SECAUCUS, NJ—Cutting sporting events has often been the domain of on-site editing, with editors rushing against the clock in the back of mobile units or ad hoc edit bays built in trailers. Just as nonlinear systems revolutionized the edit bay, media asset management is bringing technological advances to the art of sports editing. One example is Major League Baseball's facility in Secaucus, N.J. Originally the home of MSNBC, the facility now houses operations for MLB Productions and MLB Network.
MLB Network's DIAMON D Logging Center MLB Network moved into the facility in 2008 and Tab Butler, director of media management and post production, was part of a team faced with converting the plant to HD and commencing operations within a six month timeframe. According to Butler, "The obstacle was that it was all standard definition. We had to replace everything, from cameras and infrastructure to transmission equipment. Since our lead time was short, it was essential that we picked items that worked well out-of-the-box and worked together."
MANAGING MULTIPLE LIVE FEEDS
Based on these requirements, MLB Network selected Grass Valley shared storage solutions, Grass Valley Aurora editors for game highlights and Apple Final Cut Pro for long form finishing. Since both the Grass Valley and Final Cut stations needed to share media, the desire was to avoid transcoding. The solution was Grass Valley's implementation of the XDCAM HD 50Mbps codec, which could be read by both Aurora and FCP.
In the past, editors would cut down events on-site, but the MLB facility receives direct, live feeds—utilizing the MLB Ballpark Cam system—from every American and National League ballpark in the country. Each game includes three live feeds from the ballpark, which are recorded at 50Mbps. The feeds are dirty (with graphics), clean (no graphics), or iso feeds from the home and away team coverage. In addition, there's a Grass Valley K2 server at each ballpark recording the home and away clean feeds at 100Mbps. The facility receives these two clean recordings as file transfers via FTP from each server after the game.
To handle all of this content, the MLB facility employs three Grass Valley SANs. Two are used for the recording of content and hold 2,200 hours of storage each. Nine Aurora Edit HD stations attach to each of these two SANs for highlights editing (18 total). The third SAN has a 20,000 hour capacity and is primarily used by the Aurora Edit LD desktop proxy editing system for highlights, as well as by the FCP rooms for longer projects. During the 2010 season, with up to seven live records of each game, coupled with the daily production of MLB Network shows, the two Grass Valley SANs recorded over 2,100 hours of content per week. Of course, all of this media can't be held on the system indefinitely, so an Oracle SL-8500 data tape library was installed, using 15 LTO4 drives for the archive and retrieval of media.
CUSTOMED ASSET MANAGEMENT
In order to track this massive amount of media, Butler elected to develop a custom asset management system in partnership with the Office of the Commissioner, MLB Productions, and MLB Advanced Media.
"In 2008, there was simply no off-the-shelf system that could handle the workflows and the amount of metadata that we expected to generate, as well as meet the needs of MLB Productions and the Commissioner's Office," he said. "We set up an in-house development team to create our own application, called DIAMOND. For instance, MLB.com generates pitch metadata by a spotter at the park for the Gameday application for every pitch that is thrown.
An MLB Network DIAMON D Logging Station "We receive this metadata and combine it with the Grass Valley proxy video," Butler continues. "The MLB Productions loggers add descriptive information, such as 'Bullpen-Cutaway', 'HR-Offense', 'Hugging-REAX' and so on. All of this detail is entered into the DIAMOND system, cross-referencing it to the proxy video timecode for later retrieval. After two years in production, there are over ten million descriptions in DIAMOND for tracking the library content."
Many editing tasks were automated by combining the workflows of DIAMOND with the Grass Valley Aurora system. One automated workflow, developed for the 2010 season, saved over 150 man-hours per week of editing time. The DIAMOND system is used by a producer to select a collection of clips. By using XML as the interchange language, they can drag-and-drop their collection of clips directly to an Aurora Edit LD timeline. Aurora conforms the collection into an HD asset, while the DIAMOND system attaches the existing metadata to the various metadata fields for the video clip within Aurora.
According to Butler, changes in the editing toolsets have improved storytelling. "In the past, producers would have to anticipate what story lines might be important and build a highlights reel that they would bring to the game. This was done days before the actual event. Such reels would often be a single one-hour, one-inch tape, which made for a limited visual pool. What we've created is a virtual environment where the content of the entire baseball archive is available on the desktop of the creative people, regardless of their location. As long as the IT connectivity exists, a remote truck at the ballpark is really an extension of the facility. Producers can tell a more engaging story, because they have access to so much unique content and aren't limited. The audience gets to see new and unique angles and that makes the programming more compelling."
Open systems that combine a versatile IT backbone with mainstream NLEs have brought new tools to the producer and editor. This gives content creators the power to almost immediately call up any shot in the library. Tools like these not only improve the speed and quality of the show for editors, but benefit the audience as never before.