The Mtn. Streamlines Workflow With JVC ProHD Camcorders

Tasked with covering 10 schools in seven states, the MountainWest Sports Network is always searching for quicker, cheaper ways to produce games and original programming. In March, The Mtn. picked two JVC GY-HM700U ProHD camcorders for field and studio work. Four months later, Operations Engineer Tom Scholle is confident his network made the right decision.

“When we told some of our [camera operators] that we were getting these two new cameras instead of one new [Sony] XDCAM, many were complaining at first,” he says. “But after they took the cameras out on a shoot for the first time, they were praising them — how light they are and how easy they are. Now the cameras have become fought over by [the operators].”

The GY-HM700U is a shoulder-mount solid-state 3-CCD camcorder with a Canon 14x zoom lens. Thus far, The Mtn.’s two cameras have been used to shoot live baseball and basketball games, news packages, promotional material, and other original programming, including a chronicle of the Texas Christian University baseball team’s recent march to the 2010 College World Series in Reaching the Peak: Destination Omaha.

Final Cut Pro-Friendly
Most important to Scholle was the camera’s capability for “shoot-to-edit” native Apple Final Cut Pro file recording. The Mtn. recently implemented a Building4Media Fork system that uses Final Cut Pro. The ability to record native Final Cut Pro format to dual SDHC memory cards allows the staff to immediately ingest video into the Building4Media Fork system with no conversion or transcoding.

“These cameras’ ability to work with Final Cut has really enhanced workflow,” says Scholle. “Now we’ve got people just walking in with SD cards, putting them in the SD card readers we have hooked up to the Final Cut systems, and then pulling [the video] right off the card.”

A Quick Turnaround
The tight integration with Final Cut Pro also allows The Mtn. to quickly turn video around on deadline, a task that had presented some logistical issues in the past.

“We’ve sped up our ingest workflow quite a bit. That’s going to be huge during football season,” says Scholle. “On Saturdays, we will send out photogs to games [near our Denver headquarters] — say, something at Air Force, Wyoming, or Colorado State — to bring back highlights. There have been times in the past when those highlights are coming back at 9:50 for a 10:30 show. So the turnaround on that was extremely rough. But now, with the way the Building4Media Fork system works with these cameras, we can literally plunk this card in and play raw straight off of the card.”

For several events, including nearly all of The Mtn.’s College World Series coverage, staffers have edited video in the field using a Final Cut Pro laptop and then sent it back to Mtn. headquarters (using a Verizon Mifi wireless router) via FTP.

“You can plug a card reader into the Final Cut laptop, or you can just plug the camera directly into the laptop, then copy clips, and FTP them back to us,” says Mytch Barnes, broadcast IT engineer at The Mtn. “Or with that Final Cut laptop, you can cut up [the video] and just send the parts you want to send, quickly and easily.”

So Easy an Editor Can Do It
The cameras’ light weight and small SD cards have also received rave reviews from the Mtn. staff. Users say that the cameras make it much easier to traverse the court during a basketball game, allowing angles not possible in the past.  In addition, the diminutive size of the SD cards allows camera operators to simply “throw a handful in their pocket just in case,” says Barnes, “whereas the XD cam cards are much too large to fit in most pockets.”

The Mtn. often finds itself understaffed and forced to use inexperienced staff to shoot video in the field. In these cases, the GY-HM700Us have proved a particularly valuable tool.

“We’ve sent people out who aren’t even photogs when we’re short-staffed, and they were shooting with no problem whatsoever,” says Scholle. “In fact, we sent one of our editors to a Sweet 16 game with one of these cameras, and he hadn’t shot video in eight years. But he gave us plenty of airable footage and found no problems because these are so simple to use.”