CSVA, NFL, coaching software vendors make interoperability and HD priorities

By Carolyn Braff

The Sports Video Interop Group, a conglomerate of video coaching software providers, the Collegiate Sports Video Association (CSVA), and the NFL dedicated to bringing greater file interoperability to their systems, discussed the latest advances during a presentation at the CSVA Convention in St. Louis last week. Topping the list is the need to finalize paperwork to become an officially sanctioned non-profit and also find a roadmap for the move to HD.

“Essentially, the idea is for the industry’s sake,” explained Ray Thompson of XOS, treasurer of the group. “We’ve all acted as a group in good faith, which is a pretty amazing thing, given that we’re all competitors.”

The panel included representatives from DVSport, ESPN, WEBB Electronics and LRS, all of which are involved. “In DVSports’ opinion, this is the most significant thing that we’ve done as a group in the last 20 years,” said Brian Lowe of DVSport. “The ability for all of us to work together and what that brings to you as a consumer, this is the right thing to do. That’s why all of us are up here: this is the future. Standardization is really the only way we’re going to keep this whole thing together.”

A key goal is to define metadata tags associated with MXF wrappers that will be placed around files that include football game video. “The ability to share video and data on a common file format is what everyone wants,” said Robert Gibbons of WEBB Electronics. “We want to see things formalized without branches or divisions. We have some needs as far as vendors, but you’re really going to influence what you want to see as far as the metadata side.”

In addition to noting the importance of the MXF wrapper to standardize exchanges and maximize workflow efficiency, moderator Ken Norris of UCLA urged the audience of video coordinators to come to a consensus on what else they want the organization to accomplish, noting that the CSVA members are a big voice in the development process.

“The questions that must be answered are bitrate, resolution and compression,” Thompson offered. “Once I know what you want for that, then I will make my development team build that.”

The panel also continued the high definition discussion that began earlier in the conference. The audience agreed that 720p is the standard for sports, but was disheartened by the lack of HD compatible coaching systems in the market.

“My problem is I don’t have an editing solution that can do HD in the type of environment and workflow that I want,” explained John Kvatek of the University of Central Florida. “We have to get to common ground on this.”

Kvatek acknowledged that building an HD-friendly infrastructure will take more than a few days to accomplish, but he urged the panel to make some simple decisions to make the CSVA conference a starting point in a comprehensive transition to HD.

“You as can help make a decision that’s going to influence both the.org and the vendors,” Gibbons added. “With the.org hopefully we can agree on what we’re going to do; otherwise we’re going to end up fragmented again. The.org gives you a choice without being on an island.”

Consensus in the room was to move to 720p and H.264 with an MXF wrapper, but several video coordinators were concerned about taking a stand in the moment, as they had not yet had the opportunity to investigate what format would work best for them. However it appears that a move to standardize on 720p and h.264 at 24 Mbps is gaining ground as the format of choice.