SAMS Forum: Baltimore Ravens Streamline MAM in Preparation for 20th Season

As director of broadcasting and gameday productions for the Baltimore Ravens, Jay O’Brien faces quite the weekly challenge: create content for the in-stadium show on RavensVision video displays, preseason Ravens broadcasts, and three weekly Ravens shows, as well as the Website, mobile apps, social-media accounts, and more — all with a staff of five. With the team’s 20th season on the horizon, Ravens Productions looked for a solution to manage its growing content library.

At last week’s Sports Asset Management and Storage Forum in New York City, O’Brien presented a case study on Ravens Productions’ transition from inconsistent metadata logging to a streamlined media-asset management (MAM) system.

“Our department is leaner than it’s ever been, and we have more content than ever before, so it’s a real challenge for us,” said O’Brien. “In our 20th season, which we’re celebrating this year, we basically lost track of our assets. Our logging was haphazard with such a small staff. We were logging everything manually — having to type individual players’ names in. You spell [a name] wrong once, you can’t find it.”

The two-time Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens faced several obstacles in looking to implement a MAM system. Prior to this season, recalled O’Brien, the team’s asset management consisted of staff members’ remembering specific moments and key games from 19 seasons and attempting to locate the correct tape — either on a shelf or uploaded online.

“With such a small staff, I need my editing team to be editing,” he explained, “not to be logging and searching metadata or digging through dusty tapes.”

Once the team transitioned to a tapeless workflow in 2014, new problems arose. According to O’Brien, the asset-management system could not handle ProRes material, and the team lost control of its metadata. In addition, the team relied on consumer-grade hard drives to back up content, which O’Brien feared could become compromised in the future.

As the team’s 20th season approached, the need to easily access archival footage from the previous two decades grew increasingly important. Add the fact that the quality of the physical tapes was degrading, and the Ravens realized that they needed a system that also would provide reliable storage for assets. The system, said O’Brien, would have to be reliable, scalable, and cost-effective and integrate with the Ravens’ existing technology.

“Unlike some of the networks here, our organization’s mission is to win football games,” said O’Brien to the crowd assembled at the New York Hilton. “We do TV shows, and that’s good. That supports the business, but it’s not our primary objective. So we don’t have tons of space to store things or a ton of budget to do an upgrade like this. We were looking for an open-platform solution that has some seamless workflows that fit into our budget.”

The Ravens selected a variety of solutions from Quantum, Levels Beyond, Telestream, and Adobe that could be integrated within an open platform.

Quantum provided the M441 dual-redundant Quantum metadata controller (MDC), StorNext Pro Studio storage-area network (SAN), QXS-1200 RAID Array, StorNext 5 file system, StorageManager HSM, and archive-enabled library AEL-500i. Using the Quantum technology, Ravens Productions can now share work in progress and archived content across editorial workstations.

Levels Beyond’s Web-based Reach Engine platform enables Ravens producers and editors to access content from capture to edit, through metadata management and distribution. The Ravens now have an integrated media-asset manager that controls all content, video workflow (from ingest and editing to transcoding), and an integrated archive. Telestream Vantage and Telestream Pipeline are used for transcode and ingest, respectively.

Lastly, the team turned to Adobe Premiere Pro for an open solution that would integrate well with Reach Engine and be simple, straightforward, and cost-effective.

Now officially entering its 20th season — Ravens players began reporting for training camp last week — Ravens Productions faces a far different metadata challenge brought on by the ease of automation: overtagging.

“In the past, when we were tagging everything manually, [we asked ourselves] how can we tag as little as possible and still be able to find it?,” said O’Brien. “Now it’s, how can we tag as much as possible without doing too much? We’re kind of having to restrain ourselves because it’s so limitless.”