Sports Asset Management: Blurring the Line Between Remote, Home-Base Operations

Workflows between production crews in the field and media asset management teams at home in the broadcast center have never been more seamless, thanks to modern file-based production and storage technologies. Nonetheless, there is still much work to be done in the area of content exchange between those on remote productions and those at home.

At SVG’s Sports Asset Management event last week in Charlotte, NC, an afternoon panel offered tips and techniques for getting both the home and road teams on the same page.

“It’s all about allowing everyone to play together,” said Brad Cheney, MLB Network, director of engineering. “It’s been a big change to get the people out in the field and the people back at the network together. [In the past], they were completely separated in terms of production [workflows]. But today, we can give people [in the field] the level of connectivity to find the clip that they need whenever they need it.”

Cloud Storage: For the Future or for the Birds?
As is the case at many sports media operations these days, “The Cloud” was one of the major buzzwords throughout SAM 2011. Cloud storage essentially allows organizations to store large amounts of data on multiple servers that function as a single data center, rather than on dedicated in-house servers.

While cloud storage gives video outfits like NFL Films and MLB Network an infinite amount of potential storage space, it can also present major cost issues for large high-res files and massive libraries.

“I’m an old-school guy so I just call [the cloud] off-site storage,” said Dave Franza, VP, executive in charge of production application development and support, NFL Films. “From a production standpoint we’re not interested in storing [HD video files] off site. The bandwidth to support that for local use is too astronomical to ever consider. But I think on an application-by-application basis, cloud computing has some value and it is only getting cheaper.”

MLB Network has also opted to stay out of the cloud for the most part, thus far. However, Major League Baseball does utilize a cloud-based system for its umpire review system and MLB Network has not ruled out the implementation of cloud-based technologies in the future.

“The cloud just doesn’t make sense for us right now,” says Cheney. “We have a cloud in the form of a 1TB drive that every producer has with the clips that they need. We also try to put a drive on the trucks that becomes their own personal little personal cloud.”

NBC Olympics’ High-Powered Highlights Factory
The Olympics Games represent perhaps the largest scale event in sports television. However, NBC’s non-linear coverage of the Olympics on various broadband and mobile platforms is even more complex.

NBC Olympics Highlights Factory is in charge of producing highlights for every non-broadcast platform, including the Web, smartphones, tablets, and over-the-top set-top boxes. Created for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Highlights Factory must navigate 6000 hours of video and produce up to 10,000 clips over the 17-day marathon. This massive operation can make content management a tricky task, to say the least.

“I believe one of the half-truths that has been told to us over the past few years in the multiplatform delivery world is that we should produce once and deliver many times, said Darryl Jefferson, director of postproduction operations, NBC Olympics. “But that is not wholly true.

“Let’s say you have a full-length three-hour program during prime time and you want to deliver it to a tiny phone screen. Most people will only want to see the race itself on that small screen. So the content that you deliver to that particular outlet might need to be cut differently than other outlets.”

Interplay Central Makes Field Ops Feel at Home – Virtually
This year at NAB, Avid introduced Interplay Central, a Web-based application that allows editors and producers to remotely reach into the Interplay storage system located at their broadcast facility, access video stored there, and build complete video packages through the Web browser.

“[Producers] in the field are able to access material from [the Interplay storage system] at home on their MacBook Air or Netbook,” said Sam Bogoch, worldwide director of enterprise sales programs, Avid Technology. “They don’t have to have traditional editing stations or high bandwidth connections. And that’ been a big breakthrough for our customers.

The system allows users to tap into the Interplay server and move H.264 proxies of the hi-res content to their laptop in real time, where clips can be edited. Once the edits are completed, the system transports the final piece back to the production center and reassembles the clip using the hi-res content that resides on the home server.

“The trick is to push the editing experience out into the field. People are now deploying Interplay in OB Vans, stadiums, news bureaus, and many other places.”

Click here for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the Sports Asset Management Forum.