Case study

Blue Lucy BLAM

An agile media operations solution for BBC Studios’ asset management and media transformation needs

In the early 2020’s the BBC Studios team recognised that the cloud provided a golden opportunity to share and monetise their extensive archive of original content.  But before they could provide their team with access to sales masters, audio stems and subtitles and start repurposing their content in the cloud, they faced a few challenges.   

While the media company has a vast array of assets to support international content delivery, the material is from disparate sources, stored in various locations, and needed to be brought under management in an organised manner. In addition, their processes were people-intensive and didn’t provide the agility required for content distribution directly to clients, FAST platforms and regional operational offices.

BBC Studios’ content was not only stored across various locations and platforms, but the material also featured different naming conventions and data structures, making it difficult for the team to find the assets and the information they needed. For this reason, BLAM was initially implemented to bring BBC Studio’s disparate media under management. Because the BBC Studios team also needs to ensure that historic content meets modern standards, BLAM orchestrates an intelligent quality control process during ingest that combines automated and manual tasks to maximise efficiency. The process starts with an automated QC using Telestream’s Cloud Qualify and Yella Umbrella’s Nebula then, if the content fails the custom analysis rules and tests, BLAM automatically triggers a manual QC task using GrayMeta’s Iris Anywhere or Yella Umbrella’s Stellar. Because these tools are integrated into BLAM as part of a closed loop, the tasks can be completed without leaving the platform and results are tracked in a single user interface.   

Ingest with intelligent quality-control

BLAM was originally deployed to bring BBC Studio’s content under management for UK teams, to implement a uniform data structure, and support distribution with basic content repurposing functions. However, over the course of the initial three-year contract, this has expanded and international BBC Studios teams now use BLAM to orchestrate numerous fulfilment workflows.

Supporting content fulfilment from anywhere

BBC Studios also needed a solution for finding and preparing content for delivery as manually searching for programme IDs in spreadsheets containing thousands of assets, and clicking each item to trigger delivery was time-consuming and inefficient.

To that end, the Blue Lucy team worked with BBC Studios to develop an accessible content fulfilment system that allows the content operations teams to trigger BLAM WorkOrders from outside of the platform.

The original intention was that orders for content would originate from an upstream system (such as a rights management or a work order management tool) which would then push a request to BLAM to fulfil them. As an interim solution, Blue Lucy’s team implemented the same process using Google Sheets, allowing BBC Studio’s team to prompt automated content searches, ancillary asset collection and media preparation by simply selecting their requirements from a series of dropdown menus in a spreadsheet. As the content searches run, BLAM also writes data back into BBC Studio’s Google Sheets to update the team on progress and alert them to any missing material.

Automated content repurposing

In addition to supporting remote editing for content preparation, compliance and shortform promo creation in the cloud, BLAM provides the ability to automate processes involved in repurposing traditional broadcast content for BBC Studio’s FAST channels – tasks that previously would have required a team of people and dedicated facilities to complete. What started as simply automating bucket transfers from Aspera and transcoding in Vantage has progressed to a sophisticated workflow where content can be automatically repurposed to remove bars and tone, create slates and add transitions with minimal user intervention. In fact deliveries are often fulfilled by BLAM as packages which, alongside the transcoded video for playout include promotional material, various language subtitles, audio files, and a metadata sidecar.

The BLAM factor for FAST channels

The success of BLAM’s implementation at BBC Studios is not only due to the platform’s ability to solve their workflow requirements. It can also be attributed to Blue Lucy’s unique approach to working with media customers – an approach that is particularly attractive for FAST channel media supply pipelines where the need for rapid implementation is paramount.

A pricing model built for volume

While other companies base their pricing on per-episode and per-platform delivery fees, with BLAM your bill doesn’t increase just because you’re putting more content through the platform. BLAM’s pricing is based around functions or tools rather than throughput – so you’ll only pay one license fee for transcoding regardless of how many assets you reversion or endpoints you deliver to. 

No code/ low code for rapid workflow configurations

Blue Lucy’s engineers work directly with the customer, developing a deep understanding of your needs so they’re able to create rapid integrations and quickly deliver value.  And because BLAM’s architecture is based on microservices, bespoke sets of code can be developed and added to the system without disrupting the core functionality – so you don’t have to wait for next month’s release to start using a new application.

A combination of manual and automated processes

BLAM is designed to provide automation with human control – so team members are inserted into workflows when necessary, rather than spending their valuable time driving and managing tedious processes.  This makes implementation of new projects much simpler because you can automate the parts of your workflow that take the most time, leaving manual steps in between, and BLAM will orchestrate both processes.  And all the information you need to track your project’s progress – across both internal and external systems – is available in one place in BLAM.

“Our use of BLAM has grown over the last three years as we discovered the platform’s capabilities and worked with Blue Lucy’s engineers to create bespoke workflow configurations,” said Adam Jakubowski , VP technical operations at BBC Studios. “BLAM supports our teams’ agility and the demands of the business to manage, transform and monetise our content, assisting global teams and clients. New workflows have been rapidly iterated and integrated to meet our evolving needs by the Blue Lucy team.”

BLAM currently manages over 20,000 titles and 100,000 assets through ingest, QC and normalisation workflows for BBC Studios. Over 230,000 files have been delivered, equating to more than one and a half petabytes of data.  A new, multi-year agreement was signed in early 2024.   

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