Enhancing Alfresco Digital Asset Management Capabilities – Upcoming Media Management Module

Over the past several years, TSG has had the opportunity to work with great clients such as the NY Philharmonic, Canadian Museum of Human Rights, American Society of Clinical Pathology, and others implementing Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions using the Alfresco Platform. For those of you at Alfresco Summit this year, Ray Gauss, Alfresco’s Digital Asset Management architect, laid out the groundwork for the upcoming Media Management Module, due out Q1 of next year.

The release of the Media Management Module will allow for extended DAM functionality, both on Alfresco 4.2. as well as the upcoming Alfresco 5.0 release. Ray’s presentation from Alfresco Summit is available on-line here.

The following highlights just some of the more interesting upcoming features based on recent conversations with clients:

Content Transformations
Alfresco has long used ImageMagick for transformation / rendition of images. Additionally, we’ve leveraged FFMPEG with Alfresco for both Audio and Video renditions. Alfresco’s Gytheio includes a messaging architecture embedded with the Media Management Module which will allow for the ability to externalize content transformations, instead of executing transformations on the same server as the Alfresco repository. Transformation of videos and audio can be a CPU intensive operation, hence externalization of this process for large amount of assets would be preferred. It will be interesting to see if Gytheio ends up being used as the default messaging architecture for all transformation requests, including office documents as well.

Integration with cloud based services such as Brightcode Zencoder and Amazon Elastic Transcoder will also be available, thus eliminating the need for a potential server farm of transformation servers for high volume of assets requiring renditions. Long term, it is assumed this same architecture will be used to add other services and integration such as audio and video transcription services.

Lightweight Media Editing
Alfresco Share’s media viewer will be updated with video.js, an open source HTML 5 video player. Similar to the upcoming pdf.js viewer to be released in Alfresco 5, if the browser does not support HTML5, it will fall back to Flash. A key feature, however, will be the ability to perform lightweight editing functionality. If a user wants to view 30 seconds of a two hour video, the video can be trimmed and saved within the repository. Additionally, time-based comments will allow users to comment of sections of the video, similar to annotation / note capabilities on images and documents.

Collections / Lightbox Functionality
A feature we have incorporated into our HPI interface for our clients, Alfresco Share will soon also have light box / collection functionality. Collection capabilities will allow users to select a subset of assets to share with others. A common use case is in marketing, where users may want to collaborate and view a set of assets to be incorporated into a brochure or website. The ability to share a group of assets, comment, and make public for collaboration would be valuable. Aside from DAM use cases, implications for use in traditional document management applications is also useful.

Additional Features
In addition to EXIF meta data extraction already available in Alfresco 4.2, Alfresco Media Management Module will further extend meta data extraction capabilities, including support for IPTC standards. Integration with Content Delivery networks (CDN) such as CloudFront and BrightCove will be in included in the Media Management Module, as well as enhanced content relationships when associating digital assets to one another.

Looking Ahead / Managing Digital Assets
Many organizations may have complex workflows and process for organizing, indexing and approving a steady flow of digital assets. TSG’s HPI solution has assisted in streamlining this process, allowing for bulk ingestion and updates of digital assets, typically leveraging a simple review and approval process. Would love to see a common approach within Alfresco Share, especially in regards to bulk indexing and updating of assets.

Another common request we get from clients is integration with Adobe Creative Suite. Although this is possible in a number of ways via Adobe Drive, CIFS, WebDAV, and FTP, would love to see continued improvement with the Adobe Drive approach.

Since the growth of digital assets will only continue to grow, hierarchical content storage will also continue to be important. Many of our archive clients focus not just on how digital assets may be accessed not just 10 years from now, but maybe 50 to 100 years from now. Platforms like Amazon Glacier may be an valuable for long term archives. I know this was a recent hack-a-thon project, would be interesting to see officially supported, similar to the S3 connector.

Looking forward to evaluating Media Management Module functionality soon! This can only strengthen use cases for ingesting and managing digital assets going forward on the Alfresco platform.