With DragonFly, Digital Game Film Flies Across Conferences

By Carolyn Braff
For players, the grind of the college football season means big conference match-ups and age-old rivalries; for video coordinators, it means exchanging hundreds of hours of game film with opponents coming to town this week, next week, and every week until season’s end. This year, more athletic departments than ever are making those exchanges via DragonFly Storm, a peer-to-peer video-distribution system that connects schools in more than 20 leagues, including five of the six BCS conferences.
DragonFly Storm allows editor-to-editor interoperability among all the systems currently in use by video coordinators at NCAA institutions. Using a proprietary distribution protocol, Storm automatically converts video files into the format required by the receiving school’s editing system.
“In college athletics, there are five or six editing system in use,” explains Kirk Miller, owner of DragonFly Athletics. “Our system allows editor-to-editor cross-compatibility with all of those editing systems. It’s the first way for college video coordinators to exchange their game film without having to worry about what editing system another guy is on.”
Miller describes his system as a direct alternative to the MXF consortium, one that does not require conversion from native format to the MXF transfer format and back again.
“We understand the format for your editor, so we translate your video directly to the particular editor your recipient is using,” Miller explains. “It’s a really advanced workflow beyond what has been done in the past couple of years.”
Agreements with all the major editing companies — APEX, DSV, DVSport, LRS, Webb, XOS — enable Storm to read and write both video and metadata formats for nearly 500 partners across the country.
“He does a lot of things under the hood that you normally would have to do manually,” explains Doug Aucoin, video coordinator at Louisiana State University. “He’s put a lot of tools into place that help us overcome opponents not having the same system.”
Most college video coordinators are working with DV25 video, but Storm accepts MPEG-4, MPEG-2, and a variety of other formats, allowing coordinators to load their video in its native format.
In a field in which a staff’s technical expertise spans the length of the know-how spectrum, having a system for exchange presented as part of a workflow, not as a technical solution, is a boon for the staff coordinator.
“The nice thing about DragonFly is, it’s pretty simple as far as being technically savvy,” explains Luke Goldstein, director of football video operations at the
University
of
Virginia.
“You don’t have to understand FTP; you don’t have to understand how to punch in IP addresses. It’s changed our world.”
Including file-transfer, copy, and conversion time, Storm can move a 20-GB video file among editing systems at the same conference in about 40 minutes. Transfers to non-conference schools are less predictable.
“How long it takes to send a video really depends on the connection, the traffic where we’re connecting through, and the school that you’re going to,” Goldstein explains. “I’ve sent 18-gig files in 15 minutes, but I’d say the average is 45 minutes to an hour.”
Avoiding a large infrastructure investment, Storm software can be run on any desktop computer and does not require an Internet 2 connection. To maintain quality through the transfer, it sends only duplications of original video, not transcoded copies.
“There is no centralized server on the Storm network, so there’s no single point of failure,” Miller says. “If one school happens to have a problem on a Saturday night, the traffic is simply routed around that school.”
Though designed for video, Storm is certainly not limited to the transfer of video files. “We have special workflow handling for the video systems, but there are a lot of guys out there that send all their statistical information, play charts, flip cards — we even see people sending jokes back and forth,” Miller says. “It’s a real distribution platform that lets them get any of their digital assets to whomever they need to get it to.”
And the system is not just for football. Storm clients use it for basketball, volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, and any number of Olympic sports, as well. Third parties like NFL teams, Collegiate Images, and even officiating crews can also access the system, expediting the sharing of video for scouting, reviewing, and feature-building purposes.
The system is fully password-protected and includes a record of every video transfer, including the reason for that transfer. To further protect its assets, a school can choose to add a watermark to its digital video that stays embedded in the file.
“If you want to set that level of security, the video has an encrypted watermark on it,” Miller says. “Even if they print that out to an analog source or DVD, it’s still going to have the watermark, so you know where it came from.”