NFL’s 49ers Usher in Fully Tapeless Era With Front Porch Digital

Life is pretty good in 49ers camp these days. The team is off to a 2-1 start and, with one of the best defenses in the league, is among the favorites to reach Super Bowl XLVIII.

Second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh has helped lead the franchise to the next level on the field, and now Michael Christianson, assistant offensive coach and coordinator of football technology, is helping lead the franchise to the next level in the film room.

Starting in October, the 49ers will begin use of a Front Porch Digital digital-media-asset–management system that promises to both improve access and ensure security of the team’s highly valuable video content.

“It will pretty much put us in a completely tapeless environment,” says Christianson. “Right now, we don’t mess with tapes at all anymore, other than storage and backup. Our guys shoot practice and the games, and then, at the end of the week, they back that up and put it on to tape. So this will eliminate the tape for us, and we will be able to save all that stuff digitally. It will save us time, and it will save us space.”

According to Front Porch Digital VP for Strategic Sales Dave Polyard, the 49ers will be using three tools: LYNXlocal, LYNXdr, and SAMMA.

LYNXlocal, which will be installed at the 49ers’ Santa Clara, CA, facility, will manage the storage and the workflows around the team’s use of content.

LYNXdr is the connection between LYNXlocal and Front Porch’s cloud-based storage facility. All the content that the 49ers staff puts into the cloud will be backed up but also will be easily accessed and will offer the staff freedom to move content back and forth.

“The concept is to give them the ability to safely store and manage content locally and in the cloud,” says Polyard. ”The big thing for them is that it creates a workflow that essentially eliminates ‘content islands.’ What that means is, whether it’s footage from a game or footage from a practice, the coaches, the players, the scouts, and management of the 49ers will all have access to content that they have permission to see, as opposed to having to figure out where it is and maybe transcode it. So it’s really going to create workflows that will make the movement and use and access to content more efficient.”

The third solution Front Porch deployed in this system is SAMMA (System for the Automated Migration of Media Assets). The 49ers’ older analog video content will be migrated from videotape to digital files and stored in LYNXdr.

“The biggest thing for us is, we’re going to utilize this as an archival library system for all of our game video and practice footage,” says Christianson. “We want to be able to back that up because we’ve got some historical video here dating back to the early Bill Walsh days that we want to make sure that we are able to keep around for a long time.”

The Front Porch systems will streamline video sharing among all members of the 49ers organization. If a coach wants to send a player video to his home during the offseason, the coach can just grant that player permission to view the clip online through his home computer, and it can be streamed. The same can be done for other coaches and for scouts positioned around the country and can even be used for sharing video with opposing teams.

“So much of what we do and so much of what we shoot is so proprietary and so very important,” says Christianson. “You don’t want to run the risk of losing it, but you also need to have access to it.”

The technological freedom can also help troubleshoot issues on the road. Christianson recalls an example from last season when the 49ers were in Cincinnati playing the Bengals and the coaching staff needed a video clip that none of them had downloaded. Christianson had to remote back to the team’s facilities in order to get the clip shared. Through the cloud, coaches will have access to the 49ers complete library anytime anywhere.

“The Internet has provided a situation where you’re never really out of pocket in what you might need,” says Christianson. “So the cloud is going to provide a few new avenues for us. We’ll have access to our stuff whenever and wherever we need it. Our scouts who live around the country will have access to video as well wherever they’re at.”

Front Porch worked with ICF Ironworks to develop a mobile application so that the entire 49ers video network would be available securely for any authorized personnel to access on tablets and other mobile devices.

“The big thing is that, in this day and age of instant access to digital content, the sports teams, leagues, and venues aren’t immune from those kinds of needs,” says Polyard. “So what they’ve enabled here, using our solution, is the ability for them to make content almost instantly accessible to the coaches, players, scouts, and management via things like iPads. That’s really the future of almost any organization, whether it’s sports or government or education or wherever. Digital content needs to be easily accessible and done so in a variety of different platforms.”

The 49ers are Front Porch’s first NFL client, a major win for the company. The team started implementation of the system with site surveys last week with plans for full use of the system by early October.

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