Sports Asset Management & Storage Forum: Streamlining Content Management Through Better Transcoding

With multiple delivery formats and platforms to consider, managing content from the field to the screen can pose a major challenge. At SVG’s recent Sports Asset Management & Storage Forum, industry experts tasked with content management discussed their workflows, transcoding methods, and multiplatform deliverables.

“At Notre Dame, we took the stance that we wanted to conform everything coming into the system no matter how it was shot,” said Scott Rinehart, lead technologist, Fighting Irish Digital Media. “We’re going to put everything into [Apple] ProRes [compression format]. At the end of the line, our editors are not as technically savvy as someone at the NHL or CBS is going to be [and] don’t know enough how to deal with those disparate formats when they come in. So we made the decision to conform coming in.”

Although conforming incoming files to ProRes may simplify matters now for Notre Dame’s editors — many of whom are students with minimal experience —Rinehart foresees potential issues later when Fighting Irish Digital Media may want to upconvert materials to file formats like 4K.

The NHL addresses this concern by archiving its footage as raw media instead of keeping multiple copies of its assets. “We take fairly great pains to try to bring conformed media in as raw media,” explained VP of Technology Grant Nodine. “Wherever possible, we take game footage, and we’re going to make sure that that game footage conforms to what we’re going to have in our archive so that we can basically bring it in, put it right in the archive, and nobody’s actually grabbing it before it gets in the archive.”

The panelists stressed that there is no “one size fits all” solution to transcoding, and having multiple transcoders for various needs allows content owners to play to the strengths of the multiple transcoders.

“Some of the biggest challenges in transcoding are, I’ve got a volume of stuff that I’ve got to try to do as fast as possible and then I’ve got a massive number of different formats that I’ve got to conform,” Nodine added. “I think that there are transcode platforms that are good at one or the other and there are very few that are good at both.”

Of course, besides conforming content as it comes into the system, content owners must also deliver the content to multiple platforms. The size of the screen must be taken into account.

“From a transcoding perspective, you’re clearly not going to transcode something for a 50-ft. screen [the same way] you would for a mobile screen,” said Matt Stamos, director of technology, JB&A. “If you’re going into an environment where you know your deliverables are per screen, you’ll be closer to having a chain that’s going to be efficient. … But I do think that you often know before you even shoot — not always but especially in the sports environment — where the stuff is going to go before you even fire up a camera.”

The number of deliverables must also be taken into account in building a content-management workflow. Unlike Fighting Irish Digital Media, which has only a few deliverables, CBS distributes content to various screens in countless countries all over the world. At the end of the day, however, all must keep an eye on the bottom line.

“As far as making money for our company, the more content that we sell [and] the faster that I can deliver it [is] extremely important, because all of us know digital has shrunk the world,” noted Jaime Rockman, VP, CBS Television Distribution/CBS Worldwide Distribution. “What we used to have — especially internationally two or three, even four weeks to get a deliverable on tape to somebody — is now under 24 hours. So we had to figure out ways to keep up with how [we] sell content not just here but abroad.”

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