge our clients egress fees, retrieval fees or API call fees – and we maintain a flat per-terabyte pricing model for cloud storage. This is critical for the media industry, as unpredictable storage costs can make it difficult for companies to budget correctly. By choosing the right managed cloud services provider, or by building and managing your own cloud network, you can architect your cloud-based media solutions to bypass unpredictable fees and know exactly what to budget for, and when.

PHYSICAL MEDIA IS STILL NECESSARY

If your cloud storage architecture incorporates geo-redundancy and suitable levels of encryption and application security, there is arguably no need to maintain physical copies of your media. When you back up or archive media to hard drives or LTO tapes, you are taking more risk. Hard drives can fail if they are not in regular use, so sitting them on a shelf for long periods means you may lose your data. We are seeing an unprecedented shift to the cloud by media companies of all shapes and sizes, amounting to multiple petabytes of data storage, processing of millions of video files per month and multiple gigabits of global data traffic that would simply not be possible using traditional facilities. Cloud-native media solutions now provide cost-effective alternatives and a better, more flexible way of working than has previously been possible.

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01 Jun 2019

BASE Media Cloud speed up the storage and delivery of broadcast content

Challenge

BASE Media Cloud was approached by sports broadcast distribution company LCTV to provide an easy-to-use, web-based file storage and distribution service at a low cost that required minimal technical expertise and maintenance support. LCTV had been working with a number of different traditional media facilities in the UK and USA. In each case, a variety of content delivery methods were used, including digital tape and file-based masters. However, work was primarily manual, utilizing minimal automation, which was costly and time consuming. Furthermore, as a result of engaging traditional facilities for the work, the LCTV team had no direct access to, or ownership of their own data, which proved frustrating and impacted their efficiency.

LCTV wanted a self-service cloud solution that was fully managed by BASE Media Cloud so that the LCTV team could be freed up to concentrate on the core business of selling and distributing sports broadcast content more efficiently and at a lower cost. Key technical requirements included data security, resiliency and redundancy with instant access backup, archive and file sharing capabilities. Additional functionality that included simple file checking, automated transcoding and automated notifications services needed to be integrated into one bespoke solution for LCTV.

Solution

As an IBM Business Partner and existing large-scale user of the IBM Cloud platform, BASE Media Cloud’s solutions team turned to the proven IBM Aspera On Cloud file transfer service upon which to build the back-bone of LCTV’s global media distribution portal. By using the underlying IBM Cloud Object Storage, with built-in erasure coding of data across 3 separate UK data centres, the team was able to provide LCTV with increased data security, resiliency and geographic redundancy, out of the box.

IBM is responsible for the quality of the underlying storage stack, data centres and support, while the BASE solutions engineers and customer support teams are able to focus on the specialised tasks of developing cutting edge media workflow solutions, managing the deployment, as well as training and on-boarding LCTV users. By building the solution on IBM Cloud, BASE Media Cloud accelerated the time to launch and enjoyed the ability to quickly alter configurations based on the client’s needs.

The solution that is now in place enables over 80 global production partners to upload HD broadcast master files from around the world into one centralised storage hub with BASE Media Cloud, and have this content automatically checked and prepared for downstream distribution. Once master files are approved and ready for delivery, the LCTV sales team can easily login to a branded media portal and simply ‘click to send’ the assets to its broadcast customers at maximum speed, anywhere in the world, via standard internet connections.

Results

The BASE Media Cloud solution has redefined the way LCTV delivers broadcast media to hundreds of global buyers, saving the client time and money, while speeding up the process of selling and delivering broadcast content. By storing the data with IBM, LCTV have access to all their own material and have better control of archive materials for future monetisation while enjoying inherent cost-savings by having the data spread across multiple data centres with no added capital expense.

Furthermore, moving to an online file transfer service powered by Aspera on Cloud has enabled LCTV to eliminate the need for tape and hard drive shipments around the world by expensive couriers, further augmenting cost-savings.

From an operational point of view, slow and time-consuming manual tasks have been minimized. Since switching to a cloud-native service managed by BASE Media Cloud, LCTV has been able to turn around uploaded master files in a matter of minutes rather than days and deliver them simultaneously to broadcasters all over the world via one LCTV branded portal.

The seamless integration of Aspera on Cloud with IBM Cloud Object Storage has also resulted in increased speed, agility and security. Content can quickly be sent to hundreds of broadcasters simultaneously, while services for new clients can be implemented in minutes with the assurance that all data is being handled in the most secure way, with encryption in-flight and at-rest.

“LCTV is proud to be working with Base Media Cloud and IBM and has worked with the team to create a single file type for all our programming, delivering hundreds of hours of content each year to something like 100 TV networks around the world,”
said Laura Cotterill, Founder and Managing Director of LCTV. “Our system is designed with both us and the end user in mind, enabling our delivery team to very precisely provide programming to our networks when it is required and in an easy, secure and manageable system.”

Furthermore, moving to an online file transfer service powered by Aspera on Cloud has enabled LCTV to eliminate the need for tape and hard drive shipments around the world by expensive couriers, further augmenting cost-savings.

From an operational point of view, slow and time-consuming manual tasks have been minimized. Since switching to a cloud-native service managed by BASE Media Cloud, LCTV has been able to turn around uploaded master files in a matter of minutes rather than days and deliver them simultaneously to broadcasters all over the world via one LCTV branded portal.

The seamless integration of Aspera on Cloud with IBM Cloud Object Storage has also resulted in increased speed, agility and security. Content can quickly be sent to hundreds of broadcasters simultaneously, while services for new clients can be implemented in minutes with the assurance that all data is being handled in the most secure way, with encryption in-flight and at-rest.

BASE Media Cloud Background

Founded in 2015, BASE Media Cloud is an innovative managed cloud services company that provides integrated cloud storage and multi-cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to a wide range of high-profile media brands, including Associated Media Publishing, COPA90, Formula E, ITV and Objective Media Group.

The company is at the forefront of cloud and SaaS services for the media industry, sharing and delivering hundreds of Terabytes of content per year with thousands of users. Its ready-made solutions include infrastructure services such as cloud storage, backup, file transfer and transcoding, as well as purpose-built workflows for media asset management, remote post-production and video streaming. BASE Media Cloud helps clients reduce costs and improve workflow efficiencies while removing the challenges of managing complex in-house infrastructure.

From the beginning BASE Media Cloud partnered with IBM Cloud to host and run their cutting-edge media workflow solutions. The company provides a global file distribution platform as well as ultra-secure, instant access backup, archive and file sharing solutions for a range of clients by using IBM Aspera On Cloud, Cloud Object Storage, and Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

BASE Media Cloud has been recognised by numerous industry awards since launch, including jointly winning the 2016 IABM Design & Innovation Awards with IBM Aspera for the deployment of Formula E’s global media file distribution platform.

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