Next-Generation Approach to Archive, Disaster Recovery


Thought Equity Motion helps NCAA not only preserve but capitalize on 90 years’ worth of video assets

 

By MARK LEMMONS, CTO, and FRANK CARDELLO, EVP of Corporate Development, Thought Equity Motion

Any organization with large amounts of high-production–value video should have enterprise-class data backup and disaster recovery (DR) in place. However, for many sports rightsholders and producers, backup provisions are often limited, with much of their archival content in older physical formats. And, although production workflows are increasingly digital at the source, even digital content lacks truly secure and accessible DR because of the volume of new content being created and a lack of attention of resources.

For many sports rightsholders, the main operational focus is on the live broadcast and its supporting production systems. This can mean that funds and expertise allocated to archive backup systems are limited. For this reason, large-scale sports archives typically present a range of challenges:

  • Large volumes of high-resolution video are created on a daily basis at a scale that taxes existing production systems for cost-effective storage.
  • Content exists in multiple formats and is stored in geographically dispersed locations.
  • Although production workflows are digital, most of the storage is tied to postproduction systems with limited and expensive archiving capacity.
  • Existing DR systems are not used or tested regularly enough to ensure proper functionality or restoration procedures. Unmaintained systems are prone to issues at critical times, including corrupted files, problematic tapes, and insufficient integration.
  • Traditional DR and archival approaches support backup and preservation but are not efficient tools for ongoing access.

In the face of these challenges, archival libraries are increasingly important as the interactive and on-demand digital world grows alongside the “live window.” Today, broadcasters and sports rightsholders are realizing that their libraries are underutilized assets that can be leveraged to feed the fans’ demand for more content year-round.

New approaches to DR incorporate cloud platforms and Web-technology toolkits, enabling sports-library owners, such as the NCAA, to cost-effectively address core backup needs as well as more-robust business-continuity and access requirements. These tools provide Web-based access, online previews, and rich metadata that enable sports rightsholders to search, view, and deliver from their libraries to third parties anywhere.

NCAA Case Study

In tackling the goal of preserving and making accessible its video archives — which date back to 1921 and span 23 college sports — the NCAA faced enormous challenges of cost and complexity. In-house media management was estimated to cost $2 million a year, and in-house sales and R&D capabilities were limited, making the project extremely difficult from an ROI standpoint.

Goals

The NCAA faced many of the typical large-scale sports-archives challenges and, after evaluating its options, selected Thought Equity Motion’s T3 Platform to implement a flexible, scalable DR system that would minimize capital expenditure and operational complexity. With the company’s cloud-based storage infrastructure, the NCAA sought to achieve a range of benefits:

  • Preserve its historic and current video and make it digitally accessible for use internally and by its member institutions and third parties (broadcasters, TV and film producers, advertisers).
  • Reduce the time and resources needed for archive research.
  • Support production requiring higher-frequency, local access to large archive files.
  • Enable on-demand library search, preview, and download capabilities through a Web portal, with no heavy software implementations or hardware requirements.
  • Build and increase the value of its “live” and “non-live” rights.
  • Develop greater operating efficiency by reducing the costs of traditional videotapes, shipping drives, storage space for analog content, and manual cataloging systems.
  • Augment traditional satellite or tape distribution workflows, enabling media and marketing partners to access games, highlights, interviews, and other content digitally in the desired format.
  • Open up new monetization opportunities through footage licensing or Web/broadband publishing.

Solutions and Approach

With Thought Equity Motion’s T3 Platform, the NCAA was able to fulfill its immediate DR requirements and also prepare its library for next-generation uses. The company went through the following steps to bring the NCAA’s offline, master-quality assets into its hosted video platform:

Stage 1: Digitization, Storage, Access

Assets were reviewed, prepared, and scanned in their originating formats at the NCAA’s national office in Indianapolis. The master-quality digital files were then stored in the company’s redundant, disaster-proof, climate-controlled data centers located in Wyoming (one of the most geographically secure states in the country). Next, the files were prepared for commercial use:

For most of the NCAA library, full-length games, melts, and interviews were digitized in their raw form (with commercials, halftime shows, announcer downtime, etc., included in the master file). Then, popular moments deemed licensable were clipped out as separate assets and added to Thought Equity Motion’s library for content producers to search, preview, and download. Other moments within games can be prepared for commercial use as requested.

For selected games that could be licensed or used in their entirety (to play via an online video vault, digital network, etc.), such elements as commercials, third-party music, and announcer commentary were removed, and rights and clearances issues were addressed. Thought Equity Motion’s sports-editing team manually combs through these games and removes all non-essential content — cutting a three-hour game down to about two.

Asset-level metadata tags were added to indicate teams, sports, year, footage type (HD or SD), gender, and licensable/licensable to make the collection searchable and accessible. With file-based production workflows, tapes were ingested and metadata added manually by Thought Equity Motion’s sports-logging team.

Now that the NCAA is using a digital production workflow, standard metadata is added automatically when new content is ingested into the T3 Platform. This tagging created tremendous scale and operational efficiency, enabling the NCAA, its broadcasters, sponsors, and member institutions to find files and individual moments within a few seconds of searching.

Advanced “smart-content” metadata was also added on a frame level to a selected content to make the assets even more accessible. The sports-logging team watched games and added tags to every moment of a game so that it could be searched on a play-by-play level.

Stage 2: Advanced Archive Ingest and Management

Thought Equity Motion worked with the NCAA’s broadcast partners to provide additional metadata logging and flow current-year content directly into the DR/archive system via broadcast-quality digital-file capture. Files came in directly over the wire from broadcast partners, eliminating the need for new videotape inventory.

Thought Equity Motion is working to roll out a “Federated Archive” node for the NCAA, which will provide local, master-quality copies of assets to accelerate access for high-frequency production use. This means that, eventually, the NCAA will have a local broadcast-quality copy of its entire archive at its Indianapolis headquarters.

The content is stored on LTO 5 tape drives, which are extremely compact (roughly 4 x 4 in.) and can hold more than 300 hours of SD content. With a local copy of the library, the NCAA can quickly and easily pull content to edit, watch highlights, create programming, dub copies, etc., all within a few hours. This is a mirror of the hosted and backup archives that Thought Equity Motion maintains, so the NCAA has three broadcast-quality copies of every asset in its library, which is also an industry-best practice for DR.

New-Media Delivery and Products

Curating the NCAA’s library with rich, smart content metadata at a moment level and making it accessible through Thought Equity Motion’s Web-based API opened up new uses:

  • The NCAA Vault (www.ncaa.com/vault) features an on-demand library of classic full-length basketball games enabled for moment-level search and social sharing by fans.
  • The T3 Platform powers a Web-based DVD store featuring classic games and an iPhone app featuring NCAA highlights.
  • The NCAA Officiating Track is an internal tool that uses metadata logging of all calls during the tournament to enable the NCAA’s officiating staff to efficiently review, assess, and train its team.

Collectively, these efforts helped build revenue incremental to the core live-broadcast rights by taking advantage of the many new digital channels and tapping into the year-round interest of fans, who can seek, access, and share content on their own. When archives are digitally accessible and curated with rich metadata, new content bundles can be developed that include buildup packages, consumer-facing video “vaults,” and syndicated content. These tools can add context and depth to the event and extend its life cycle.

Hosted Video Platform

Thought Equity Motion (www.thoughtequity.com/platform) works with the NCAA and other sports rightsholders to provide enterprise-class, integrated DR solutions that can also open up accessibility for a wide range of current and future uses.

Frequently, sports rightsholders start with solving their core DR and preservation requirements. However, once their libraries are digital, they begin to realize the value in adding tools to enable new uses and monetization opportunities, such as footage licensing, which can immediately offset DR costs. This hosted and modular approach to DR and access enables sports rightsholders to get started in measured steps and evolve the scale of their archive initiatives at a pace that fits their operational plans and budgets.

Thought Equity Motion technology is designed to ingest virtually any video format and integrate with a wide range of broadcast, metadata, postproduction, and asset-management systems: Artesia, Vizrt Ardome, Avid, Apple Final Cut Pro, and others. The company’s T3 Platform was developed to handle ingest, storage, management, and delivery of broadcast-quality assets and offers a unique set of capabilities for sports rightsholders.

The ongoing growth of HD and broadcast-quality sports content combined with the complexity of analog and digital workflows across multiple types of systems has created great challenges for sports rightsholders in managing efficient and cost-effective disaster recovery. With a scalable cloud-based approach, sports-video owners can achieve core requirements of secure DR redundancy and business continuity, while enabling their content libraries for additional accessibility, monetization, and future uses.

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