MLB Taps Front Porch Digital Technology for Tape-to-Digital Transition

Major League Baseball Productions will use Front Porch Digital’s SAMMA product line to migrate professional baseball’s video archive from videotape and other analog media to secure digital storage. As the multi-year project progresses, MLB Productions and sibling MLB Network, with which it shares infrastructure and facilities in Secaucus, NJ, will rely on an expanded and upgraded Front Porch Digital DIVArchive system to provide content storage management (CSM) for a digital production workflow that includes access to stored archival content.

“Because videotape is an inherently fragile storage medium, we’ve prioritized the migration of our archived content to digital format,” says Elizabeth Scott, VP of programming and business affairs for MLB Productions. “In fact, the project is fundamental to MLB Productions’ mission of safeguarding, preserving, and making available the unique audio-visual record of the game. We rigorously researched the available technology and what appeals to us most about the SAMMA solution is, first, its capability of automating a significant portion of the process, thereby reducing the need for constant tape-by-tape manipulation. Second, our facility already has a Front Porch Digital DIVArchive system in place, which means we anticipate smooth integration between the migration and storage systems.”

MLB’s oldest archived moving images were shot in 1905, and its library vaults contain legendary highlights, complete games, and interviews spanning the decades. Today, the league records and archives every game – more than 2,400 each year. In total, MLB Productions has more than 150,000 hours of baseball footage stored on magnetic videotape and other carriers that are cumbersome to access and track, and are subject to time’s ravages. Because the bulk of that archive is now on Betacam tape, MLB Productions has selected a SAMMA 7-stream Beta Robot to perform the conversion. MLB Productions has also selected two SAMMA Solo devices to work on content currently residing on other formats, including 3/4-inch tape and film.

While the physical digitization is not set to begin until later this year, preparation is well underway. For example, MLB Productions has already developed criteria for identifying which content will be migrated to digital formats first, based both on its frequency of use and the risk of deterioration. Also in the works is the import into MLB’s proprietary DIAMOND media asset management (MAM) system of logging and related metadata of the archived content. Once digitization takes place, that audio-visual content can be instantly married to its appropriate metadata, and searched and retrieved much faster than on analog storage devices.

Soon, the SAMMA systems will simultaneously digitize and encode standard definition archived content into two high-resolution formats (lossless JPEG2000 for deep archive and XDCam HD50 essence copies) and two proxy formats (MPEG1 and H.264). At the same time content is digitized, details of its digitization will be logged into MLB’s own DIAMOND MAM system.

The newly digitized archival content will be managed by MLB’s expanded DIVArchive CSM system. At the Network, DIVArchive supports a seamless digital workflow in which more than 50 TB of irreplaceable content is ingested every week during the baseball season. The archive itself will be housed in a Sun StorageTek SL8500 LTO-4 data tape library and eventually transitioned to denser media as those become available.

“Today’s digital technology gives us the unprecedented ability to pass on the cultural and historic record to future generations,” says Mike Knaisch, president and CEO of Front Porch Digital. “MLB Productions is joining the ranks of the Library of Congress, the Shoah Foundation, and many other heritage-keepers by employing SAMMA technology toward this end. At the same time, well-managed digital storage of media makes it much more readily available today, enabling its use and re-use for a wide variety of creative and potentially lucrative pursuits.”

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