WWE Case Study: SGL Serves Up New Workflow for Massive Production Efforts

Special to SVG by Chris Luther, director of Professional Services, America, SGL

Since 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment’s archive has grown by leaps and bounds and has also required flexible ways to access the content from anywhere and anyplace. To help manage a diverse ecosystem, WWE  enlisted the support of SGL.

Dan Keene, director, engineering maintenance, WWE, puts it simply: “With the amount of content that we create, it’s not feasible to keep everything online in high-res. To be able to work in a low-res environment and restore just what’s needed is critical for us.”

The WWE central ingest area.

The WWE central ingest area

The production environment currently includes Avid Interplay production-asset management, a Grass Valley Aurora editing system, and a tape library based on Spectra T-Finity robots and an Oracle SL8500 robot. There is also an Isilon half-petabyte disc archive. Globally, WWE produces nearly 12,000 hours of content annually.

SGL’s FlashNet IO servers (there are eight) make it easy to locate and return the required LTO cartridge for use. The system supports both low- and high-res workflows for both Avid and Grass Valley production environments, enables partial-file restore, and offers storage-repository statistics so that the team can plan for growth and workflow changes. It also enables digitization of tens of thousands of hours of videotape and storage for efficient reuse.

For example, using the statistics gathered from FlashNet’s intuitive user interface, WWE can allocate storage resources to the shows that require them on the fly. WWE has more content and more data flowing in and out of the archive than ever. Also, with the advent of the WWE Network, its editors continually go back to the archive to breathe new life into old material. As WWE Universe continues to grow, so will the archive, keeping content safe and secure for generations of fans to come.

WWE uses a low-res/high-res workflow via Avid and Grass Valley editing systems, providing a fully collaborative experience. The Grass Valley system is used to edit both the Raw and SmackDown shows with approximately six weeks of high-res content kept online for editors to work with. For the weekly live Raw shows, WWE plays sequences of clips to provide highlights and flashbacks to previous events. To create the sequence, the editor requests low-res material from the archive. Once the sequence is edited, it’s passed to a media manager, who submits the sequence, marked with in/out points, to the Grass Valley system. This, in turn, communicates with SGL FlashNet for partial restore of the high-res material so that only relevant content is using space in production storage. The sequences are then aired from an OB truck at the arena via satellite.

The WWE transmission room

The WWE transmission room

SGL’s partial-file restore allows WWE media managers to restore short clips of longer material from the archive environment effortlessly. Clips for archive or restore can be selected directly from the Grass Valley system. SGL FlashNet appears as a seamless extension of the Grass Valley environment, enabling automatic copying of content to WWE’s archive library using SGL’s Storage Manager, a rules-based, automated data-lifecycle–management tool. Storage Manager handles WWE’s entire archive library, which comprises ½ PB of Isilon disc and LTO-4, LTO-5, and LTO-6 tape storage, managing the data lifecycle within the archive. Storage Manager also makes duplicate copies of the LTO media to ensure that physical damage to an LTO cartridge can easily be recovered. This is all carried out in the background seamlessly by the Storage Manager module. Storage Manager rules are established typically around file size, type, content, and age.

With the Avid system, editors work using a completely low-res workflow. For the home videos or any of the network shows, the scripts and rundowns are produced, and footage is compiled in low-res. Once the show is near the end of production and ready for audio mix and final QCs, the editor submits the sequence to a media manager. The media manager requests a restore or conform of the sequence, and SGL FlashNet brings back all the required high-res footage as partial-file restores to finalize the show.

When the show is complete, the sequence is resubmitted to SGL so that it’s archived and protected for future use. A de-dupe feature ensures that only new or modified content is actually rewritten to the FlashNet CMS. Besides providing WWE with a scalable storage-management system, SGL FlashNet reduces the amount of online storage required, significantly reducing costs.