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Making TV Real

mFactory keeps the producers of Reality TV from drowning in footage.

"We moved back to OpenBase so we could quit worrying about the database and concentrate on what we need to do."

It may seem that you're seeing minute-by-minute developments as "reality" TV unfolds. In actuality, you're looking at as little as 0.001% of the footage shot.

Fox network's recent Paradise Hotel, for example, used 54 cameras, 24 hours a day, to record couples who competed for $250,000 while incidentally enjoying a life of luxury at an Acapulco resort.

"The producers of reality TV are literally drowning in footage," says Josh Paul, one of the founders of mFactory, a privately held California company that consults with and develops solutions for entertainment companies that produce television shows.

For Paradise Hotel, mFactory created software that automated searching through more than 10,000 hours of footage, to help producers zero in on just what they wanted to create the final 15 hours of programming.

"Say you are looking for a scene of Lisa and Adam by the pool," explains Paul. "The system will filter through all the footage to find just those shots."

The right database technology

A robust and dependable database technology is a critical component in the company's ability to quickly develop applications to meet the hard deadlines and assure the absolute reliability required by its clients. mFactory builds its solutions using OpenBase SQL database software.

"For what we need to accomplish the OpenBase database really fits the bill," says Paul. "Its dependability, reliability and simplicity -- its integration with WebObjects all make a big difference. It's just very easy to open up OpenBase and dive in to get what we need done, done."

Mission-critical applications

"No one's life is at stake," admits Paul, "But these applications really are mission critical. If our clients don't make delivery, the networks are showing black on air and our clients have breached their contract."

The applications that mFactory develops are distributed, multi-user applications, enabling secure and simultaneous access from multiple locations. Paradise Hotel, for example, was shot in Acapulco and produced in Los Angeles, with people in both locations logging, searching and using footage around the clock.

OpenBase combines a journaling architecture with database clustering to provide complete fault tolerance for applications that must not go down.

"With OpenBase, we're very comfortable when we deploy our solutions. We know that the database will be up and running 24 x 7."

Better with WebObjects

Paul also likes the way OpenBase works with the Apple WebObjects development platform.

"The architecture of WebObjects and the underlying Enterprise Objects Framework is amazing. It gives us a huge advantage over our competitors. And WebObjects and OpenBase work wonderfully well together. If you choose WebObjects, OpenBase has to be on your short list."

Putting advanced features to work

Currently, mFactory is working on using the OpenBase document indexing feature to provide a searchable, web-based document-sharing module.

Clients will be able to upload any kind of document .doc, .pdf, .xls into a shared storage area in the database, where OpenBase document indexing enables searching inside documents.

"It will help our clients keep everyone working on a project on the same page, or, in this case, the same web page," says Paul, "For example, our clients could upload word-for-word transcripts of the tapes. Then, anyone working in any location looking for a particular phrase could simply type it in and have the system pull up all the documents containing that phrase. These documents can then be downloaded to wherever the person happens to be."

Back to OpenBase

Paul developed his first software to help manage thousands and thousands of hours of footage when he himself was working as a producer on the show Police Videos. His first application was written in FileMaker, "but I hit the ceiling with that pretty quickly," he says.

Paul began using the version of OpenBase SQL that Apple shipped with WebObjects and quickly moved to a fully licensed version.

But he's anything but complacent about the tools he uses.

"We are always trying and evaluating other tools. We tried FrontBase. And we even moved away from OpenBase to MySQL for a while, because we like the open source concept," says Paul.

"But we moved back to OpenBase because we got tired of struggling with the command line and having to look in manuals to accomplish simple tasks. We missed the speed and simplicity of the OpenBase front-end tools and the refinement and the support."

"We really enjoy what we do," Paul adds, "so we want to concentrate on what we do, which is creating the business logic that makes it easy for our clients to interface with the database as opposed to having to make sure that the database is backing up correctly or that certain columns are indexed appropriately."

"With OpenBase, we can concentrate on the task at hand. We know OpenBase won't cost us time, which is priceless when you're on a strict deadline. OpenBase SQL is a great tool, backed by a great company with great support. We found out that OpenBase is really worth the price."

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