As has been the case all season, every pitch, hit and run of this year’s Major League Baseball Championship Playoff Series are being meticulously captured, edited and archived with a new media asset management system now in place. It allows finished segments to be sent to air quickly, sometimes less than 30 seconds after a play has occurred.
After more than six months of planning, integration and custom software development, the DIAMOND (Digitized Industry Assets Managed Optimally for Networked Distribution) System was launched in January 2009, employing more than 16 workstations in Secaucus that aggregate, organize and prepare data to be used by all of MLB’s properties. This logging, search and retrieval system, centrally located within the MLB Secaucus, NJ, facility, interfaces closely with shared-storage from Grass Valley, the Grass Valley Aurora HD news editing platform, Apple Final Cut Pro workstations, Grass Valley K2 Media Servers and a variety of other systems, including the Nesbit MLS system, Vizrt graphics (controlled by Reality Check Studio) and in-studio scoreboards and displays.
When MLB and its MLB Productions division set out to build a centralized graphics production and media asset management system for its new HD production and distribution headquarters in Secaucus facility, it quickly became clear that this would not be an off-the-shelf solution. Customization, flexibility and an attention to a myriad of individual workflows on such a large scope were critical but not readily available.
The system had to support not only the long-form production of content that MLB Productions is responsible for, but it also had to be used every day by the newly launched MLB Network, which needed the multilevel software platform to handle the voluminous amount of data that is recorded from each baseball game around the country. Archiving also had to benefit heavily, because content has to be constantly searched, retrieved, repurposed and licensed in a myriad of ways to suit the league’s far-reaching commercial requirements.
The DIAMOND System helps get finished segments to air quickly, sometimes less than 30 seconds after a play has occurred, but it also helps MLB Productions’ editors working on Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer systems to post longer-format shows and promotions that are used on the cable TV channel as well as online and for MLB’s growing mobile video services.
“The DIAMOND System helps the entire team, from production personnel to administrative staff, when searching, retrieving and repurposing content on a daily basis,” said Elizabeth Scott, vice president of programming and business affairs for MLB Productions, who helped oversee the design and implementation. “This is a system we have been talking about for a long time and, even among the other professional sports leagues, there’s really no other architecture quite as sophisticated.”
Leveraging the Grass Valley Aurora platform’s ability to organize and manage audio and video clip (in both high- and proxy resolutions) via its SQL database tools, the DIAMOND System accommodates all of the various processes for gathering and presenting MLB live game coverage, news and related content — such as ingest (no transcoding), logging, clip search and archiving with associated metadata for easy retrieval. It encompasses all of the material in Secaucus as well as all of the material (“clean” feeds, raw video without commercials and station IDs, and “dirty” feeds) recorded on Grass Valley K2 servers at each ballpark. This footage is sent to Secaucus on a daily/nightly basis via an Ethernet FTP transmission using IP to conserve bandwidth.
HD clean feeds (at 100Mb/s) are primarily used for archiving and licensing footage to outside entities, while the HD dirty feeds (at 50Mb/s) are used for instant highlights creation. Sixteen tracks of audio are also aggregated and tagged to each play from each game.
Going well beyond raw video footage, every pitch and every result is recorded into the DIAMOND System (often about seven seconds after it happens live) and tagged to a specific piece of video via time codes. MLB.com stringers located at each game, who send in alerts after each pitch or hit, do the initial logging. All of this data is then instantly managed by the DIAMOND System, which time stamps the event to a specific piece of video before it is prepared and/or sent on for use by other entities within MLB’s organization.
Once key plays are identified, the Linux OS-based DIAMOND Systems can send a prepared clip to a specific producer’s desk at MLB networks within seconds for use on that night’s highlight shows. Then the following day, a refresh of the game’s data is performed and all of the data is updated and recalculated as required. This keeps the data as current as possible.
The DIAMOND system has proved invaluable because the architecture reaches into all of the numerous parts of MLB’s divisions and yet works as a cohesive whole for everyone’s benefit — even allowing them to work simultaneously with the same file. The system takes an enterprise-level approach to solving a greater problem that is not just specific to studio production.
“Making the most of our available resources has always been the Holy Grail of what we try to accomplish here,” said Tab Butler, director of media management for the MLB Network. “We’re having to support an ever-increasing number of distribution platforms, so the more efficiently we handle the content — both immediately and over time — the better off we’ll be in the long run.”