ESPN X Games Get Lift From NEP, Broadcast Fusion

By Carolyn Braff
Dallas-based Broadcast Fusion and NEP Supershooters played key roles in ESPN X Games coverage from Los Angeles last week, helping the network deliver 20 hours of live HD coverage
across three networks. And once again an integrated EVS/Avid workflow eased operations as ESPN builds out the workflow first introduced at an earlier X Games.
Event coverage was seamless thanks to 25 EVS XT2 video servers,
supported by three NEP Supershooters mobile production units, which
captured all the action using Avid’s DNxHD codec. The crew was able to
quickly share recorded files with the on-location post-production facility,
bringing footage of six new events to the broadcast world with unparalleled
efficiency.
NEP units SS11HD, SS20HD and SS25HD
were on hand to produce all four days of competition in 720p HD. In
addition to the EVS servers, SS11 and SS20 were both equipped with Thomson
Grass Valley Kalypso HD production switchers and 10 LDK 6000 mkII Worldcam
HD cameras on triax cables. SS25, one of three NEP twin HD units, housed
a Kalypso HD switcher, 20 LDK 8000 HD cameras, a Trinix HD router with
Concerto Series AES and analog audio operating as an integrated TDM
matrix under Jupiter control and a variety of GeckoFlex modular components.
Two Avid Symphony Nitris systems and
six Avid Adrenaline edit workstations were on hand to enable direct
editing of file-transferred footage at faster-than-realtime speeds from
the EVS servers. Completed sequences were then transferred back to the
EVS network for immediate airplay.
The success of the tapeless HD workflow has been powered by EVS, which created compatibility extensions for their existing media management
systems, such as EVS’ XTaccess that facilitated direct file transfers
between upgraded XT2 servers and Avid Transfer Manager Engines. XTaccess
enabled ESPN to quickly move footage between EVS production servers
and the edit bays’ shared Avid Unity SAN.
The system was so flexible, in fact,
that Broadcast Fusion consultants Greg Blanton and Harris Upham had
to narrow down the range of possible amenities for the X Games broadcast.
“We needed to trim down and simplify
the system to the level where it was cost-effective for a mobilized
sports remote,” explains Upham, who has been involved in producing
the X Games since 2001. “Avid Interplay is a great system for fixed-base
post production, but we wanted to cut down on the commissioning time
and user training required to get the primary benefits of this solution.
We wanted something that would be easy for production to understand,
and transparent to Avid editors who would fly in, sit down and start
cutting.”
With a few clicks on their IP Director
stations, ESPN media managers were able to send anything from restored
archive clips to full current program records directly into post. Independent
transfer channels allowed this process to continue while producers in
the edit bays grabbed clips without queuing delays.
“Bandwidth planning and network layout
is the key to avoiding on-air playback glitches,” Blanton explains.
“Our system lets the record and replay operators in the truck operate
fearlessly even while editors harvest clips on demand.”
All HD media was delivered with full
metadata, eliminating time consuming double-entry of clip names, timecode
or user comments.
“ESPN has spent a lot to create a
permanent traveling media archive on XFile disks and EVS SQL databases,”
Blanton explains. “We can now preserve and forward all relevant metadata
into an edit session and add to this library while we’re on-site without
forcing the librarians to redo it all when it goes home between events.”
ESPN first used the file-based bridge
between live and post-production environments at the Winter X Games
in January, after testing a tapeless baseband environment at several
prior events.
“We used to roll live out of EVS
playout channels to an Avid digitize room,” explains Steve Raymond,
coordinating technical manager of X Games for ESPN. “It saved ESPN
some rent on tape decks and tape stock costs, but it was only as fast
as realtime playback.”
At those Winter Games, ESPN was able
to test HD file transfers and finally break the faster-than-realtime
barrier.
“Now after several successful events,
we’ve been able to fine-tune our solution and scale things up for even
faster set-up, faster clip delivery and better organization and redundancy
through multiple paths,” Raymond explains.