CASE STUDY: Fighting Irish Digital Media Shortens Content Delivery Cycle with Quantum StorNext
The mission of the University of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish Media (FIM) is to tell the stories of Notre Dame through the lens of athletics. The job is a big one: FIM covers 26 teams from football and basketball to swimming, fencing, tennis, golf, and lacrosse.
Besides streaming 125-130 athletic events a year, posting 1,200-1,300 highlights on a variety of platforms, and creating TV shows and features, the award-winning FIM team supports the university’s overall mission by supplying broadcast technical support whenever needed.
Creating and distributing this amount of content is a job that demands high levels of collaboration, involving close cooperation between staff and students. The staff is augmented by up to 50 students, who do everything from camera work to editing and then distributing the finished products across various Web-based media outlets.
Keeping Up With Fan Expectations
The FIM team knew its audience wanted to see event highlights as close to real time as possible — within minutes of a game’s end — but the infrastructure to meet that goal was not in place. The decision was made to invest in the infrastructure required to keep up with the pace demanded by the rise of mobile media outlets. At that time, the team was creating around 1,000 video deliverables per year, but content creation was taking too long. Looking for help from an experienced expert, the team added FIM Lead Technologist Scott Rinehart, who had handled media for the PGA TOUR Productions and NASCAR Media Group.
“Previously, the team sent cameras out to events, brought the footage back, copied [it] to removable drives, and then had to edit, transcode, and distribute [it] via their laptops,” says Rinehart. “The delay from the end of an event to posting highlights was typically hours. And that was way too slow for our audience.”
The FIM team realized that it was missing an important opportunity to meet the fans’ needs and that the current workflow was not scalable to meet those needs. Therefore, the team decided to upgrade its system to support a more up-to-date workflow that could help FIM create more content, do it faster, and deliver it to viewers within minutes of an event.
Creating a Collaborative Workflow
FIM’s vision for success was based on Quantum’s StorNext file-sharing software, delivered by OEM partner Active Storage. The new system, ActiveSAN, created a shared-storage environment, enabling multiple editors to work on the same footage at the same time. The ActiveSAN system also leveraged Telestream Vantage to bring content from live feeds into the shared workspace while events were under way.
In addition, electronic-newsgathering (ENG) content was automatically transcoded to provide a single, consistent format to simplify the edit process. And the collaborative work environment allowed all editors to see and share the same content. Most important, editors could work on projects in real time while images were being ingested into the system.
“The results were dramatic,” explains Rinehart. “The StorNext/Vantage workflow reduced the time needed to post content dramatically: projects that could take hours to complete were out and to the fans in minutes. That meant that people attending a game could watch highlights on their smartphones while they were walking to their cars. That was just what we wanted.”
The new system also increased the FIM team’s productivity. The team was able to produce 1,500 videos per year, 50% more than the old system. And the SAN-based environment gave the team the ability to scale the system to accommodate expanded demands in the future.
Seamless Conversion to StorNext
However, all the good results seemed to be in jeopardy when Active Storage — the company that had designed, installed, and supported the FIM system — transitioned to a different business model and no longer offered the ActiveSAN product the team had started using.
“Even though I knew that ActiveSAN, like Apple’s Xsan, was 100% compatible with Quantum’s StorNext technology and that we should be able to upgrade to the Quantum product, I have to say I was nervous,” says Rinehart. “These assets were everything to us. Any time you do a rebuild or major changeover, you hold your breath.”
To help make the transition, the team brought on board Chesapeake Systems, an integrator that specializes in media and entertainment projects and is a long-standing Quantum partner.
“The transition from ActiveSAN to StorNext turned out incredibly well,” says Rinehart. “We used the same ActiveSAN controllers, updated the software to full StorNext, and rolled the system over using a failover technique. There was no downtime, and all of the applications — Telestream Vantage, Telestream Pipeline, and Adobe Premiere — kept functioning seamlessly, as did the asset manager, CatDV.”
Supporting the Educational Mission of the University
“Our purpose is more than the world of athletics,” he explains. “We are a university resource in that we provide video services for both Notre Dame athletics and the Notre Dame academy.
“FIM is now involved with creating content for MOOC [Massive Open Online Course] learning opportunities,” he continues, “as well as [for] opportunities such as supporting live shots with academic experts, along with monthly Web streaming for the university’s alumni department. We are a very busy group these days.”
Broader support also extends to other university departments.
“We see ourselves as a bit of a lab, … a place where other departments who have heard what we are doing on the video side and want to check out our tools to see if they could take advantage,” says Rinehart.
Notre Dame is in the midst of the largest construction project in its history, the Campus Crossroads Project (crossroads.nd.edu). Within the 750,000 sq. ft. of new space, there will be an 18,000 sq. ft. of Media Center, which will support all of the campus, everything from teaching innovation to communications to athletics.
“The Media Center is going to be a fantastic space,” Rinehart says. “All of our decisions moving forward will be with the wider mission of the Media Center in mind. StorNext is certainly in that mix as we consider the future and what all this means to us. … From storage environments to cloud features, everything is in play as we work to find the best way to educate our students and deliver our content. The future of technology at Notre Dame is very exciting.”