Fighting for the Ultimate Visual Workflow

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the premier mixed martial arts league, touted as being the fastest growing sports organization. At UFC, a distributed team needed constant access to the entire library of footage, allowing users to search for media using a variety of attributes including fighter names, venues, specific moves, and fight segments. UFC also wanted to centralize storage and archive with the ability to select highlights (partial files) while viewing multiple synchronized camera angles. Additionally, to reduce the growing burden on internal staff, a system which automated delivery of content in the library to any format, including associated caption files and metadata, was a key requirement.

To address these issues, UFC selected Levels Beyond’s Reach Engine for its media management and distribution system. For mezzanine masters, UFC chose to go with ProRes 422 and proxies are in 400Kb/s H.264 format. To support the massive amounts of video content generated, UFC and Levels Beyond deployed a tiered storage environment using Quantum’s StorNext software to manage content through a high-performance shared file system and a tiered storage archive. 

In the design, Reach Engine’s web-based interface enabled users to visually browse the entire library with proxies and thumbnails, transforming UFC graphically from a file-based workflow to a media-based workflow. Editors could choose any number of camera angles when requesting clips; content would then be placed in an editor’s drop box where it could be edited or transferred to any location. Reach Engine’s dynamic workflow engine enabled on-the-fly actions, such as one click delivery to Xbox or iTunes. An order publishing interface allowed users to package video files with captions and metadata for delivery to partners. Partner profiles could be added to the system at any time, allowing UFC to constantly expand their media footprint worldwide.

For UFC, it was also important that the system accommodated the individual editor’s preferred editing platform. The workflow was designed to support both Apple Final Cut Pro and AVID Media Composer. Premiere Pro could be added in the future if the editors desired.

The system is able to match storage performance with the right tier for each transaction – transcodes and media processing on the fastest tier (RAM based), spinning diskfor editing and Quantum’s Scalar tape library for archive. The StorNext data management system provides the high performance file system and tiered storage archive.

Issues encountered during the build out included dialing in the right format for transfer between AVID and Final Cut and implementing a new version of Quantum’s Partial File Retrieval software– making sure the tape library was an active part of the workflow and not a stagnant, deep archive. All users are able to browse 100% of the library visually using the H.264 proxies, while Reach Engine automates the retrieval and processing of the associated high res media.

Ultimately, the desire to make access to content distributed and flexible drove many of the advancements in the resulting workflow. From a business perspective, an editor in a remote city can request a 30 second clip from a 4 hr mezzanine file using a web interface and get the content back in the right edit-ready format.

Since the initial deployment, system enhancements include moving all proxies to the cloud – allowing remote users to search for clips much more quickly from any location. Through the Reach Engine API, multiple UFC systems developed by different vendors are interacting with UFC content through the cloud. Future additions include searching by closed captioning and transcripts, ingest of multiple audio files, and delivery of captions in multiple formats. UFC is now able to quickly react to the changing media landscape of multiple devices and viewing habits.

Rather than a file-based workflow, UFC has deployed a next-generation, media-based workflow, complete with the ability to push proxies to the cloud for remote access by editors and partners. Users can browse visually and rely on the architecture to locate and process the content they're requesting. Reach Engine tracks the relationship to the mezzanine file and, with the help of StorNext, seamlessly identifies the storage tier it is sitting on – and automatically retrieves and delivers content based on user and destination preferences.