Chesapeake Systems Maximizes Infrastructure To Elevate Event Production at U.S. Figure Skating

Existing equipment is leveraged for live events, content creation, archiving

U.S. Figure Skating’s Event Production department may be what Kevin Leonardo, director, event and video production, USFS, calls “a small part of a large organization,” the three-person department is a key resource for the national governing body for the sport of figure skating.

U.S. Figure Skating’s Kevin Leonardo: “We weren’t in the position to revamp [equipment and infrastructure]. We needed to use what we had and make the most of it.”

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO, USFS is one of the strongest and largest national governing bodies within the Winter Olympics movement, with more than 178,000 participants in member clubs, collegiate groups, and school-affiliated societies.

Event Production handles three to five major live televised events annually and creates 150-200 pieces of content supporting USFS programs, vision, branding, and Team USA athletes. The department also provides production equipment and oversight to a team of technical producers in the field acquiring footage from USFS qualifying competition events.

Also, Event Production maintains extensive archives, owning the rights to all U.S. figure-skating championships since 2008 and, since 2014, the domestic rights to International Skating Union events like the World, European, and Four Continents Championships, the Grand Prix series, and speedskating world cup and world championship events. In addition, a library attached to the World Figure Skating Museum & Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs contains footage from the 1930s through the early 2000s.

For management of all that, Event Production initially invested in Reach Engine software by Levels Beyond for MAM, Telestream transcoding software, GB Labs’ SPACE NAS for data storage, and Archiware software for archiving. But the department struggled to establish a fully integrated system that met its needs for production, postproduction, and archiving.

“We weren’t taking advantage of Reach Engine’s full capabilities, using it more as an ingest platform as opposed to the powerful management tool that it is,” recalls Leonardo. “Overall, our system infrastructure just wasn’t healthy.”

During an event in Denver a few years ago, Leonardo saw a presentation about how Chesapeake Systems had integrated Reach Engine for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

“I had a sidebar with Chesapeake’s Nick [Gold, Lead Technologist,] and [CEO] Jason [Paquin] about our challenges and how I’d like to see us change and grow our infrastructure by maximizing the potential of Reach Engine,” says Leonardo. “Nick and Jason thought it was a good idea to take a look at our setup, and it wasn’t long before Chesapeake was on board to support and optimize our infrastructure.”

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which crowned Bradie Tennell Ladies Champion in 2018, is among USFS’s three to five major live televised events each year.

Leonardo notes that, even though USFS is almost 100 years old, the organization’s production environment was formed just six years ago. Previously, once a figure-skating event was commissioned, Leonardo built out a production environment for it and served as the live producer, interacting with the TV-production crew while outside editors created content. Then, USFS decided to take advantage of its own vast assets and established a production environment capable of handling more in-house.

“We started by installing storage and Reach Engine,” Leonardo says. “A year later, we hired a shooter/editor to focus on creating content while I focused on event management for our TV events, live event production, and maintaining the library. We have endless opportunities with our assets, but it’s sometimes a challenge to store, tag, and access footage.”

First, Chesapeake assessed Event Production’s hardware and infrastructure. “We weren’t in the position to revamp everything,” says Leonardo. “We needed to use what we had and make the most of it.”

Says Gold, “We knew all the building blocks quite well, so we could provide holistic support. Kevin didn’t need to reinvent the environment.”

Chesapeake provides managed-services support for USFS’s media/IT, with an emphasis on workflow and integration. In addition, the company handles software upgrades, deals reactively with issues that come up, performs system security and health checks, identifies new technologies, and assists with expansion plans.

Early on, Chesapeake helped implement a disaster-recovery program.

“Colorado Springs went through a serious period of fires and floods,” Leonardo recalls. “One of the fires was close enough to the office for us to think about disaster recovery.”

Chesapeake recommended a modification to an existing Quantum LTO tape library to immediately archive all newly ingested content. It rewrote USFS’s Archiware software workflows: with a custom ingest workflow with metadata, every ingest was backed up and cloned on two tapes. Duplicate copies of tape are now able to be stored offsite to fulfill a long-term archive and disaster-recovery plan. And, as a result, workflows are smoother, and client access to library footage is improved.

“A more automated workflow makes ingest more efficient,” notes Leonardo. “And a public-distribution component enables athletes to go to usfigureskatingdigital.com to preview and purchase our rights-owned footage.”

At Chesapeake’s suggestion, Event Production also beefed up its SPACE NAS with an additional expansion chassis, doubling the size of the system and offering 192 TB of raw storage. Also, Event Production was assisted in formulating a plan to preserve and digitize the entirety of USFS’s historical footage.

“We seek grants and funding for this type of project,” Leonardo explains. “We’re in a good position to make this happen since we can leverage Chesapeake’s relationships in the digitizing and archiving fields and their knowledge of how to accomplish the process. We’ll work with them to develop ingest workflows for this footage.

“We’re a small entity that’s not familiar with this rapidly changing environment,” he continues. “We need somebody on the forefront that understands our needs and looks out for us. That’s key to our time management: we don’t have time to run around trying to figure things out.”

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