SAM 2010: PGA Tour Entertainment Opens Newly Branded Doors to SVG

The business cards at newly rebranded PGA Tour Entertainment have not yet been printed, but attendees at SVG’s fourth-annual Sports Asset Management forum were given an all-access pass to the facility’s brand-new asset-management system. More than 150 sports-technology professionals gathered in St. Augustine, FL, on July 20 for a full day of discussions, beginning with an overview of the Vizrt-based installation designed to improve workflows for PGA Tour Entertainment and its content-distribution partners.

The event was sponsored by Sony, Avid, Grass Valley, Bexel, CBT Systems, NetApp, Diversified Systems, SOS Global Express, and TATA Communications. Bexel also parked a 3D-viewing truck at the Renaissance Resort in the World of Golf Village, where the sessions took place, offering attendees a look at some of the latest in 3D technology and content. The one-day event was followed up with a golf outing at the legendary TPC Sawgrass the following day.

David Dukes, senior director of technical operations for PGA Tour Entertainment, kicked off the program with an overview of the facility’s asset-management system.

“When we started this project, it was with the objective of protecting our assets,” he explained. “From a preservation standpoint, what do we do with aging videotapes? We had two main goals: to create a file-based workflow for the facility and preservation and disaster recovery. What we came up with was the Viz Ardome system.”

In addition to Vizrt, PGA Tour Entertainment has a long list of technology partners, including CDW, Avid, EVS, and Dixon Sports, but the Vizrt Ardome system is at the center of the new workflow.

Four Pillars of Preservation
Within that workflow, Dukes and his team identified four main “pillars” that the Viz Ardome system would tackle: ingest, storage, edit, and distribution. He also wanted to ensure that the system was as open as possible, with the ability to expand and change over time.

Pillar 1: Ingest
Ingest is from one of three sources: via satellite (in backhauls from live tournaments); on videotape (from ENG captured at a player’s home or charity event, for example); or EVS XFile (for tournament content, which arrives on a clean feed, a dirty feed, and a melt reel). The content is ingested live in videotape through VizCapture. Media transcoders immediately create lo-res proxies of the content.

“We wanted to make sure that our media was available to the entire organization as it was coming in,” Dukes said. “We also wanted to limit transcoding of hi-res material as much as we could. We chose to keep HD media HD and SD media SD. While we may be satisfied with current upconversion technology, once you’ve done that, you don’t get a second shot. It was just as easy for us to keep them separate.”

After a great deal of discussion, Dukes and his team chose VC3 145 Mbps for the HD archive and MPEG-2 50 Mbps for the SD archive, larger files than other systems use.

“As the rightsholder and keeper of this archive, we chose what we felt was a high-quality copy,” Dukes said.

The system uses an H.264 proxy because, as Dukes said, the team is always looking for the best way to “see the little white ball.”

Pillar 2: Storage
At PGA Tour Entertainment, storage takes a few different forms. When content is getting very high usage, such as the weeks following a given event, it lives on a central spinning-disk storage area network (SAN), after which it is pushed off to LTO-5 tape backup for long-term storage. The storage manager is integrated into the Viz Ardome system, and proxies are always available on the spinning disk.

Dukes expects the LTO-5 library to grow to more than 6 PB, and it will take approximately five years to get the entire videotape archive into the system.

“We looked at a lot of different [automated] options, but we kept coming back to the fact that we wanted to keep as close a control over that process as possible,” Dukes said. “We wanted to walk through some of the inconsistencies.”

Pillar 3: Edit
Edit required two levels of browse editing done on the proxy base from the desktop. Desktop applications were key to that pillar of the system.

Pillar 4: Distribution
Distribution means different things for PGA Tour Entertainment. It can mean playout to a satellite feed, if feeding a show to a network or distributing a news release, or it can mean duplication, if requesting videotape.

“We’re using EVS for both of those,” Dukes said. “On the file-based side, users are able to select and clip shots, build something in EasyCut, send it to the Carbon Coder, select from various profiles in the system, and drop the finished file wherever it needs to be dropped.”

Rhozet Carbon Coder and Anystream Agility are used side by side for file-based distribution, and EVS XT[2] and IP Director are used for transmission and tape duplication.

Dukes also demonstrated the Web-based logging system on the PGA Tour Entertainment network, bringing to the presentation room one of 20 systems in use at the facility.

A Peek Inside
Following the overview, event attendees were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility, complete with explanations from experts in each area of the workflow. Staffers in the ingest room kicked off the tour, discussing their workflow process, including quality control. The tour also passed through facility routing, the LTO library, and the SAN control room, with its 17 redundant servers.

Deeper inside the facility, the tape room houses just one-third of the Tour’s archive; tapes are cycled off-site as new material comes in. The audio-postproduction facility, including two post rooms, were next on the tour route, followed by the control-room core, with its patch servers and EVS routing, where the facility’s chief engineer gave an overview of the system. Despite being the only fully SD portion of the facility, the studio was a popular stop on the tour, letting attendees see where PGATour.com content is produced.

Transmission and duplication were next on the tour, followed by graphics and an editing overview from the facility’s senior editor. Experts from Vizrt and Media Strategy Partners were on hand to demonstrate the Viz Ardome search interface in more detail.

The logging staff talked about logging and metadata. When it comes to logging, the staff is faced with balancing the decision on which to ingest first: the oldest tapes (those most in danger of deterioration) or the content most in demand. That decision always puts the logging staff in a tough spot.

After the tour, attendees returned to the Renaissance Resort for further discussion of asset management.