Avid Everywhere to Get a Big Workout from NBC at the Super Bowl

At the last Olympics, NBC Sports began experimenting with Avid’s MediaCentral Platform. The concept allowed the network’s personnel to collaborate on projects without having to be on site.

In an effort to boost performance and lower the cost of transporting large numbers of staff to remote sites for major broadcasts, NBC Sports began experimenting with Avid’s MediaCentral Platform. The goal was to enable the network’s personnel to collaborate in real-time on a single project from wherever in the world an event might be located.

NBC liked the way the new technology worked and is now poised to launch a far more refined version of it at the Super Bowl on February 1. This is a high-profile showcase event for Avid Everywhere — Avid’s vision of the future of how media is to be made — and a big cost saver for NBC, who can move far fewer people and less equipment to the Super Bowl site and gain more than 30 percent greater efficiency with the gear they already own.

In essence, Avid Everywhere is a concept that allows people in different locations to collaborate on the same project in real-time. Everyone — whether they edit video or audio or produce video segments — is connected through the Internet and the content is shared through the cloud. Avid’s MediaCentral Platform is the range of gear and software that carries out the vision in the real world.

Leverage the technology

For a network like NBC, a producer of major sporting events throughout the world, much of their hardware and people can stay at “home base” at NBC Sports’ headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut and still get work done. This results in huge cost savings and a major reduction in complex logistics for major sporting events.

For the Super Bowl, NBC has set up two remote production facilities in the Phoenix, Arizona area. One is at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, where Super Bowl XLIX will be played. The other is Block 23, the name of a specially constructed media center 20 miles away in downtown Phoenix that will host a variety of NBC Sports Group programming during the week of the game.

The Block 23 media center — built due to space constraints at the stadium itself — will be the site of pre- and post game shows, as well as several NBC talk shows during the days before the game.

All of NBC’s other facilities — including the network’s extensive multi-petabyte media archive that holds several decades of sports content — remain at home at Stamford, more than 2,500 miles away from the Super Bowl site. Everything is connected and instantly accessible through Avid’s technology.

Ray Gilmartin, Avid’s senior director of product and segment marketing for broadcast and media

Ray Gilmartin, Avid’s senior director of product and segment marketing for broadcast and media

Multiple studios and locations--one familiar interface

NBC has more than two dozen Avid Media Composer video editing systems spread over the three locations. Avid’s Interplay|Production manages and coordinates content creation, automates workflow and allows contributors in the production team to collaborate. Tasks such as media movement, transcoding and proxy generation occur in the background. Producers, editors and assistants can simultaneously find, arrange, edit, review and annotate media while working on the same or different stories. Everyone has instant access to NBC’s archives in Stamford.

Avid’s ISIS system, installed at all three locations, provides the shared nearline storage capacity needed for real-time workflows regardless of workgroup size. Avid Pro Tools audio editing systems handle audio tasks and sweetening at both home base in Stamford and at the stadium.

Avid’s AirSpeed system is being used for ingesting content and Avid’s Interplay production and management technologies enable NBC to automate ingest, production and distribution processes. The entire system is connected via WAN acceleration technology.

Dana Ruzicka, Avid’s vice president of segment strategy and planning.

Dana Ruzicka, Avid’s vice president of segment strategy and planning.

“Being able to centralize that production hub and to connect people in this workflow from wherever they are means they can work together seamlessly like they are all in the same facility,” said Dana Ruzicka, Avid’s vice president of segment strategy and planning.

“They can do their core content creation in Stamford and still have people on-site in Phoenix who are close to the action. They can connect each link in the Super Bowl production chain with one underlying technology platform. We’ve talked a lot about our strategy in the past, but now we are seeing NBC really put it into action in a high-profile way.”

Replicate and reuse = cost savings

After the Super Bowl, NBC has plans to replicate the technology to other sporting events, with boxing the next sport slated to use it. Then comes NASCAR, the National Hockey League, Formula 1 racing, the English Premier League and the 2016 Olympics.

Jim Miles, director of digital workflow systems at NBC Sports Group.

Jim Miles, director of digital workflow systems at NBC Sports Group.

“With Avid Everywhere, large-scale remote productions like the Super Bowl become location-free,” said Jim Miles, director of digital workflow systems at NBC Sports Group. “We can now do production in real time by tying together multiple locations and people all over the map.”

“Using the Avid MediaCentral Platform, we are able to produce an incredibly large amount of content,” added Darryl Jefferson, vice president of post and digital workflow at NBC Sports. “By allowing everyone to access archived media wherever they are, we are significantly expanding the capacity of our production.”

Darryl Jefferson, vice president of post and digital workflow at NBC Sports.

Darryl Jefferson, vice president of post and digital workflow at NBC Sports.

By the 2016 Olympics, Ruzicka said Avid expects to widen the availability of the platform to a far larger base of users, including Avid’s own competitors. The company has established a Connectivity Partner Program that makes available a tool kit to adapt non-Avid built equipment into the Avid MediaCentral Platform. The goal, he said, is to have anyone with even the smallest facility of any kind to be able to connect with others.

The platform, Ruzicka said, benefits any media user, not just large networks like NBC. “We support anyone from the individual artist to the largest media enterprises,” he said. “An artist with only ProTools can do cloud collaboration with other users. A guy in one place can play guitar and one in another place can do the drum tracks to create music. We want anyone doing any kind of media to be able to work with anyone else.”

Want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes at Super Bowl 2015?

Click on The Broadcast Bridge links.

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