The stage was set
We recently completed a project for a client launching a new sports cable network. The client needed a new sports-oriented newsroom to review and log sporting events including soccer, baseball, and basketball. They wanted to be able to view all of the sporting events on desktops, log the best parts, edit material in low resolution, add effects in high resolution, transfer the content to the control room for playback, and do it all with a tapeless file-based workflow.
And, one more thing…we had roughly 120 days from concept to launch.
Oh yes, and we would be working with an already on-air system.
This project was going to be a sporting event of its own!
Prepping the game plan
We decided to deploy a PC desktop-based user interface across the sixty person newsroom. The client’s existing Avid Interplay system would be expanded to suit the architecture we had in mind. The entire workflow was non-linear, meaning content came in, was recorded straight to disk, and then logged and edited on the PCs in low resolution. Effects could be added at high resolution workstations. All of the desktops were capable of approving material and sending it for playback. This was strategy built for speed and agility–no tapes, quick-turn arounds, and a high degree of flexibility.
Analyzing the opposition
We had to develop match-ups for two significant obstacles:
1) We needed to be able to receive content from both linear, off-air feeds as well as file-based material from partner organizations. All the material then needed to be transcoded to our chosen formats.
2) The clock would never stop. Obviously the timetable for this project was aggressive. The bigger time consideration however was the need for a proxy-based workflow that could keep up with the blistering pace of the production teams that would use the system.
Receiving the ball
It was a simple layup for the scheduled linear feed records . They are scheduled through Capture (Avid’s record manager) and recorded by Airspeed devices. The Airspeeds also create low-res proxies in real time, so editors can start working even while the feed is being recorded.
The Airspeeds could not, however, support continuous recording. To overcome this we supplemented scheduled records with a FIFO (first in-first out) recorder made by Digital Nirvana. This system continuously records material off-air and permits producers to select subclips of the best parts in low-res and deliver the high res assets to the Avid system for editing.
The clutch play
The file based material proved to be the critical challenge. Material came in from six partner organizations, each with their own format and interface. Some of these partners themselves shared content in multiple formats. This material needed to be sub-selected by the production teams before being checked in to the Avid system.
All of the content–both the sub-selected clips from the FIFO and the non-linear content from the partners—needed to be adapted and transcoded to the right formats and checked in to the Avid system.
We decided to expand an existing Telestream farm and create new Vantage workflows. This enabled us to significantly improve the speed of delivery by bypassing Avid’s Interplay Transfer Manager in favor of Avid’s web services interface. This insight enabled us to check material directly into the system. The Avid system would then create proxies from the high-res material.
The final score
The network launched right on time. The workflows defined by Positive Flux support very quick turn around and overall the production teams were happy.
In the locker room
This was a great win, but it is important to review the project so we are better prepared for the next challenge. In our post mortem we identified an important lesson: “Everyone in a newsroom needs to be treated equally.”
Checking high-resolution content into Avid and permitting Avid to create the proxies was great for speed. But, it meant that production members editing in low resolution would not see content until several minutes after the people working in high resolution. The larger the clip, the bigger the potential time gap.
Positive Flux is now working with the vendors to see if we can create the proxies before the check-in process, enabling us to check in both the high resolution and proxy versions simultaneously.
Overall, the workflow and the launch were successes. The web services check-in was the right decision and enabled creation of a system that met the requirements.
Game over, but the season is still open – the client has requested our help with a new, even larger project coming up!