Case Study: Reach Engine Powers U.S. Figure Skating Asset Management

Unforeseen challenges often appear after a project is well under way. U.S. Figure Skating confronted the unexpected with Reach Engine to transform problems into opportunities. U.S. Figure Skating is the national governing body for the sport of figure skating in the United States. U.S. Figure Skating is a member of the International Skating Union (ISU), the international federation for figure skating and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). It is one of the strongest and largest governing bodies in the Olympic movement with over 170,000 members in more than 680 member clubs, collegiate clubs and school-affiliated clubs, and more than 950 registered Basic Skills programs.

Challenge One: Effectively Managing Video Content
Like many organizations, U.S. Figure Skating recognized a need to more effectively manage their video content. Searching for specific content and retrieving it from a growing tape collection became labor intensive and costly.

Compounding the usability problem was a clear risk of unreliable storage. U.S. Figure Skating realized they had a full-fledged preservation problem on their hands.

U.S. Figure Skating Director of Event Production Kevin Leonardo undertook a content management overhaul of their post-production department, ushering the powerful governing body into today’s video consumer era. Kevin brought in a systems integrator to design the overall production workflow, as well as the Levels Beyond software platform Reach Engine to handle video content inventory management. Doing so introduced sophisticated automation workflows, with the primary focus on asset protection and management and an eye on the future ability of giving people unprecedented access to media from U.S. Figure Skating.

With the goal of quick ingest, balanced against robust search, automated workflows were written to first ingest rights owned footage currently living on external hard drives and then capture all footage that was being shot at venues and events during the upcoming competition season. What was a loose system of spreadsheets, sticky notes, and a retired 16 terabyte server, was transformed into the first iteration of a content management system.

Reach Engine managed archive, near-line storage, and transcoding. Kevin used Reach Engine to craft a robust search solution that keyed off of important figure skating metadata fields, metadata groups, and categories. These new workflows gave Kevin the power to shift perceptions within his organization that previously gave little credence to archive footage, reuse, and business model value of stored media.

“While prepping for the live event production of our TV events, I realized our footage was terribly disorganized and at times, when we went to plug-in a hard drive to access important footage, nothing worked,” says Leonardo. “I recognized we were running the risk of losing our footage and history. We needed preventive measures and a way to quickly, efficiently and accurately search through our database of video.”

Challenge Two: Acquisition of New Inventory
The newly secured rights to a deep library of domestic and international figure skating content exposed the need for supply chain organization.
The original media ingest workflows were successful enough to allow Kevin to think creatively about a newly acquired media library covering 8 years of figure skating competition history.

Ingesting and tagging valuable footage from the sport with Reach Engine meant the video could be easily accessed for in-house production projects and in the future, packaged and sold for distribution to broadcast and licensee partners.

“Our main focus right now is getting all the skating footage that we have had since 2007-08 ingested into the system, tagged, and searchable,” says Leonardo, “so that then we can start to brainstorm ways in which we can build revenue.”

Challenge Three: Automated Video Content Delivery
U.S. Figure Skating needed an efficient, secure, and cost effective solution to deliver footage to those participants competing in their Qualifying Competition Season.

In the fall of 2014 U.S. Figure Skating then turned their sights to a new way to service the over 170,000 members of U.S. Figure Skating consisting of collegiate athletes, members, and school-affiliated clubs.

The team brainstormed a way to leverage the power of Reach Engine automations for content delivery.

Spurred on by a dearth of vendors, U.S. Figure Skating had an immediate need to cover a fulfillment gap for delivering this competition footage. Video content delivery needed to be efficient, secure, and cost effective.

The solution architects at Levels Beyond stepped in to help Kevin design a digital delivery workflow, using existing hardware and vendors, to efficiently automate what used to be an expensive, manual delivery process.

“Last year we took over the production in the field and this year the fulfillment of video orders, so Levels wrote a workflow that allows us to ingest source video and keep it on a centralized storage system while at the same time enacting Telestream Vantage to transcode two different lower resolution versions,” says Leonardo. “Footage of each athlete is sent to a content fulfillment site called Hightail that allows us to distribute footage purchased by our athletes and their families. We crafted our storyboard and created a process with the tech team from Levels Beyond that automates the majority of the workflow. Now, the only manual phases are order fulfillment and customer service.”

Exploring Untapped Opportunities: What’s next for U.S. Figure Skating?
Having built a strong foundation with their content, Kevin is eager to address further challenges to generate revenue, cut costs and improve efficiencies using Reach Engine technology:

  • Grant Access to Internal Departments: Grant internal departments and users within the organization access, search and additional functionality within the U.S. Figure Skating Reach Engine.
  • More Integration & Collaboration: Further integrate the Reach Engine process into the daily edit workflow and extend the collaboration capabilities of the software.
  • Cut Costs & Increase Revenue: Grant external users access to footage in a self-service model for increased consumption of U.S. Figure Skating content with minimal time investment.

“Overall we’re exploring more opportunities to monetize our content, drive efficiencies from an editing stand point, and remove inefficiencies in the overall production process,” says Leonardo. “When I reflect back on the whole project, what stands out most is the power in Reach Engine’s flexibility to provide a tailor-made solution and the quality of service from the staff at Levels Beyond.”

“From the start, we met weekly to hash out challenges and share ideas,” adds Leonardo. “For system upgrades, they were quick to request just an hour of downtime to give me the latest and greatest. From the tech support side, no matter the size or scope of my issue, those guys are all about troubleshooting and would involve our IT department if necessary. I really rely on the Reach Engine team for their knowledge and support. Whether or not my request is routine, they will troubleshoot the issue or point me in the right direction to provide a solution.