This month’s company highlight focuses on one of the industry’s fastest growing companies, axle Video. Founded by industry veterans Sam Bogoch (CEO), Patrice Gouttebel (Product Manager) and Steve Ryan (Lead Engineer), formerly of SeeFile, in mid-2012, the company’s vision was to develop a MAM (Media Asset Management) solution geared to the needs of the many thousands of smaller video teams using shared storage.
The privately held company has been growing by double digits year-over-year, and now boasts over 400 customers worldwide. axle sells both directly to customers, and through reseller and OEM channels. Its overseas business is 100% reseller-based in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The company recently launched OEM deals with Avid and Simply, who are bundling its software with all their low-end and midrange storage systems.
The Light Bulb Moment
According to CEO Bogoch, the ‘aha moment’ came when he was at Avid having had many discussions with high-end customers who were very happy with Avid‘s systems, but were mostly using a small subset of the available tool set. At the time, Apple’s Final Cut Server had shown that a much larger number of potential sites existed for a system geared more for smaller teams. When Apple discontinued Final Cut Server, it was immediately clear that a market opportunity opened up for a next-generation ‘affordable’ solution that could fill the gap that they left open, using the latest web user interface technologies.
Said Bogoch, “We felt that there were tens of thousands of potential sites who could benefit from this solution, including sports teams, universities, corporations, ad agencies, houses of worship, broadcasters, and post houses.”
Affordable Simplicity. Expansive Platform of Solutions and Features.
Now five years later and true to its vision of offering a scalable platform of media management software suites that are ‘priced for everyone’, axle Video‘s solutions make it radically simple for small and mid-size teams to find and collaborate with their media files. axle’s solutions work with nearly any type of storage used for media files, seamlessly connecting to network attached storage (NAS), storage area networks (SANs), RAIDs and hard drives. It also supports many archiving systems which write and read LTO tapes, the industry standard for archiving media files.
According to Bogoch, teams who work with video typically have many terabytes of storage, often on loose hard drives, which they are unable to search and reuse the way they’d like. Given the ubiquity of low-cost storage servers as a cost-efficient file management alternative to loose hard drives, files can be migrated onto a server where axle Video‘s software can then manage the files, using their existing folder setup. The software doesn’t force the user to check in files to special locations, or upload them to the cloud. And you can access it from any web browser, smartphone, or tablet. axle puts previews of these files right into the user’s browser and even has a plug-in panel for Adobe Premiere® Pro CC, and XML export for FCP 7 and X.
All axle systems are compatible with Adobe (Premiere Pro, Prelude) and Apple (Final Cut Pro 7®, Final Cut Pro X®) editors. Special configurations that add compatibility for Adobe Anywhere and Avid Media Composer / Symphony workflows are also in development. “Our software makes any team much more productive almost immediately,” continued Bogoch. “It makes all media files on the server searchable, browsable from a range of standard devices, rather than just edit stations, and ready for collaboration, logging and review and approval. The software can be set up in less than an hour, and almost no training is required for users.”
axle 2017 for Small and Mid-Size Teams
The company’s latest software offering axle 2017 runs on a server in a studio’s network and acts as the back end for browser-based searching and collaboration. axle 2017 is optimized for media libraries with up to 2 million plus assets. In operation, users simply points axle at the media files they want to manage and it automatically creates low-bandwidth proxies they can then access from any web browser. Using its simple browser interface, it’s easy to search, comment, mark, approve, and annotate assets from any location.
As with all of axle’s software suites, the storage can be a SAN, a NAS or just a local RAID, and can be running in a Mac, Windows or Linux environment; all axle needs is to be able to read the file system. axle 2017 also includes a new plug-in panel for Adobe Premiere Pro CC, which enables editors to search, see previews and begin working on footage without leaving their favorite NLE software. Additionally, axle 2017 easily links to the company’s other products like axle Edit, a rough-cut editor for the iPad and iPhone, and third party applications such as Firefly for on-set dailies workflows.
The biggest benefit of using axle 2017 is being able to quickly find and reuse key footage. Other features include the ability to create sub-clips and delivery variants of your media without using an NLE workstation, the ability to review and approve footage from remote locations, and the ability to tag footage for others on your team to search later.
Axle Video‘s Secret Sauce
The tight integration of this approach coupled with the ability to easily interface to third party applications gives axle’s platform several distinct advantages over other solutions. Aside from its industry leading affordability (axle Starter two-user license starts at $495; axle 2017 two-user license starts at $1,295), the software solutions tout radical simplicity in operation versus other competitive complex MAM systems. The fact that it doesn’t take control of a filesystem allows users to use all the folder structures and workflows they are already familiar with. It also means that installing axle is much simpler than installing a MAM, and that users can change their mind later without any risk of lock-in.
Competitive Offerings vs. axle Video
When asked about axle’s competition, Bogoch enthused, “Our main competition is doing nothing, and staying with archaic techniques such as ‘sneakernet’ where people physically move media between workstations on loose hard drives. The core technologies here are Post-it notes or Excel files used to identify what media are on what drive, and even resorting to shouting down the hallway. At the other extreme, there are sophisticated, complex MAM systems such as Avid‘s Interplay and Media Central, Square Box’s CatDV, Cantemo Portal, Levels Beyond Reach Engine, and so forth. These solutions cost several times what axle does, and offer several times the complexity, both in installation and in maintaining an ongoing workflow. Unlike axle, they typically take control of where media are stored on the customer’s file system, which makes them more mission-critical in some ways.”
axle ai. Disruptive Artificial Intelligence Platform for Media Management.
Not to sit on its laurels, axle continues to raise the bar for disruptive technologies, recently debuting its latest offering, axle ai (Artificial Intelligence), a breakthrough media analysis and search platform, along with its accompanying appliance. Post production teams can now realize significant time savings that would otherwise be spent manually tagging their media, and can benefit from the ability to find media that may not have been managed at all, often simply with cryptic multi-digit filenames from camera media.
axle ai helps video postproduction teams bypass the laborious task of entering detailed metadata about every scene. Instead, users simply select a frame from a video, or grab an image from any onscreen source including web pages. axle ai is then able to rapidly identify a ranked list of media clips, as well as the exact segments in those clips, whose contents most closely match the image.
The first shipping configuration to deliver this power is the axle ai appliance, which combines the axle ai software with a networked processor system with very high throughput optimized to run the axle ai video search and analysis algorithms. The axle ai platform is extensible to encompass additional onsite and cloud-based engines in the future, and is intended to offer the best available infrastructure for this class of media analysis. Moreover, combining axle ai with axle 2017 brings automatic metadata creation, faster production, and new possibilities for media search and reuse to a wide range of video professionals.
Added Bogoch, “Shipping axle ai has made us an industry leader in automatic search functionality, where you no longer have to tag or log material to find it quickly. It’s a real breakthrough. We’ve built it as an open platform and expect to take advantage of many advances from the wider industry and cloud services like Google and MS Azure, who will add their unique deep learning capabilities to the mix.”
Last, Bogoch shared his vision of where he sees future opportunities for growth for the company. “The first is in applying artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques to make media management much simpler and more intuitive than in the past. It’s not only a great way to empower video teams, but it also takes away the need for a lot of the up-front drudgery of tagging and logging that has limited the use of media management systems in the past.”
The other growth opportunity he envisions is in user-generated content, and the way nearly everyone is becoming a content creator. Bogoch keenly observes that brands, events and organizations of all kinds are now looking for ways to harness this creativity, and along with this opportunity comes the need to categorize and search all the new media. “We think this is a great opening for our radically simple solutions.”
Having been in the industry since the late 70s, I’ve seen my share of companies touting ‘hyperbole’ out of the gate, and slowing vanishing into the sunset soon afterward. Quite the opposite, axle Video‘s expanding market share is a testament to the company’s ongoing mission to drive customer-centric innovation while further establishing its technological leadership to develop radically simplistic and affordable, enabling MAM solutions to better serve its growing customer base. Moreover, I can foresee axle ai and its inevitable mutations causing disruption in a multitude of markets far beyond M&E. This is a company I will be definitely keep an eye on. You should too.
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