Technology Partners Deliver Complete Production Ecosystem for Caribbean Cable Sports Giant SportsMax
With 23 countries in the Caribbean tuning into sporting content from SportsMax, it has become one of the most successful cable sports channels in the world. Parent company, IMC, founded in 2002, are rights holders for the world’s top sporting content including the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, the London 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.
For the 2012 London Olympics, SportsMax took on its most ambitious challenge; bringing the Olympics to the Caribbean, 24 hours a day in real-time from London. And an even bigger challenge to the production team at Sportsmax, getting a new production pipeline up and running in less than three weeks. “We knew we needed a SAN solution to serve as central storage for the Olympics,” stated Kerry Gibbons, Executive Producer, Production & Technical Operations and Creative Director, SportsMax. “What we ended up with was a much-needed complete overhaul of our entire workflow.”
One of the biggest issues for SportsMax is that investing in an entire studio of new equipment is unaffordable. The Jamaican dollar is currently at 100 to 1 USD making what would cost $50,000 in the states, a half a million dollar purchase in Jamaica. To this point, choosing the right equipment, and the right technology partners and suppliers is not just crucial but a necessity.
Broadcast audio and video consultant, Carlos Sezumaga of Enhanced View Services, assessed the workflow situation for SportsMax. “I was concerned about the inefficiencies in their workflow,” explained Sezumaga. “Or as some at SportsMax have called it, all work and no flow. Not only were they facing the technological challenges that are common in a live production environment but a constantly growing frustration amongst staff which was leading to a reduction in productivity.”
After a week long visit to SportsMax HQ in Kingston Jamaica, Sezumaga designed a strategy for solving the workflow issues then reached out to Technology Partner, JB&A, who helped put together an entire production ecosystem that could handle, not only their needs for the London Olympics, but take them into the future with a solid infrastructure.
“We knew that without the right system in place, it would be total chaos,” said Gibbons. “We had two 14 person teams in London and over 100 people in the Studio in Jamaica–many of whom were students learning on the go. We weren’t sure if we could get a new system in place in time, but Carlos and the team at JB&A made it happen.”
The Olympic broadcast required capturing six different feeds from Satellite and Fibre, coming into the Studio in Jamaica. They had six logging stations set up running 24 hours a day, an all Mac workflow for the Olympics with a mix of iMacs and Mac towers running both Final Cut Pro and the Adobe Creative Suite. With the London team in place and a Studio set up in Jamaica, there were six TV programs running at different times daily producing 12-18 hours of content a day. Quick turnaround on edited footage was essential, often needing to insert relevant clips and/or stills on the fly during broadcasts. Without a clear asset management system in place, no centralized storage, archiving and backup solutions, or the ability to ingest the Satellite feeds, this would have been impossible.
To handle these demands, the newly defined workflow ecosystem from JB&A consisted of several components working together in concert: EVO Shared Storage Server from Studio Network Solutions (SNS) to serve as the central storage hub; CatDV digital asset management application from Square Box Systems to manage, organize and categorize all the multimedia assets; Pipeline Dual HD from Telestream for ingest of the Satellite feeds to EVO and CatDV for shared storage live logging respectively and; Cache-A LTO to archive the files created from the Satellite feeds after the content was created.
Together with Sezumaga, Enhanced View Services and JB&A, the new ecosystem was installed onsite at SportsMax. Lead by Sezumaga, this “dream team” of technology and broadcast specialists worked cohesively to install, train and support the project through the completion of the Olympic games. “This was a team effort,” stated Sezumaga, “It couldn’t have happened without any of the facets missing.” A technician from SNS was also on site in Jamaica to do the install and training of the EVO system.
“We’ve come a long way since I started 14 months ago,” said Gibbons. “With this new system, everything is more manageable. We could never have pulled off this unprecedented achievement, broadcasting the Olympics to 23 Caribbean countries, without this new system in place. The more we use it the more we love it. SportsMax is well positioned for the future.”
Each component was pivotal in making this ecosystem work. The Mac Pro ingest workstation was directly attached to the SNS EVO via 10gb Fibre and feeds from all six channels via “direct attached” Telestream Pipelines were captured simultaneously approximately 18 hours a day, for the entire course of the Olympics without a single hiccup. CatDV allowed them to organize, and catalogue all of their multimedia assets to be accessible to everyone on the team, at any time. Pipeline Dual HD gave them interoperability, cross platform connectivity and high speed ingest capabilities also preparing them and the rest of the organization for a total HD workflow, which they are hoping to achieve by early 2014. After seven days into the Olympic games, the 64TB of storage space from the EVO was not enough. Cache-A allowed them to offload and archive the footage onto LTO tape so when they needed to make room they could, effortlessly.
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