XML Goes to the Hoop

As the volume of streaming media grows, finding specific content can

take a lot of time. For IT shops recently drawn into a world resembling

the TV business, the need to index and manage such Web-borne multimedia

presents new problems.

Those problems will become more complex as some organizations look to

sell streaming content, but novel solutions are being considered. The

National Basketball Association, for example, is at work constructing a

Website to sell audio, video, and other forms of content over the

Internet. Web experts hope that some new Web standards such as XML, the

Extensible Markup Language, will reduce the amount of work needed to

index and exchange data about such video streams.

The W3C group, a World Wide Web standards body that oversees Web

standards, has been at work formalizing certain aspects of XML over a

number of years. Companies helping the NBA to create a useful online

library expect to use XML.

Perhaps more central to the quest to archive video streams is advanced

pattern-recognition software of a kind once limited to military uses.

Such software is moving, by way of broadcasting systems, into

commercial IT departments. Some analysts call the emerging

discipline "digital asset management."

Among the players in that area is Excalibur Technologies, a Herndon,

Va., software concern that was formed in the early 1980s largely to

address the imaging needs of government-related agencies. Earlier this

year, Excalibur gained the endorsement of no less a technology

powerhouse than Intel Corp., when the chip giant agreed to form a new

public company that combined Excalibur with Intel's Interactive Media

Services Division.

Last month, Intel, Excalibur, and the NBA launched an effort to develop

and distribute sports content that includes enhanced broadband

programming and interactive broadcasts. The NBA hopes to provide access

to some 50 years of NBA footage, said Dan Agan, Excalibur's vice

president of corporate marketing. Eventually, the NBA will offer

personalized, on-demand views of favorite players in action.

Enhancements to Screening Room Capture, Excalibur's flagship software

program, are intended to meet the NBA and others' evolving

requirements. Screening Room allows organizations to "get their arms

around their video content" and then easily push that out to an online

environment, Agan said.

Moreover, Screening Room Capture will soon allow index information to

encapsulate as metadata in an XML format.

A common shorthand definition of metadata holds that it is information

about information. Thus, information that tells a developer, a

programmer, a machine, or a user about video content is metadata. The

usefulness of the emerging XML standard in that regard is that it may

someday provide a standard way of interchanging, for example, indexing

information on a recording of Michael Jordan moving to the hoop, Bill

Russell blocking a shot, or Dennis Rodman chest-thumping a referee. If

client or server computers can extract such data quickly, then highly

interactive online events will become a reality.

A range of uses exist for such technology, Agan said. That includes

everything from enabling advertising agencies to look through clips of

commercials that directors have produced to pick talent, to enabling

international banks to acquire knowledge of far-flung analysts, using

video and an in-house Web server.

As part of the agreement to develop a state-of-the-art interactive

streaming system, the NBA will join Intel and Excalibur as a stake

holder in Convera, the new company they are forming. The new company

will offer services that will include key Intel and Excalibur

technologies such as content protection, indexing, and search of

digital materials.

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