EVS' Tapeless Technology

Live Earth was the brainchild of Kevin Wall, an executive producer of the Live 8 concert series in 2005, and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Their idea was to bring together big name musical acts, actors, artists and other celebrities who care about global climate change and broadcast their message to the world, raising awareness and inspiring change on a global level.

The goal

To ensure worldwide access to all of the footage, online streaming of Live Earth was available at www.liveearth.msn.com the day of the event, and VOD footage was posted on the MSN Web site afterward. The challenge of the Live Earth event was obvious: capturing, tracking, editing and formatting 24 hours of live footage from 10 locations around the world quickly and efficiently, while simultaneously providing streaming video of all of the events and preproduced material.

A separate tab on the Web site was dedicated to each of the 10 concert locations. Streaming public service announcements and other information about climate change played before each concert began.

The resulting workflow needed to be able to manage a full online broadcast service, including concert feed ingest; manage delay feeds for different time zones; support preproduced footage for playback online; allow for fast and easy post production, including easy creation of clips for VOD purposes; and convert file formats of all material for seamless movement from source to Web server.

The workflow

To meet the needs of the workflow, six EVS six-channel SD XT[2] servers controlled by seven IPDirectors, along with three XFiles with MediaXchange, were used to ingest the two feeds from each location, as well as a world feed. Throughout the event, the system was used to record on average 24 feeds with 12 playback channels.

Before each concert, preproduced material was broadcast from the servers through Incited Media's live encoders and to the Web sites for each of the locations online at www.liveearth.msn.com so that no city's specific tab at the site was ever playing black. This preproduced material included special content for each city, with Live Earth short films, information about global warming and tips on how to affect change locally.

All preproduced content was delivered to the site as DV QuickTime files. Using XFile and MediaXchange, the content was flipped from DV to IMX and loaded to the servers for creating the custom preshow loops running for each city.

After completion of each concert at a given location, the digital video server was used to play a loop of that concert on the location's Web site until the rights expired, at which point viewers could view specific songs, artists, backstage footage and celebrity interviews on-demand.

To create this on-demand footage, logging stations were used during the show to create clips of each song or speech, from Blue King Brown's first song to Gore's closing-night speech. Loggers also grabbed a frame from each clip to use as an icon for the clip's placement on the Web.

The servers recorded material using the IMX codec. Files that didn't need to be converted were sent directly to the Rhozet encoding farm prior to delivery to MSN's Web server.

Efficiency created

Going tapeless shortened the list of required machines for this kind of project, making the workflow more manageable than in previous years. Fewer machines meant less required energy, from an electrical standpoint as well as a human standpoint, freeing up time and energy for the involved staff to use on other aspects of the show. Taking tapes out of the workflow and requiring less electricity reduced the amount of waste that the project produced, which helped the engineers stay true to the ideals of the Live Earth broadcast.

The XT[2] server provided reliable and instantaneous ingest of each feed so that no footage was lost. Delay feeds were easy to manage from time zone to time zone. The IPDirector streamlined the clip-making process and allowed loggers to snag a frame from each clip without any problems. XFile and MediaXchange allowed producers to convert files between formats easily and effortlessly.

Online hits topped 30 million streams the day of the event. At least 8 million people tuned into the Live Earth Web site to watch the live shows on the day of the event, and millions of others are expected to view the on-demand footage now that the concert is over.

Katherine Cox is sales and marketing assistant for EVS Broadcast Equipment.