TranSPORT: Enhanced Connectivity Heralds Shift in Live-Sports-Production Workflow

By increasing the connectivity between remote-production facilities and broadcast centers, sports-production crews are not just enhancing their workflow and creating additional content. They are changing the way live sports are produced.

At SVG’s TranSPORT summit, industry leaders from EVS, Avid, Signiant, and Aspera discussed the latest advances in file-based transport and remote operations, and the potential ramifications of enhanced connectivity between remote site and broadcast facility.

Fully Integrated Workflow
EVS recently established a fully integrated hi-res/lo-res workflow between Fox Sports’ A unit and the Fox broadcast center in Los Angeles. Any of the content ingested on the truck’s 15 XT[2] servers can be viewed in Los Angeles via EVS’s IPDirector workflow-enhancement application. Depending on access rights, users can browse through live on-air servers, XT servers, XS servers, and stored files.

“Any of the content that gets created in the truck in hi-res can be proxied to create an H.264 version. When that content gets proxied, it is immediately available [to view on] the IPDirector [application] in Los Angeles,” explained Jay Deutsch, director, projects and systems architecture, EVS. “The IPDirector in Los Angeles has a physical connection to the database that lives on the truck.”

Previously, the team in Los Angeles had to create content from the game using only a line recording. Now operators at the broadcast center can search the contents of the entire network based on specific metadata, including timecode, camera name, camera angle, and particular player.

Proxy browsing occupies a small piece of the bandwidth provided for the game broadcast — approximately 800 kbps out of, at least, 100 Mbps — allowing the remaining bandwidth to be dedicated to bidirectional hi-res file transfer.

“Los Angeles can create content and send the files directly to the truck,” said Deutsch. “The most important part of a system like this is that there is minimal impact on the day-to-day truck workflow; this is a file transfer that occurs on the backend, in the background. All it requires is one person to find what they want.”

Avid Interplay Enables Editing, Editors
Introduced at IBC, Avid’s Interplay Central approaches file transfer from the remote perspective. The completely Web-based system requires no software or hardware and offers producers and editors in the field the ability to download lo-res proxy video from a server at the broadcast center to create content.

“This is an editing tool for people who are not editors,” said Jim Frantzreb, senior broadcast segment manager, Avid. “It gives you a real-time view into iNews and the Interplay Production Asset Management System. As a journalist, I can put together a story — the cuts, the timing of the words — and I know how long it’s going to take the news reader to read them. I can match the video to that, or I can start with the video, and then I can write the text.”

Finding Comfort in the Cloud
As with any conversation on content creation, the question of storage was integral to the panel’s discussion. Serban Simu, VP of engineering/co-founder of Aspera, suggested a cloud-based approach.

“We want to give people the ability to operate in the cloud the way you’d operate locally,” said Simu. “If you do have archive storage on the cloud, you should be able to get [your content] up there and out of there as fast as in real time. Security of cloud-based operations is no different from any on-premise system; it’s just a question of comfort.”

Future of File Transfer and Live Sports Production
Looking forward, the panel agreed that enhanced connectivity between remote facilities and broadcast center would certainly change the way live sports are produced.

“I don’t think it’s going to matter much where you are, because you’re going to be connected, you’re going to have access to the media, you’re going to have access to the tools,” opined Frantzreb. “Your role may change because you now have access, the walls are broken down, and there’s more that can be done remotely.”

Deutsch sees sports production becoming more of an “at-home effort” but stressed the continued need for an on-site team to be able to convey the feeling and energy of the event to viewers.

“I think that file transfer will get closer and closer to live production,” speculated Signiant CTO Ian Hamilton. The enhanced connectivity between remote facilities and broadcast center will be used more for real-time file transfer, he continued, “and less and less for secondary things like video on demand.”

The ability of the broadcast center to access files from the truck and, conversely, the ability of journalists in the field to access archives at the broadcast center will certainly change the roles of all involved in live sports production. By enabling all involved to create and transfer content, live sports productions will become more dynamic and, theoretically, more cost-effective.

However, the panel agreed that the future of storage is not as certain.

“I think the one thing that certainly won’t change in three years,” concluded Deutsch. “is that, no matter how much storage you have, it’s still not going to be enough.”