Case Study: Fighting Irish Revamp Their Digital Video Workflow
All streaming encoding starts on an ad hoc basis, a combination of presets, procedures, and file transfer practices cobbled together to get the job done. This workflow remains in place until someone looks at the big picture and concludes that you could do more -- much more -- if you had the proper tools in place. Then, they go shopping.
This is the story about how one enterprise -- the University of Notre Dame -- acquired new technology, including Telestream, Inc.’s Vantage Transcode Pro workflow solution, which enabled them to produce more clips, from more sources, and make them available to their fans faster than ever before. Remarkably, the system was installed in the midst of an undefeated football season that culminated with a shot at the national championship.
What Was: Notre Dame's Old Workflow
Notre Dame has one of the largest and most avid groups of alumni and other fans in the country. While all football games and many other sporting events are televised, the university also aggressively posts highlight clips and other content to the Notre Dame Athletics YouTube channel (go2sm.com/notredame), which currently has more than 10,000 subscribers and 8 million video views. Notre Dame also posts additional clips to a Notre Dame channel on Comcast.
According to Scott Rinehart, the lead technologist for Fighting Irish Digital Media, efforts such as the YouTube channel are about more than sharing highlights -- they’re promoting the Notre Dame brand through the lens of athletics, as envisioned by athletic director Jack Swarbrick. However, prior to Rinehart’s arrival in 2012, Notre Dame didn’t have the facilities or workflows in place to accomplish that effectively and efficiently.
The procedures used to produce highlight clips at football games were a perfect example. Notre Dame excerpts these highlights from the network broadcast and via their own shooters, armed with four Panasonic P2 cameras, strategically placed in the locker room, on the sidelines, and in the stands; the idea is to capture the game-day ambience and provide a feel for what it’s like to be on the ground in South Bend, Ind., on game day. Before the Telestream deployment, Notre Dame captured the network feeds from the broadcast truck onto P2 cards.
At halftime, the cards containing the first-half broadcast and those from the independent Notre Dame shooters were biked to four editors working in disparate locations using MacBook Pro notebooks. Then, during ingest into Final Cut Pro 7, the P2 footage was converted into ProRes format, a compute-intensive and time-consuming process. After ingest, the editors produced the highlight clips, which were rendered out to a ProRes file, encoded for upload in Compressor, and uploaded to YouTube or Comcast from the notebook. As a result, clips didn’t start appearing on YouTube until well into the third quarter, or later.
According to Rinehart, speed wasn’t the only problem, or even the most serious problem. As he explained, “There was no standardized naming conventions, shared storage, archive plan, or backup plan. In short, there was no plan to preserve and archive the footage so that we could efficiently use it down the road.”
Notre Dame installed Telestream’s Vantage Transcode Pro in their new Fighting Irish Digital Media production facility.
Rinehart also related that, in addition to helping promote the Notre Dame brand, the athletic department serves as a laboratory for the rest of the university, where many departments were also attempting to come to grips with how to manage their burgeoning libraries of digital media. Fortunately, athletic director Swarbrick recognized that the athletic department needed to improve how it produced and managed its digital media and lobbied for a budget to get that accomplished. Part of the budget was for a new centralized studio and production facility; part of it was allocated for media management and workflow.
This latter function, improving media management, was one of Rinehart’s most significant charges when he came to Notre Dame. With a total of 22 years spent in digital media and library operations with NASCAR and the PGA, Rinehart was more than up to the task. In particular, Rinehart had worked with Telestream Pipeline at NASCAR, helping to create the Replay system that enabled NASCAR officials to view 18 cameras in sync for their version of instant replay. After reviewing Notre Dame’s game-day workflow, he saw an immediate opportunity to harness that same technology to speed the university’s game-day edits. He also knew that Telestream offered workflow products that could streamline the production workflow for Notre Dame editors.
Getting it Installed
So he reached out to his contacts at Telestream, who proposed a system that combined multiple Pipeline HD units along with the Vantage workflow system. Contracts were signed, and the system was installed in the new Notre Dame production facility in September 2012, at the start of football season. Telestream lead application engineer Brian Mollet, an experienced professional with more than 50 installs under his belt, was tasked with the installation.
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