Texas A&M and the Big 12’s process of Digital Video Exchange

By Andrew Lippe

College programs in the Big 12 have gone full speed ahead with Digital Video Exchange, using a peer-to-peer FTP model for transferring game footage. The Big 12 Conference has been onboard with the process since August, 2005. SVG spoke with Christopher Luke, Assistant Video Coordinator at Texas A&M Athletics to see how this came to fruition.

Luke explained that the installation of 12 FTP exchange servers in Big 12 schools enable the transfer of media files to stay in similar formats.

“The servers utilize the NL Tek SAT Paks (powered by Smart Acquisition Technology) to transfer OMFI media Files, which is DV 25 video or an mpeg file,” says Luke. He added that the Big 12 Conference uses XOS Director and XOS Sports Pro editing software. Of these, seven schools use XOS Director, and the five others use XOS Sports Pro.

“Because all Big 12 schools use XOS, we have the ability to stay in the same format as opposed to the other schools and other conferences who have to go to MXF files. Ours can all work together and read the same data points,” said Luke.

The Pac 10, for instance, is routed to a center server and converts a Windows Media Nine files. “Our digital exchange is game files we export to an SAT pack.”

The SAT pack is a miniature hard drive of about 80 GB. It operates much as VHS tape has in the past. It stores video, audio and metadata. Paks are accessed through adapters connected to a PC or Mac computers. In the past, if Texas A&M wanted to do an exchange with a school, they would exchange a VHS or SAT pack. Now the 12 servers have a SAT internal drive installed on them.

“We just plug the sat drive into the FTP server then we move the video files from the SAT pack to the server,’ Luke said.

When one of the other 11 schools wants to do an exchange with Texas A&M, they will see a set of folders with marked video files. “When we upload it we are exchanging three different master clips,” says Luke.

The marks represent three different phases of a game. They include offense plays, defensive plays, and kicks. Many other schools have SAT packs including schools in the Big Ten and Pac 10. “Before the Internet, we used to trade SAT packs to each other,” says Luke.

Transfer times between schools depending on school location and Internet traffic between there and the central hub for both the Big 10 and Big 12 located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even so, it is far better today than just a few years back.

“The Big Ten and Big 12 hog that bandwidth. Still, the process is hours faster now than in 2004,” Luke said.

Texas A&M invests at least $10,000 a year in digital video exchange. It is not the only transport mechanism because some schools still send videotapes through a courier service.

When HD becomes more prevalent, Luke expects that digital exchange files will be near universal. The system will have to grow to be able to handle a lot of metadata, however. It is typical to have twenty football players at a time in frame. The 160GB SAT Paks are AVID compatible and can store over 2 hours of HD video.

In time, universal adoption will deliver maximum value for the methodology. All data has to be download-compatible, so servers can speak to each other. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until analog finally fades out in the years ahead. Luke sees this as being like the transition from analog to digital over-the-air broadcast TV.

“Until analog is gone, not everyone will want to go digital” he said.

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