League Technology Summit: sports broadcast editing

If there’s one, over-riding theme that came out of the League Technology Summit workshops on trends in sports broadcast editing, it was that there is no one, over-riding theme. Tape and tapeless, low res and high res, different productions and broadcasters in the US use different solutions.

“Tape? How do you spell that?” asked Scott Lozea, Versus (soon, of course, to be NBC Sports Network), Director of Post Production, before sketching out the structure of the largely Avid based system he employs. Then, from the other side of the argument: “With tapeless we have a fear of getting everything back to New York,” said Chris DiLegge, HBO Sports, Production Manager, who sees 1200 DVCPro tapes used on her company’s hockey coverage alone. “Our tight turnaround doesn’t give us the time to move hard drives around. It’s still faster to give the courier a tape.”

In other words, there is no consensus. Tapeless might be the future, true, but the past is still putting up a fight. There are huge potential advantages though. Josh Oshinsky, Exec producer at OceanSky Films, told a tale of being able to edit MLB games a mere hour after they’ve started by squirting content back via fibre after every three innings. He also detailed the pitfalls for the unwary, that fibre squirting only coming about after an early brush with providence saw 60% of a drive’s unique content corrupted and the broadcast having to go to air with a programme assembled out of the remaining 40%. Media management, and everyone could agree on this, is an important key.

However, even when people have moved to tapeless, there is no set standard for working, with different companies putting up different arguments for working in either low res proxies or staying strictly in high res. Probably the most persuasive argument in favour of one or the other was from Lozea. “With high res you just run out of storage,” he said. “If you can actively manage the content as it comes in you can save so much money. And you never know when you need to switch back to something from three years ago, or when another Lance Armstrong is suddenly going to come out of retirement.”

The clincher for tapeless probably came in the session afterwards though, when Paul Koopmann, Senior Director of Broadcast Engineering and Technical Operations at Versus, flashed back to 2006 and his company having 150,000 tapes that were costing up to $2 per tape per year just to store. He estimates that his new Spectra Logic system has achieved an ROI within 24 months. And those are difficult numbers to argue with…

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