Next Generation of MEMAT begins to Rise from its Foundations
After a year of development behind the scenes we are at last beginning to see the next generation of MEMAT take shape. The whole process has taken us far longer than could have been imagined, but creating a system that can handle images, sound, and video has proved to be highly complex.
We spent most of last year getting the base infrastructure together led by our Head of IT, Daniel Smith. Daniel is an absolute wizz. He does miracles with tight budgets. He has come up with an incredibly scalable system that means we can deploy mirrored servers all over the world in multiple depots. This translates to both security and high speed access.
The base system also utilizes the very latest developments in metadata. This is still very much a developing field. I happened to be at the first international metadata conference in 2007 at the CEPIC convention in Florence, Italy and we have tried to keep up with developments since then. The advantage of this is, of course, that right at the heart of the system are global standards which means cross-platform compatibility. So, if you load media onto the new MEMAT system, that media is not forced into a format that is unique to that system – rather your hard work of capturing data is maintained, no matter what system you chose to migrate that media to. The other advantage is that the metadata in the files can be leveraged to ensure very powerful search filtering.
At the heart of the base infrastructure of the new MEMAT is The Vault. The Vault is a digital repository with virtual “deposit boxes” which can be very easily written to write once media. The concept was given to us by Peter Krogh who wrote The DAM Book. We brought him out last year to teach at our Digital Campus and he has been a real friend to us. (Rumour has it that he is about to bring out a brand new version of The DAM Book, so watch this space.)
Originally we had planned to use an open source media management system at the core of the new MEMAT. That, unfortunately did not work out, and it did set us back some months. It just was not up to the professional standards we require. So Rosanne and I have spent long hours doing hand drawn wire frames. We got up to 75 pages! At the same time, those wire frames are being transformed into PDF designs by Brendan Temple at Temple Creative. Brendan is a real gem. Some years ago he spent some time in the UK heading up the designs for two major picture collections – Digital Vision (which is not part of Getty Images) and Image Source. He then helped us with elements of our MEMAT 2.0 system and now we have the privilege of his heading up the design of the new MEMAT, and I am sure you will agree, he has done a fantastic job.
So now we are on to the development with many programmers beavering away using Rapid Application Development protocols. They are using a combination of Ruby on Rails and PHP (both programming languages) to develop the system. We have already used this in the development of the application web sites for the Twenty Ten project and for MENA Training Programme for World Press Photo, and it has worked really well, giving a solid product with very few bugs.
So all in all, it is very exciting to at last see things taking shape. We are really grateful to the support of the European Union through Gijima KZN who provided part funding for development and to the Dutch Postcode Lottery who through World Press Photo and FreeVoice have also provided funding toward further development. This has been a costly venture and their help has been invaluable.
Black or White
As part of launching the new MEMAT system, the Africa Media Online site is getting a face lift. Temple Creative has given us two possible designs, but we would love your input on which one to chose. The image used is one of my favourites from Photo Access.
Here they are:
We await your feedback on our poll below: