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Premium Review

Updated March 2021

Introduction

Dalet Flex is a content supply chain software solution that streamlines video production and distribution. With asset and metadata management plus workflow orchestration in a single platform, Dalet Flex eliminates inefficiencies in your media operations, so you can scale your business and grow your revenue. Dalet Flex is platform, format, and user interface neutral which means it can be used across a wide range of business functions and industries, and you can create custom interfaces or plug Flex into existing platforms. Dalet Flex is particularly capable of addressing the needs of the post-production, import & QC, promos & marketing, and distribution and syndication stages of the media supply chain, but is also configurable to support nearly any other stage including acquisition, archive, OTT, VOD and social media. Dalet Flex is available as a cloud service hosted by Dalet, or can be deployed on a customer's cloud, on-premise or a hybrid. Pricing is based on functionality tiers, based on a range of metrics, including (but not limited to) the number of users, integrations or workflows. Payment models can either be opex / subscription-based, or a capex / perpetual license. Flex is deployed and actively in use in nearly every part of the world, with the largest install bases in North America, Western Europe, Australia and Asia Pacific.​

Premium Review

ARCHITECTURE

The Dalet Flex architecture continues to be market-leading, meeting nearly all our assessment criteria. This includes using a modern development stack and adopting the latest and best practice core technologies (micro-services, dockerised/containerised, multiple types of database indexed with elastic search etc). Importantly, Dalet Flex is service, human resource and machine resource location-aware, so can operate across multiple sites, with the platform installed either on-premises (with multi-premise support), in the cloud (Dalet hosted, or client provided) or a hybrid of these. Dalet also offers remote environment management (REM) service that monitors the infrastructure of a Flex deployment 24x7 and proactively ensures that its performance is optimal at all times. Automated machine resource scaling (the ability to spin-up and down third-party services on-demand) and controlled sharing across tenants (the ability for separate companies that have their own account on a Flex environment to share assets and the associated metadata database) is supported via Kubernetes.​

INTEGRATION

The first thing to note is that the Dalet Flex has a very open and flexible approach to third party integration, with a plugin framework that is relatively easy to self-administer and support for self-scripting of integrations within workflows. It also has an open web services RESTful API and an SDK for plugin development. So, if you are looking for a platform that will need to expand or change resource integrations over time, and you want a level of autonomy doing this, then Flex is a very strong candidate. Flex supports all standard AV containers and formats and has some impressive capabilities around the Interoperable Master Format (IMF). Its configuration flexibility also means that it can adopt industry-standard exchange formats, such as MXF and BXF, with relative ease. So with Dalet Flex, you're not going to have any issues supporting the file and exchange types you need. The only exception that we identified was the MOS protocol, which is not supported. Considering Dalet Flex caters to the needs of full digital workflows, integrating with legacy infrastructure is not an area of focus. If integrating with your existing SDI infrastructure and/or directly controlling linear devices like VTRs and Flexicarts is essential, then Flex does not offer this out-of-the-box. Flex could though provide this through integrating with third-party partner products. Having said that, our experience is that most modern media supply chains are moving away from such legacy infrastructure and the other benefits that platforms like Flex offer usually outweigh this need. Flex is a platform that caters to the needs of full digital workflows. So if weak in this area of legacy integrations, then the introduction should be clear on this.

AUTOMATION

In our view of Dalet Flex probably has the most flexible and extensive workflow design tool on the market. The other platforms that also offer graphical workflow design tools (less than half the systems we reviewed) may have ones that are easier to configure as they have less flexibility and configurability, or may arguably look graphically better, but the extent to which you can design your own processes (from machine resource automated actions, human resource tasks, decision nodes and your own scripted nodes) makes this a strong candidate for any media organisation looking to optimise the efficiency of their supply chain. Other key areas of automation are also well served with Dalet Flex. This includes the automated allocation of actions to machine resources with load balancing, trigger actions and workflows from system events, prioritisation and the ability to modify allocation in real-time, and automated allocation of tasks to human resource pools. Monitoring and reporting on the automated activities are also strong, including a graphical representation of the workflows clearly indicating progress. One star was lost on our review due to a few key areas of functionality being missing. Dalet Flex does not support the scheduling of human resources or facilities (such as booking a specific editor and specific edit suite at a scheduled time), nor synchronisation with external calendars for this purpose. Flex also does not natively have cost awareness, so cost-based decision-making within automated workflows is not supported.  Both resource scheduling and cost-based decision-making could arguably be achieved through custom scripted nodes in workflows combined with appropriate metadata field configuration. 

METADATA

The Dalet Flex offers one of the easiest-to-use and most extensive metadata design tools on the market, with a nice drag-n-drop approach to building metadata definitions. It supports the configuration of metadata definitions for assets and business objects, hierarchical relationships (like production, season, episode, version), temporal, spatial, event and resource metadata. We particularly liked the flexibility around building your own logging buttons and associating them with different types of media (so just the appropriate buttons are seen next to the player), the ease of setting and managing metadata access control down to the individual metadata field, and the easy of building custom taxonomies and use of a thesaurus. A few specialist areas of metadata functionality are missing - hence the loss of half a star in this review. While Flex can have metadata fields configured to hold rights metadata, it does not natively have rights management or tracking capabilities, typically integrating with third-party rights management systems for this purpose. And although spatial metadata is supported on image assets, it is not on videos, and Flex has no built-in chat capability - both functions that some other platforms we've reviewed offer.

USER EXPERIENCE

Significant progress in the Dalet Flex user interfaces in recent years continues with their MAM and REVIEW UIs in particular looking very good, with consistency in theme, components and taxonomy. The backend UI, used by administrators, has a very different look and feel though, which as it serves a different purpose for a different user group is unlikely to be an issue. All Dalet Flex UIs are built on the RESTful API and HTML5 browser-based which offers flexibility in terms of personalisation, task allocation and collaboration. For example, in MAM, in your asset listings you can easily set custom table columns and custom filters (including filtering by business object attributes, such as the production or season), which when combined with powerful search tools means you can quickly find your assets or objects. The UIs seem responsive and intuitive. Dalet Flex is missing some specialist functionality that some users may value in certain environments. It does not have a built-in chat capability, nor offer any Android or IOS Apps. It doesn't apply AI to provide assisted searches. It has no dual player UI for enabling before and after version comparisons. It has no image manipulation tools (such as object aware cropping or background removal). Its non-linear editor is cut-cut only (Flex integrates with third-party NLEs for craft editing), and offers no voice-over recording capability.

ANALYTICS

Because Dalet Flex has such a strong metadata configuration capability (see above), it can have the information available with which to provide powerful reporting and insights. Flex UIs include table and support custom panels to provide clear reporting. Event Handlers and Timed Actions can be configured to deliver reports to appropriate users when specific events occur or at a configurable cadence. While Dalet Flex has no built-in charts, it does supports integration with third-party apps such as Kibana for this purpose. This includes presenting human resource task duration by user or role, and machine resource usage by time or location, and action status (completed, failed, cancelled). Like most platforms that we have reviewed, Dalet Flex does not natively provide financial tracking - so no cost tracking reports or dashboards, no ability to track historical or current cost versus budget, nor predict the cost to complete production. It has proven integrations with CRMs to enable automated billing.

SECURITY

A strong commitment to security is shown by Dalet with Dalet Flex scoring well in nearly all areas that we considered. With Documentation and Testing, Dalet confirmed that they had met all the requirements for policy, audit and recovery, and their secure coding practices seem to follow best practice (although it should be noted that we do not actively validate either of these areas). Secure centralised authentication is provided with the principle of least privilege and authenticates first, authorise next policies adopted. Secure password with a recovery mechanism and optional multi-factor authentication is supported. Logging and forensics capabilities include logging timestamps with source IP, an extensible logging framework, and exception logging. There are a few arguably minor security areas not supported in Flex, which has resulted in the loss of one star in our review. While inactivity timeouts occur, sensitive material re-authentication is not supported. There is no monitoring for suspicious IP addresses, and no automated security breach alerts, as this is normally done on the customer side and Dalet Flex works with their selected solution. The access control code is not separated from the application code, and databases are not placed on separate network segments. This is not been requested or a requirement for Dalet Flex customers so far but is possible to deliver it if needed.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

This is the one assessment area that Dalet Flex that did not score well in our review, and depending on your needs may or may not be an issue. Dalet Flex integrates with third-party AI engines, rather than reinventing the wheel, integrating with Microsoft, Google, and Dalet Media Cortex to orchestrate workflows that include AI functionality (predominantly video analytics such as facial and object detection, voice detection, multi-lingual translation, visual text extraction). In this, Flex acts as an AI aggregator, so arguably integration with the likes of Valossa, Veritone or GreyMeta is not required. Having said that, whether utilising in-house or best of breed AI engines, Dalet Flex offers less AI-driven functionality than other platforms that we have reviewed. It does not use AI for content identification or association, intelligent discovery, or contextual insights (detection, ranking and recommendations). Nor does Flex use AI for content placement (linear schedules or VOD grouping recommendations) or operations management (operations resourcing, on-demand service provision, fault prediction).  It has though been proven to utilise the data collected from third-party AI engines to automatically produce highlights packages (such as from sports events).