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MLB Network facility conquers enormous wave of HD content

A wave of digital HD content is crashing over the new MLB Network facility in Secaucus, NJ, this year — enough to require up to an estimated 12,000 LTO-4 tapes.

The job is made manageable by a sophisticated file-based workflow designed for the 720p HD facility, which once housed cable news network MSNBC's SD infrastructure, says Tab Butler, MLB Network director media management.

The facility, which was honored this year with four Sports Emmys, serves a dual purpose: providing production, post and broadcast support for MLB Network, which broadcast 190 Major League Baseball games live in 2009, and fulfilling MLB Productions' requirements to archive all baseball games for which footage is available as digital files, Butler says.

Now in its second full season of operation, the facility uses a full complement of Grass Valley technology, including a fully networked Grass Valley storage area network (SAN) and Grass Valley Aurora HD editing system, Apple Final Cut Pro editing systems, Front Porch Digital DIVA media asset management system and Omneon play-to-air servers. A Front Porch Digital SAMMA robotic system automates the process of ingesting MLB Production's videotape-based historical game archive into the file-based environment.

Central to the success of the facility are 15 Diamond logging stations, created by MLB Interactive, which are used to supplement incoming metadata from each ballpark with detailed descriptions of game action. In effect, the systems add a deeper level of metadata describing the results of individual pitches, such as a deep fly ball to right field, that make it possible for the network to search and retrieve desired game action for specific productions. According to Butler, every pitch of every game is cataloged and retrievable.

Without its sophisticated file-based workflow, it's impossible to imagine how the new MLB Network could possibly fulfill its mission, Butler says.

Working with file-based workflows has been "monumental" in building and growing the archives of MLB Productions and critical to achieving a better workflow for building, creating and delivering content, he says.

Editor's note: Tab Butler will present the keynote speech June 22 at Broadcast Engineering's IT/Digital Workflow Boot Camp in New York City. For those interested in attending, registration information is available online. To listen to Butler discuss the facility see "IT infrastructure, file-based workflow produce success at MLB Network facility."

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.