SVG’s Sports Asset Management Forum Opens Eyes, Minds With In-Depth MAM Case Studies, Part 1

Brandon Costa and Karen Hogan contributed to this report.

More than 200 sports-production professionals gathered at the New York Hilton yesterday for the Sports Video Group’s seventh-annual Sports Asset Management (SAM) Forum — a full-day event brimming with in-depth case studies from pro and college sports leagues, informational panel discussions, and showcases of cutting-edge technology.

This year’s event marked a departure from previous SAM Forums, which centered on a single facility (MLB Network, NBA Entertainment, PGA Tour Entertainment). Rather than offering a tour of a single facility, this year’s event provided behind-the-scenes presentations of the asset-management workflows currently deployed by the MLB, NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, PGA Tour, UFC, and the University of Notre Dame in an effort to help organizations currently designing their own media-asset–management (MAM) facilities and ecosystems understand the potential pitfalls and advantages.

The full audio files and PowerPoint presentations from all SAM presentations will be available soon on the SVG Members Area, but, for now, here is the first of a two-part recap of the day’s events.

NBAHorstman

Keith Horstman, VP, digital media systems, NBA.

The uniting factor in each presentation was this: in a build-out of an asset-management and archive system, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty.

“The biggest thing that I always like to tell people is, in your design phase, design with the idea that you’re going to be wrong, because, ultimately, you will be. Technology is constantly changing,” said Keith Horstman, VP, digital media systems, NBA. “Whatever you’ve anticipated your workload or your content is going to be, take that number and triple it, because people are always going to want [more], your editors are always going to push you to bring more stuff in and take more stuff out.”

NBA Entertainment
After nearly a decade (1994-2002) of small but integral steps toward developing a comprehensive MAM environment, NBA Entertainment really got the ball rolling in 2005, implementing a fully digital environment, expanding its infrastructure, and beginning the process of saving its crumbling tape library. Then, in 2008, the growth of NBA Digital (NBA TV and NBA.com at Turner Studios in Atlanta) and the potential value of the newly established HSAN video network (which links the NBA office and each arena) forced the system to expand even more.

Today, NBA Entertainment’s facility boasts nearly 20 PB of tape storage, more than 550,00 assets (250,000 digital), and more than 10 million clips and is responsible for feeding this content to a variety of clients and users.

“Understand your user base,” Horstman advised. “From our perspective, everybody is different: technical operations wants digital frame by frame, backwards and forwards; production wants back clips; fans want very short clips. So you really have to understand your user base to solve their direct problems.”

National Hockey League

Grant Nodine, NHL, VP, Technology

Grant Nodine, NHL, VP, Technology

NHL VP of Technology Grant Nodine addressed some of the biggest questions in asset management and how his team went about answering them: what codec/wrapper to use (AVC-Intra100 and a Quicktime wrapper in the NHL’s case), where assets come from (Arena Grass Valley Servers, P2 cameras), how fast the repository is growing (3 PB/year), where metadata comes from (the NHL’s HITS-system records), how assets are stored (StorNext fiber-attached SAN volumes, managed by Dalet, archival by Front Porch), and what edit/graphics systems are in use (Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe After Effects), and what users need access (internal users in its Active Directory forest).

“[In building our system], we were focusing internally on preserving the visual history of the game,” said Nodine. “And also producing a two-hour show every weekday in our office that really gives a wrap-up of the previous night’s games, previews that night’s games, and goes around the league and does interviews with players and other personalities.”

Ultimate Fighting Championship

Christy King, UFC, VP, Digital, Technology R&D

Christy King, UFC, VP, Digital, Technology R&D

Although UFC may not have the decades of content that other U.S. sports leagues must account for, Christy King faces a unique challenge of her own. Unlike her peers on-stage at the SAM Forum, whose leagues host their events in the same type of venue day after day, UFC events can be held in an NBA/NHL arena one week, a Las Vegas concert venue the next, and an arena in Brazil the next. As VP, digital, technology R&D, King is faced with bringing back that content and efficiently managing it for an ever-increasing number of UFC events and programs.

“The biggest issue,” she said, “is, you have data siloed everywhere and, whether it’s one company or several divisions within the company or different companies, somebody has to figure out how to eventually get all that data at least talking to each other, if not all in the same place.”

MLB Network
In 2009, MLB Network and MLB Productions launched its DIAMOND (Digitized Industry Assets Managed Optimally for Networked Distribution) system, which is responsible for ingesting, managing, and distributing the glut of content that comes into its Secaucus, NJ, facility each day. Since then, the MLB Network team has continued to perfect and grow the system to keep up with an ever-increasing amount of content: from 2,000 hours per week of HD content archived during the 2010 season to 3,600 hours in the 2013 season.

Tab Butler, Director, Media Management and Post Production at MLB Network

Tab Butler, Director, Media Management and Post Production at MLB Network

“You start to look at it and say, ‘Oh my gosh, when is [the increase of content] going to plateau?’ Well, the unfortunate thing about all this is that it doesn’t ever plateau,” said Tab Butler, director, media management and post production, MLB Network. “I don’t know where or how far we will be at the end of this year or next year, but I can tell you that it is just going to continue to grow. For the last 30 days, we had 2,000 jobs per day, so you can see that there is a lot of activity going on.”

NASCAR Media Group
Over the past 4½ years, NASCAR Media Group has ingested an astounding 160,000 hours of archived footage and is currently ingesting 1,200 each month. In order to make this possible — and, more important, efficient — the Group built its MAM system on an open architecture that centers on five key stages: ingest (as ProRes mezzanine and H.264 proxies), log (EVS for live logging and Levels Beyond for archive into PostgreSQL asset database), edit (just transitioned from Apple Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premier Pro), transcode (using Telestream Vantage and Episode), and transmit (EVS for live applications and Web FTB).

Chris Witmayer, NASCAR Media Group, Director Of Broadcast, Post Production, and New Media Technology

Chris Witmayer, NASCAR Media Group, Director Of Broadcast, Post Production, and New Media Technology

“The open architecture allows us to replace products should they not make the cut or not make us happy a few years down the road,” says Chris Witmayer, director of broadcast, post production, and new media technology, NASCAR Media Group. “You always want to simplify your workflow. As Thoreau said, simplify, simplify, simplify. [Our system] is less complicated today than it was when we started.”

CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO of the Sports Asset Management recap.

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