Live from Super Bowl XLIX: NFL Films Brings New Tapeless Workflow to the Big Game
It’s a new era of Super Bowl coverage for NFL Films as this year marks the end of the first year of the “post film” era as well as the implementation of the Venue Transmission Network that allows for content to be sent as files directly from the venue as the game is still going on.
“The move was necessitated by the new CBS contract and the desire for Showtime to push ‘Inside the NFL’ up by 24 hours,” says Jeff Howard, NFL Films, senior executive, engineering and broadcast technology. “We have a private network at every stadium and the equipment and infrastructure to do file transfers back to NFL Films [in Mt. Laurel, NJ]. So as the game is going on we are transmitting files captured in the Arri cameras back during the game. And it has worked out really well.”
The Super Bowl, as usual, means things are done on a grander scale and there are three transfer systems as opposed to just one. The three systems will deliver content at 3 Gbps and it is expected that 8 TB of video and audio content will be transferred for the Super Bowl alone.
“We have runners who will collect the cards [from the 29 camera operators] and they will hand them off to media wranglers who will copy and get the content onto SSD cards which are then inserted into the transmission rack. The drives auto mount and then the automatic process picks up the file and moves it.”
NFL Films has 17 fixed positions as well as 12 handheld positions using a mix of Arri cameras and Panasonic 3100 cameras.
Howard says the transitional process has gone very well to date after a lot of work to make sure the backend production workflows and the producers were all on board.
“We can take in content from all the stadiums with no bottlenecks in bandwidth,” he adds.
One of the challenges is that, historically, content was brought back, color corrected, transferred to video, and then made available to producers. But now as the disks are read content is fed out to various processes so that things like color correction can be done in parallel to other functions.
“We apply the Rec. 709 look-up table to make low-res proxies for producers and we also push it into color grading and keep everything going simultaneously,” says Howard.