Fox Tests New NFL Highlights Workflow

Fox Sports will test a possible new NFL workflow next week that, if successful, will tie EVS units in the field to the Fox Los Angeles-based Broadcast Center, allowing the production team that creates highlights and game updates to have access to a wealth of camera angles and feeds previously unavailable.

“Our highlights have just been a line cut of every game but now we can use X-mo, super mo, and iso camera feeds on plays and make the highlights more effective,” says Jerry Steinberg, Fox Sports, SVP, field operations. “The network side can grab anything that is there in the truck so the highlights can tell a better story.”

In terms of storytelling that means, for example, multiple looks at a key catch or super slow motion replays of an emotional moment.

“This allows Fox to improve the highlights without disturbing the truck,” says Fred Garroy, EVS general manager for the Americas. “They can have more content, better content, and get it faster. Those are big improvements.”

The test at the Aug. 18 pre-season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles will use a 100 Mbps Level 3 pipe and Signiant file transfer technology to deliver replay clips to Los Angeles.

If all goes well during the test Fox will use a Level 3 circuit between the stadiums where the A game is played each week to make clips available in L.A. where producers and editors can use Quantel and Apple editing systems to build highlights packages and more. Two live camera feeds, one from a low end zone angle and another location to be determined, will also be available. High-resolution clip files will be passed to L.A. in the DVCPRO HD format while low-resolution proxies will be encoded using h.264.

“The heart is the EVS IPDirector,” says Jay Deutsch, EVS technical support engineer. “It can manage many servers and, for example, in the Game Creek truck there are three IP Directors that currently manage 15 EVS XT[2] servers.”

The new workflow will require an additional IPDirector to be installed in the truck. An IPDirector and EVS servers in Los Angeles will then store the clips and also transcode them to other formats so that Quantel and Apple editing systems can cut the highlights.

“They can work as they always did, hanging off the background of the network,” adds Deutsch. “They can even cut a high-end highlight reel in Los Angeles and send it back through the truck for some fresh content.”

The new workflow will also make the melt process easier by automating much of it. A bin can be set up using keywords so that things like penalties, scores, or even shots of specific athletes are automatically added into it, removing the need to send EVS drives or other storage devices back to Los Angeles.

Garroy says further enhancements are on the way once the EVS XT3 drives become available as the low-res proxy will be natively generated and stored on the XT3 drives.

“When we get to that point we will really enable a full remote production workflow where they can select a few cameras and feed any angle they want,” says Garroy.

“Right now Level 3 provides voice circuits, a 40 Mbps pipe for Internet, and we’re adding the 100 Mbps pipe so we can do this in realtime,” says Steinberg. “But the Holy Grail is Gig E connectivity between the trucks and the studio because the EVS network using XT2 and XT3 servers on the truck is essentially an internal Gig E network. That will open up a whole other level of workflow where we can move camera signals and everything can happen faster than realtime.”

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