AmberFin iCR Serves as Conversion Backbone to WWE’s All-Digital Plans

As one of the biggest brands in sports, WWE has one of the most robust video archives around.

Every week, WWE’s 150 person in-house production team delivers more than 10 hours of original programming in multiple versions to 145 countries in 30 different languages. On average, the company distributes about 200 tapes internationally, 100 hours of programming via satellite, and about 45 hours a week of file-based content to some 30 international and domestic clients.

That’s a ton of data that needs to move quickly, which is why, in 2010, the WWE initiated a massive digitization project that has put the organization at the forefront of file-based technology.

“When we went to HD in 2008, we started realizing that [digital] is the future,” says Jonathan Solomon, senior engineering project manager at WWE. “We have a huge international presence and one of my initiatives has been to take us off of satellite and tape-based delivery because of the operating costs for that.”

According to Solomon, with all of its content created in 1080i 2997 NTSC, a lot of the files have to be converted to PAL for international clients. WWE also delivers playout-ready content to all clients to match whatever playout server they have. Multiple language versions of programs are also produced in-house and the team creates versions of shows customized for certain countries. And that’s not even touching all of the web content that is posted.

Reaching back into its 70-year history, the WWE has already digitized and logged over 30,000 hours of master tapes, and the job is only just beginning. Typically, tapes or events are digitized on a “by request” basis as a continuously rolling digitizing process is taking place.

When this process began two years ago, WWE was using Final Cut Pro with DVCPro as its codec. Shortly later, they made the switch to Apple ProRes.

“At the time, the only repurposing software that could handle ProRes was… iCR,” said Solomon in an AmberFin case study. “Not only could iCR handle the Grass Valley GXF to ProRes conversion, but the software would also handle all the rest of our conversion needs allowing us to do away with the… time-consuming manual baseband conversion and completely automate the delivery file-based media to our international clients.”

After the release of Final Cut Pro X, the WWE decided to make a change and switch to an all-Avid workflow and migrate all its content to Avid DNxHD. Fortunately for them, AmberFin’s product made the transition easy, as it calibrated with Avid products.

Currently, Solomon and his team are using five iCR stations to handle the transition to DNxHD and another two to automate the standards conversion for international clients.

According to Solomon, the production team now uses iCR to create ProRes and DNxHD 145 from its Grass Valley GXF files. For Standards Conversion, they use iCR to create MPEG2 MXF files as mezzanine files for later conversion to the variety of formats the international clients use. All facilities are located in the WWE’s home offices in Stamford, CT.

“Our short-term goal is to further increase the use of the system for standards conversion and double the capacity for DNxHD repurposing,” says Solomon. “The next step, as we make progress with the total redesign of our ingest/capture/playout workflow, is to look into AmberFin’s UQC solution to add new levels of confidence in our quality control processes.”