ESPN Classic Europe eyes tapeless tech

ESPN Classic Europe is looking to follow in the footsteps of its domestic parent company later this year by embracing tapeless operations, a move that introduces a number of workflow benefits for an organization that today relies heavily on videotapes criss-crossing the European continent via Express Mail.

We want to detach our video content from the audio content, says Jamie Baker, ESPN Classic Europe director of production and operations. ESPN Classic Europe currently has four different language versions (Italian, French, German and Polish) as well as versions with Dutch and German subtitles meaning that there is a lot of redundancy.

ESPN Classic Europe operates about five miles away from its playout facility that is located at Red Bee Media s broadcast center in West London (Red Bee was formerly BBC Broadcast). Digital Betacam videotapes with sporting events from across Europe arrive at ESPN Classic Europe and are then cut down to fit a half-hour or hour time slot with Avid editing systems and Pixel Power Clarity graphics gear readying the content for air. Red Bee Media then takes the material and plays out four versions of the network with the help of an Omnibus Colossus automation system.

One of the production challenges is getting the narration in the different languages completed. Videotapes with the sporting events are sent to narrators in Germany, Poland, France and Italy who then lay the new language track. Next quarter ESPN Classic Europe expects to move to a file-based delivery system using Apple Quicktime, Windows Media 9 and other Internet-friendly video formats.

The announcers don t need to see a broadcast quality version of the matches, says Baker. They just need enough quality to see what is going on.

Once the first phase is completed Baker hopes to move ESPN Classic Europe to a completely tapeless workflow, where the tapes arrive and are ingested onto a server. He is currently eyeing DigiDesign s DigiDelivery system as a way to move video and audio files over the Internet more quickly than relying on FTP.

By moving to a tapeless workflow we can send separate audio and video files to Red Bee and then attach different types of files like audio, subtitle and graphics files, says Baker.
This is a very exciting period to be in the TV business, says Baker. The new workflows are life changing for everyone on the production team. Suddenly they ll be able to view content on the desktop and build promos at the same time a match is being edited.