By Eric Peterson | Mar 03, 2014
Digital video archiving and storage
Levels Beyond is bringing the power of Big Data to video producers, and the market has taken note in a big way.
"The media world is multidimensional now," says Levels Beyond CEO Art Raymond. "Instead of three or four formats for three or four markets, you've got to have 40 formats."
In response, Levels Beyond's flagship product, Reach Engine, is an end-to-end software platform Raymond describes as a "media utility grid" that currently handles 1 million hours of video for the company's customers nightly. It consists of four applications -- Studio, Pro, Dispatch, and Stage -- designed to seamlessly manage massive libraries of video.
"We're a hub that sends that [video content] out to Hulu and Netflix and Roku and Xbox," Raymond explains. "That's the essence of what we do."
Reach Engine also provides detailed analytics and workflow management tools that can be used during production and postproduction as well as distribution. And that's critical in today's ever-accelerating TV business. "What used to be a multi-day process is now a real-time process," Raymond notes.
All of these features leverage the tools of Big Data represent a paradigm shift for video production and distribution, and the market has taken note. Levels Beyond's customer roster reads like a who's who of the media industry and includes Comcast, NBC, Viacom, and ABC/Disney.
Beyond video producers, Levels Beyond also counts manufacturers, creative agencies, and other companies outside of the entertainment industry.
Last year was the biggest for the company to date. "In the past year, our customer base has grown 400 percent," says Raymond. "We've boomed."
New customers include such big names as the New York Times, the Sundance Film Festival, NASCAR, and Adobe.
"We're close to live," says Raymond of the Times. "We're working on a new generation off video best practices in the traditional media space."
The company gained foothold with the UFC, which Raymond calls "our first soup-to-nuts superstar client." The mixed-martial-arts powerhouse generates six to eight terabytes of data per fight.
"That's more data than the entire Library of Congress," says Raymond. "NASCAR's even more [data-intensive]."
But for all of that data, only a tiny fraction is used during a traditional television broadcast.
"I'm a major sports network and I've got 30 cameras on an event," says Raymond. "I've got all sorts of auxiliary footage. You've got more content than you ever need for a live feed."
Raymond's advice? "Turn it on, make it available, and monetize it."
Challenges: Network capacity. Raymond says that the long-term vision for Levels Beyond is to launch cloud-based services, but the infrastructure is not there yet to handle all of that data. "You can't move terabytes in the cloud right now," says Raymond. "Our largest client has over a billion assets and 14 petabytes of stored data."
Gilder's Law holds that network capacity doubles every seven years, says Raymond. "We're going to have to do two doublings," says Raymond. "We're about 14 years from having the network capacity to do cloud services."
Opportunities: The post-production market at big Hollywood studios. Levels Beyond provides Adobe's backend technology for its Premiere, Prelude and Anywhere video-editing products.
"Avid's lost a lot of market share," says Raymond, noting that the company still dominates the studio market. "This threatens that dominance."
Beyond Adobe, numerous third-party providers of video software are interested in building products off of the Reach Engine platform. "We're starting to get this network effect of people coming in to build off of us," says Raymond.
Needs: Qualified employees in sales and engineering. "Our greatest need is awesomely talented people," says Raymond. "We're always looking for that."