Evolution of Cloud Workflows Comes Into Focus at Sports Entertainment Summit

The SVG/Variety Sports Entertainment Summit spent an afternoon diving into postproduction needs and technology developments, highlighted by a lively 30-minute discussion featuring representatives of Aspera, Nvidia, and Quantel, who provided an overview of the current and future state of cloud-based workflows and related technologies.

Quantel’s QTube, for example, leverages technologies like Nvidia processing, and Aspera transport allows content files to be produced and frame-accurate edit decisions to be made on the road and live material to be viewed and edited from a remote location.

“Content can be stored in multiple sites at different locations and edited, complete with transitions, from point-to-point or point-to-multipoints at multiple delivery sites,” said Danny Peters, director of creative services, Quantel.

The advantage? An organization can work with the best out-of-house talent available anywhere, and operational efficiencies are improved because the need for multiple full-resolution copies of media in multiple locations is eliminated, along with the related costs of transferring those high-resolution files back to the main broadcast center.

And then there are intercompany benefits. “A station in Winnipeg may want material from a station in Toronto,” Peters pointed out, “and they can pull down just the content they need through a Web browser.”

Greg Estes, marketing executive, technology and media, Nvidia, added that cloud and remote editing capabilities solve a lot of problems and enable faster time to air, the kind of solution that not only offers cost savings but also drives revenue.

“The ROI case is always easiest for us to explain,” he said. “You can have 100 Avid or Premier Pro seats and buy each one an $11,000 workstation or use an appliance that can serve eight users simultaneously, and, coming soon, that will be 16 users. The investment is a 10th of the costs to offer full utilization simultaneously to everyone, so the ROI is easy to see.”

But he cautioned that future technological demands, like 4K or the desire for 30-bit color accuracy, will introduce a whole new range of challenges.

Readying content for viewers and consumers is also making the move to cloud services. As for transport of that content, John King, senior sales engineer, Aspera, noted that companies like UFC are converting content at the venues into the format required for second-screen delivery. And UEFA used an automated process to get content during the 2012 European Football Championship out to Amazon for delivery to consumers. The challenge is to automate those processes as much as possible, an important offering from Aspera.

“You want to remove the human mistakes in these complex, fast workflows,” he said.

Evelyn Gullen, post-production supervisor at ESPN’s Los Angeles Production Center, laid out just how extensive remote file transfer and content creation have become, with the L.A. facility creating content for multiple ESPN channels around the globe.

“Every show is specific in what they want in terms of look, pacing, cuts, and content,” she said. “It really depends on the country, but we are very lucky to have a great staff that is driven and creative, finding the balance between day-to-day needs and longer-format content.”

That balance is also changing the skill sets required of staff members. And sometimes an outside entity needs to be tapped into to fully deliver on the creative demands.

Whereas ESPN looks to juggle the needs of multiple ESPN entities, the team at L.A.-based graphics and post house Troika juggles the needs of multiple clients.

“Every client has a goal of what they want to be so we collaborate from a strategic side and define what they want their voice to be,” said Troika Art Director Craig Stouffer. “Then the creative team gets involved.”

Where ESPN relies on Quantel equipment, Troika will work with whatever software is required.

“There is a lot of conversation in designing anything as we need to define the goals of a project,” Stouffer added. “A network needs its own tone, and we can help define that with creative spots and graphics.”