Cantemo provides next generation Media Asset Management solutions, designed to revolutionize the MAM industry so content producers can spend more time generating revenue and less time managing content.  At the 2017 NAB NYC show, we spoke to Cantemo’s Mike Szumlinski about how the company is just doing that with their Portal product.  We also discussed Cantemo’s upcoming cloud-based Iconik solution.

MS: Cantemo’s been around for about seven years now. It was formed as kind of a partnership from a lot of guys that used to work at a company called Ardendo, Back in the day, we built enterprise media asset management systems. Part of the reason Cantemo exists is because Vizrt bought Ardendo. There was some decisions made… I think we can maybe do this a little bit smarter. So the first product that came out is Cantemo Portal. That’s been our flagship product for the last seven years. It’s built on top of a web UI and a pretty extensible framework behind it, an extremely open API and SDK that is extremely well documented as well. So one of the things that we saw coming from the previous enterprise asset management space was that the customers didn’t have any power over their own systems. They would purchase a system- and the system itself may cost a decent amount- but the professional services around it were three four times the cost of the system because nobody had any ownership. You had to call the manufacturer, you had no documentation, you had no visiblity about how they did things. and if you wanted to make something work you had bother them, and if you bothered them, they said, “Hey pay us” to do this sort of thing.

Cantemo’s Mike Szumlinski at their booth at NAB NY 2017.
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Portal itself aims to kind of not be vertical specific and solve as many- what we say “generic” problems in media management as possible, while simultaneously having a very powerful framework so those very specific things that almost every customer has are attainable. And the ownership of that is either in the customer’s hands, the integrators hands they work with, third party consultants. In fact we don’t even really do custom development on top of our own platform, but we eat our own dog food. So all of the tools and things you see in the product are using our own APIs. Anything you see in the system, you could develop something similar. And we see that all the time: you’ve got some internal database for delivery or project management and you want to reference things- no manufacturer on the planet is going to make a plugin for your specific proprietary, one off, in-house system. But the tool that you want to integrate with really has all the hooks you need to do that, and it’s well documented, and we support that, then it becomes much much easier to do these sorts of things.
Once that product actually launched, became successful, and you started to see considerable growth- our growth within that market has been across a variety of verticals. Because the goal was to kind of solve a lot of the media management “generic” problems, we’ve got customers anywhere from sports broadcast, to image cataloguing, to distribution automation, and everywhere in between.

NTVN: That seems to be a general theme here [at the show]- it’s not just broadcasters here, it’s corporations- banks need their [media] assets which has been interesting.

MS: We’ve actually got I think four different financial organizations, we’ve got five different energy companies using us right now. We’ve got the biggest arena on the planet- Madison Square Garden- using us. A couple of book companies that shall not be named but everybody has heard of, are using us. One is using us for global episodic distribution, for “behind the scenes,” for OTT and for collaboration. If you look at the pie chart of vertical markets if you will it really looks like a pie- it’s just sliced evenly all the way around the circle.

NTVN: And you actually you’re one of the few people who actually has an even distribution it’s more like “broadcast “and then “everybody else.”

MS: Exactly. It’s been really interesting for us to see that. We’re not just focused on post, we’re not just focused on energy, we’re not just focused on security. We say, “OK here’s a toolkit that people are wanting, and the louder more people are, helps drive the roadmap to a certain extent. So we look at what the most people are having problems with… that’s the next bolt on when that happens.

Beyond that, we’ve got to a new product that’ll be launching in about a month, that is called Iconik. Iconik is basically- what I would say- it’s not a MAM. We don’t call it a MAM. It is the next generation of kind of a wide area of media collaboration. It is a hybrid cloud based solution. What we saw was that a lot of our customers are saying, “OK, cool, I’ve now got this system in house that does this great thing for us, or these five great things for us. I’ve got another site over here, or I’ve got people outside of this building, or all the way across the globe that still need to have some degree of interoperability with us.” How do we take all this stuff and get it out on en masse to more people- and maybe not necessarily as technically proficient people. We need reviewers and approvers. We need people that are just kind of tagging things, or making sure that stuff looks right or, making notes and comments, that sort of stuff.

So we built Iconik based on that, and the Iconik system itself lives in the cloud. You can upload content to it if you like, but we also have a synchronizer tool for our automation engine in Portal, so any item that meets any metric that you can trigger a rule on, can automatically be bi-directionally synchronized to the cloud system, and you can have multiple Portals talking to a single Iconik. So if I have New York on the system and I have L.A. on the system- and those systems are configured completely differently because their local needs are different- both those Portals and can have a logical map up into the center, and I can log into the cloud and see all the stuff I would have rights to see across all the sites I have.

We also saw that not everybody in the world may need something of the power of Portal on their remote sites. Maybe you’ve got one guy or two guys editing in a small shop in Chicago. That’s a second tier market for you. So we’ve built this product on top of Iconik called a “local storage worker” that can be installed, and it just sits on a local computer that looks at your storage whichever the storage is, and creates low-res proxies, and automatically checks content in, and manages it from the cloud. So if I say “delete it” in the cloud, I can delete it from the local disk in Chicago even though I’m sitting in Washington. We can also obviously get the proxies up, we can also request high-reses. So I’m a user that’s half way across the globe- I want this clip right now- I don’t have to call the guy in Chicago. If I have rights to it, I can click “request that object,” it will upload it into our cloud system and you can download it anywhere on the planet you need to.

NTVN: That was my next question, the workflow. I’m an editor, I’m sitting on my Avid, sitting on my Premiere, DaVinci, Final Cut, whatever. Is this integrated into the system or you go to a website to pull stuff and download it into your own storage or can it push to your “video drive”?

MS: On launch we’re going to have support for Premiere. Others will come over time, but Premiere, from what we’ve seen is by far the most popular platform right now. We’re, per Adobe themselves, I believe we’re the only provider actually providing a true proxy workflow using Premiere’s proxy unit right now. So if you are halfway across the world, you open up our Iconik panel and I’d say “I want to send this clip in,” and if that clip is not locally visible to your storage system that the machine you’re on sees, it will download the clip locally, it will register in Premiere as a proxy and it will register where the real high-res clip is so when you check that project back in, you don’t have to re upload any media other than the newly added media to the project, and when the guy back in New York says, “Hey I’m going to do a finish edit on this,” and he opens it, it’s not a relink like it is on a a lot of other systems. It just says, “Oh, hi-reses are all there, cool,” and it auto-reconforms everything to all the hi-reses.

So we do have a degree of NLE workflow as well within Iconik, the other thing we’re working towards in Iconik is we have a full review and approve process in Iconik right now, bringing some of those tools into the Premiere panel as well, so flattened clips can be actually be submitted directly into to Iconik and the review and approve process started by the editor as soon as he’s done with his cut, rather than having to check it in and then we go request the approval. And, depending on the environment, sometimes you want to have that logical stuff in between, but in some of our customers they say, “Hey, we’ve got field editors that are talking to local producers.” How do we get that information to them as seamlessly as possible? So that will happen as well. Having both a significant amount of experience with premise-based production MAM systems, and seeing where the downfalls were, the reason Iconik exists is because we were asked constantly to add the feature set into Portal, and after some deep analysis, that just didn’t make sense. Could it have been done technically? Yes. But would it have been as efficient, clean, and usable as the way we’ve done it? Likely not. We also saw that not everybody that’s a Portal user may be an Iconik user, not everybody that’s an Iconik user may be a Portal user, so we really wanted a seamless integration between the two, but we also wanted you to be able to continue to use either platform as a standalone product and grow into the other one should you need to- or maybe not- over time. So if we just did it all in Portal, now we’re stuck in a single, monolithic platform that doesn’t serve the needs of as many customers as if we actually have two discrete products that do very discrete things, but talk really friendly to each other.

NTVN: Put on your Merlin hat- five years. The cloud sees further adoption, processor speeds improve. Is your product prepared to meet future needs?

MS: Iconik is built around what we would call “cloud scale.” I’ll get a little nerdy here, but It’s built on virtual machine microservice orchestration using kubernetes. So all of the subservices that are feeding Iconik are all highly available and clustered in micro virtual machines, and the entire environment can scale to meet demand over time. We learned this from Google, Facebook, Uber- some of the guys that have literally billions of users in their system….

NTVN: You’ve built it that way from the ground up.

MS: From the ground up. So as the cloud thing gets more and more prevalent, we’re already built to handle the scale that is necessary. In addition to that we’re seeing allows a lot of microservices become available in the cloud. things like auto tagging and analytics, things like transcoding, along those lines. So the Iconik framework already has support for some of that- weve got support for Google analytics and Google video analytics right out of the box for it, but we’re going to add more and more microservice support for more and more cloud service providers, so if you want to use any of these public services, you have all your media management, but you could trigger the send and receive of those bits of information directly within the Iconik interface, and then you choose whichever third party you want in those those cases that meets the needs that you want to send information or receive information from and we can be a management hub, globally for all of that information.

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