NFL Films and Saber System continue to catalog the Stars of Canton

By Andrew Lippe

This weekend, the spotlight on the NFL shines brightly on Canton Ohio, where six NFL Legends will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thanks to the Saber System, NFL Films continues to bring the stars of yesteryear back to life. “Our System is designed to internally digitize and index all our game footage,” says Dave Franza, NFL Films Chief Information Officer. Games are recorded live by NFL Films, at the same time clips are edited into highlights. NFL films tapes all the game themselves on 16mm.

“Our camera people shoot it, process it and then transfer it to digital tape,” said Franza. “It is then encoded and ingested into logging system.”

This year’s inductees include former Dallas Cowboys receiver, Michael Irvin, former Houston Oilers offensive lineman, Bruce Matthews, former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas, as well as Gene Hickerson, Charlie Sanders, and Roger Wehrli. On Saturday at 6pm the NFL Network will air the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony in HD. The Hall of Fame footage collected for the six honorees was packaged by the staff at NFL Films

Sunday is game day. By Wednesday all footage is digitized and by Friday it is logged in Saber System. Besides cataloging their own footage they receive the networks live feed, as well as all the teams’ footage. The network’s feed is immediately cut by NFL Films for dotcom and digital customers. The teams’ footage is disseminated to all the teams for scouting. Footage is then shipped all over the world.

When wanting to call up highlights there is no extensive searching is necessary. “The beauty is you can do it on your desktop computer,” adds Franza. The Saber System allows NFL Films to have up to 152 different levels of cataloging.

“You can search the type of camera used, the weather during the game, or search if a player had blood on pants,” Franza explained. “We literally log ever scene and every play.”

In regards to this year’s festivities locating footage of more recent players was easier to locate then the much older players. The reason is prior to 1992 full games were cut up. As a result many clips must be repackaged in order for a full game to be restored. Most of the old footage can be found on video and is not digitized because it is very costly to digitize. “The more we got logged and digitized the easier it becomes,” said Franza.

Saleem Choudhry, a researcher at the Pro Football Hall of Fame said that when all footage is sent to Hall of Fame archives it is saved into a text file and put into self generated folders. “The Hall Of Fame Archive contains 18 million pages of documents,” says Choudhry. “We don’t have a digital database yet.”

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