Editing for Sports: HD All the Way


(click thumbnail)Sports editor Ryan Leimbach cut live broadcast bumpers during Super Bowl XL, using the AJA KONA 3 card on a Mac G5 running Final Cut Pro.For years, live HD sports broadcasts have drawn countless fans who appreciate high definition and has been a driving factor behind sales of HDTV sets. This hasn't always been true for the edited portions of sports shows, however. But now network video editors are using a variety of NLEs to cut their packages in HD.

"For CBS's 'NFL Today' show we have been using three standard definition Avid Media Composer Adrenaline systems fed by 14 TB of footage from an Avid Unity shared storage system," said Arthur Harris, vice president of broadcast operations at CBS. "But once the show premiered in high definition on Sept. 10, we realized the set's monitors needed to display HD images. Up to now we have been using an outside New York production house, Vidiots, to cut our packages in high definition but to save costs we are soon going to upgrade one of the Avids to HD capabilities."

Harris said CBS Sports' choice of Avid edit systems was based on their editors' familiarity with it.

"We have more qualified editors on the Avid than on other systems," he said. "and since they can all access the Unity's storage it reduces the time it takes to access historical footage as well as ingesting material from the different games over a weekend."

David Schleifer, vice president of broadcast and workgroups at Avid Technology agrees that time is of the essence when editing live sports in HD.

"When it comes to the need for a quick turnaround on a sports story, we have built many features into Avid edit systems for just that purpose," Schleifer said. "For example, our edit systems had a huge presence in NBC's HD broadcast of the winter Olympics in Torino. In addition, once our new Interplay nonlinear workflow engine gets its first installation this month, the collaboration between all levels of post production will be greatly enhanced."

Another NBC sports show, NASCAR racing, seen on NBC and TNT from July through November, is also featuring HD packages cut on Avid systems. Jeffrey Cline, senior editor for NBC/TNT NASCAR edits all the feature pieces for the prerace show on an Avid Media Composer Adrenaline HD along with insert segments introducing the drivers during the race itself. One feature he finds most useful is Avid's DNxHD codec.

"We stay HD all the way, but compress the signal of our edited packages down to 140 Mbps with DNxHD to save storage," he said. "The picture quality is excellent and it lets us transmit the elements we cut over standard definition infrastructure."

For the on-location editing needs of NBC's Sunday Night Football, however, the show's producer, Fred Gaudelli, chose Apple's Final Cut Pro software-based editing system.

"It gives us a high-end edit system in our remote trucks with high-end effects and beautiful graphics that can turn elements around in a very short time," he said. "Back in the studio during the week we may use Avids, but when editing our high-definition pieces at the remote location we are exclusively using Final Cut Pro."

The Fox network has also been using Apple's editing software since they broadcast the major league baseball playoffs in 2003.

"Final Cut Pro gives you a tool that serves multiple functions," said Jerry Steinberg, vice president field operations for Fox Sports. "We use it as our editing package on all our HD coverage of racing, baseball and the NFL. Three years ago one of our features producer, Chris Long, who is now the vice president of production for the Speed Channel, convinced us to try Final Cut Pro and it has gotten much more sophisticated for high-definition editing over the years."

Final Cut Pro is the editing component of Apple's Final Cut Studio, and the whole software suite was used extensively by Japan's NHK and Mexico's TV Azteca in their coverage of the Winter Olympics in Torino, according to Paul Saccone, senior manager pro applications marketing at Apple.

"We have built Final Cut Studio on open standards with an eye toward extensibility," he said.

That allows Apple to be supported by third-party vendor products such AJA Video boards. That, and the use of XML, allows data from other systems to get in and out of Final Cut Pro, Saccone said.

"In addition, a third-party software from Gallery called Picture Ready allows incoming video feeds to be captured to Apple's own Xserve RAID storage system over an Xsan network and the editor can start cutting with those HD files while the feeds are still coming in," he said. "This can be crucial for editing during live events."


A third contender, Sony's Vegas editing software, has also been making inroads into sports editing. Freelance editor Eric Falkner edited pregame teases and full-feature packages for Fox Sports Net last spring during the NHL hockey playoffs on FSN South using a Hewlett Packard ZD8000 series Pentium 4 laptop. Falkner found the Excalibur Multicam Wizard plug-in created by Edward Troxel and Gary Kleine let him cut editing time significantly.

"I would set up my incoming feeds as iso camera sources and use the hot keys on my laptop to cut between them," he said. "Working in a hotel room, we were able to knock out in about 14 hours the same amount of material that would have taken three days on other systems back in the studio. The stock effects in Vegas were key for that. Using nested timelines, I could rough cut a sequence on one timeline and then add the effects when polishing it on another timeline."

Falkner was using Vegas 6, but the newly released Vegas 7 gives him even more options.

"Vegas software is an excellent platform for sports editors," said Dave Chaimson, vice president of marketing, Sony Media Software. "With the new Version 7, the ability of Vegas to work natively with various types of footage, either DV, HDV or XDCAM HD, on the same timeline within the same project makes it one of the most flexible workflows for high-definition sports editing available."