Our taster article about Cantemo Portal (DAM) and FCPX proved to be very popular. So we are very pleased to publish a superb in depth article by Jonathan Eric Tyrrell called 'Working with Cantemo Portal.' He's also published a new workflow video showing how Cantemo and Final Cut Pro X work together.
Working with Cantemo PortalTM
It was at the second Workflow Innovation Group meeting (WIG2) at the end of January 2011 that I first encountered Cantemo Portal™. Though I was utterly devoted to Final Cut Server at the time, I still had enough of my wits about me to know that I’d seen something important.
A little less than 6 months after that discovery the axe fell on Final Cut Server and I, like a lot of folks who’d invested in it, began to cast around for what could possibly replace it. I started speaking with Cantemo, probably a little forlornly. One day they let slip that they had plans to introduce a entry-level version of Portal. If they noticed I dropped my phone, they were gracious not to let on. By the time IBC rolled around in September that year I was directing colleagues towards the Cantemo booth. Fortunately my enthusiasm has not been in vain and they’ve been equally impressed. I’m pleased to say a number of them are currently partners actively working to shape the the future of the solution.
What is Cantemo Portal?
Today, Cantemo Portal™ is enterprise-class asset management software intended for workgroups. It’s a solution that meets the core requirements of affordability, robustness and adaptability, while providing a uniquely customisable toolset, scalable features, themed interface and modular applications. It’s currently available in two flavours: the standard edition of Portal supports 5-60 unique users, while Cantemo Portal™ Enterprise Edition provides extensive scalability. Now we have access to the solution that excited me so much at WIG. When you see it action, I’m sure it will not fail to impress. And because both versions share the same foundation, it’s very easy to start small and grow your deployment.
Defining the Experience
Built with established, open-standard technologies, Portal is a complete media asset management package with user experience I’ve yet to see surpassed. The primary way to engage with Portal is through a modern web browser. For the end user there’s no special software to learn, the interface has the appearance and ease of use of a contemporary web site. It has such a familiar look and feel that everyone already knows how to use it. As someone who spends much of his time teaching software that’s a revelation.
(Right click to open larger image in browser)
Because it functions like a web site, Portal can also be tailored to provide a unique experience, utilising different themes or providing access to custom features on a per-user basis. Administrators are not only able to control which items each user can search, but also how they interact with Portal. If you need to support different languages, use various branding schemes or work with themed looks, Portal can be setup to distinguish between particular clients, departments or individual users. This feature in particular made me sit forward when I first saw Portal.
So much about conventional MAM solutions is about explaining the interface, why it functions the way it does and how to complete each operation. This was true of Final Cut Server, which never behaved like other Apple software, despite a passing resemblance to iTunes. Apple once demonstrated a proof-of-concept web approval system for Final Cut Server. I think that everyone who saw it wanted it and it might have been the number one request from all my clients. The driving factor was accessibility and the ability to create a branded experience. Portal solves both of these requirements with style and elegance.
Embracing metadata changed the way I work as an editor. It means I can access my media in a variety of ways and create fluid relationships between items. Final Cut Server played a huge part in that transformation and with Portal I am able to develop my ideas further. In Portal metadata is also treated as something that can be managed and finely-tuned in a completely transparent and granular fashion. Like Final Cut Server, behind the scenes the standard edition of Portal employs the sturdy PostgreSQL object-relational database, however Portal administrators have much greater control over the metadata schema and can define more complex relationships between data sets. They can also control which fields individual users have access to and precisely define what can be modified. In this way the user experience can be managed and finely tuned.
Flexible by Design
One of the features I really want to champion about Portal is that it has been designed to be a singularly flexible and adaptable solution. While there is out-of-the-box support for a range of industry-standard applications and media formats, the modular design of each component toolset means that new features can be added to expand Portal or supplant existing functionality. If an organisation requires bespoke operations that don’t already exist within the Portal ecosystem, there are a variety of paths available to have software created. As the Portal FCP X Workflow video demonstrates, additional tools can be used to create rough cuts and offer direct interaction with non-linear editing software.
Portal automatically creates low resolution proxies of video items, which can be previewed directly in the web browser interface. As I show in the FCP X Workflow presentation the HTML5-based players incorporate industry standard keyboard transport controls, including JKL support. With the addition of the Annotations Tool users can add metadata to specific sections of a clip before sending that information to the dedicated NLE. The ability to utilise the proxies and work directly in the browser means creatives can manage media before they move to the specialist NLE or other members of a larger team have opportunity to contribute to the editorial process.
Portal leverages the industry-leading, rich media backbone provided by Vidispine. It’s used to deliver support for multiple media formats, transcoding, API translation and application integration. The Vidispine toolset also means Portal is infinitely scalable and by expanding to Portal Enterprise organizations are able to create their own redundant, high-availability media management and distribution platform.
Video footage and related content can be ingested into Portal in a variety of ways. Individual files can be uploaded manually, whilst large numbers of assets can be ingested automatically. The transcode engine supports a very wide range of formats, including Apple ProRes and DNxHD. Additional formats can be licensed to meet specific needs. Files can be transcoded to a range of formats to meet the needs of any organisation with disparate delivery requirements. Whether you need to send files to broadcast or deliver directly to the web, Portal is able to support your workflow. In addition to the built-in Vidispine transcoder, Portal is able to exchange files with third-party encoding solutions, which can be useful if you already have a transcode cluster for Final Cut Server.
The standard edition of Portal currently supports two Linux distributions Red Hat and Ubuntu (Portal Enterprise also supports Windows Server). It can be deployed on a virtual machine and integrate with all manner of network protocols and storage solutions, including StorNext. This last option is particularly important if you’re hoping to maintain previous investment in an established Xsan environment.
One of the great outcomes of the last 18 months is that Portal is already out there. Cantemo and the partners are all hard at work deploying and testing new workflows. One ongoing project I’m particularly proud of is our migration of the historically important, Frontline News Television archive at the Frontline Club in London. This project has drawn on a number of resources, including the technical expertise of NMR and the newly released CP Migration Tool from moosystems, which is being used to migrate an established Final Cut Server catalogue to Portal.
My friend and colleague Matt Geller of Meta Media™ Creative Technologies is also enjoying some considerable success with Portal. In addition to creating, ScriptRunner™, a Final Cut Server script response emulator for Portal, he’s also been involved in a number of deployments in the US. This includes a project with 1303 Systems at Barry-Wehmiller. Their large internal video department is currently using Portal in conjunction with FCP X to manage raw and master assets, create rough cuts and annotations (features you see demonstrated in the FCP X Workflow video), as well as provide a comprehensive review and approval system.
These are interesting times. From an initial demo just over 2 years ago to a burgeoning Portal community. It’s been quite the experience. I know full well that the current momentum is going to mean Cantemo and the partners are going to have a rather hectic NAB.
Jonathan Eric Tyrrell is a filmmaker, consultant and trainer who writes at postpost.tv. He recently relocated back to Vancouver, British Columbia and is available for meetings at NAB if you’d like to get in touch.