SportsPost:NY: Workflow Advances Streamlines Storytelling Process

In video-production workflow, a tremendous amount of care goes into separating the creative from the tech. The ultimate goal is to establish an environment where the storytellers can do their best without noticing the complex infrastructure making it possible.

There’s no denying that developments in, specifically, asset-management technology have vastly streamlined the producer’s and editor’s creative process, but, as a panel of experts at last week’s SportsPost:NY event noted, there’s still a way to go.

“People are drowning in footage,” said Matt Stamos, director of technology at JB&A, a provider of digital-media–management solutions. “One of the things I preach when I’m working with a customer who is trying to make sense of their technology is to embrace the metadata as a process. Making sense of all of your footage is a never-ending challenge. There needs to be thinking about metadata before that lens cap even comes off.”

From left: Steve Weinstein, Deluxe; Erin Leyden, ESPN Films; Bill McCullough, HBO Sports; Matt Stamos, JB&A, and David Zieff, Zieff Films

From left: Steve Weinstein, Deluxe; Erin Leyden, ESPN Films; Bill McCullough, HBO Sports; Matt Stamos, JB&A, and David Zieff, Zieff Films

For those working in sports postproduction, especially on documentary pieces, sifting through archives can be mind-numbing but also exhilarating when a gold nugget of footage is discovered. For many major sports broadcasters, their video closets are goldmines waiting to be excavated.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we have this great archive going back to 1979 but there’s holes,” says Erin Leyden, senior producer at ESPN Films, who helps oversee the popular 30-for-30 series. “From day one, they weren’t keeping track of everything. The stuff they did keep isn’t labeled; it may just say “SportsCenter” from a specific date. So it’s just a time factor to be able to pull those tapes and search through them.”

Although sifting through archival footage is one thing, many on the panel said metadata is a process that should be committed to for the present and the future, so as not to make the mistakes of the past.

“It’s important to think about metadata for the long haul, not just for that individual production you’re working on,” said Deluxe CTO Steve Weinstein. “There’s archive footage that’s 20 or 30 years old, and it has no metadata on it. Without metadata up front, a lot of that footage really can get lost. Today, there are so many different angles from different cameras going into different systems. One file can be transcoded into 10 to 15 different versions.”

With file formats growing in number, it becomes increasingly challenging, however, to safely — cost-effectively — store the high volume of incoming content.

“We have the proxies, the hi-res, and the camera-native files that are sitting in a drive. That just creates all sorts of problems,” said Bill McCullough, VP of creative development and operations at HBO Sports. “The proxy/hi-res is working out pretty well, but then you go to a case like 24/7 that’s done out of house, and now we’ve got thousands of hours of footage that are sitting on a drive. Do we spend the money to dump it into our [Avid] ISIS system? That seems to be the biggest problem: what do we do with the camera natives? What do we do five years from now?”

The panel agreed that the dream would be to someday have an asset-management and metadata system that worked as simple as searching “New York Jets, in snow, wearing white jerseys” and finding the content one wants.

“You should never see a file name,” said Weinstein. “The future should be how you think about the content. You think about content as ‘five minutes into the game’ or ‘camera one.’ That’s how it should look to you, and you think you will see that, but, unfortunately, right now it hasn’t evolved that far.”

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