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Los Angeles Clippers Deliver Social Media Strategy With Atomos Camera To Cloud

How the NBA production team leverage mobile comms to share highlights and memorable moments with fans within minutes.

Cloud-based production workflows were, until recently, more of a theory than routine practice. What has always seemed like a potentially transformative idea has had to overcome multiple reality-based roadblocks, including cellular signal coverage, bandwidth issues and the largely untried techniques needed for a reliable workflow. Covid and remote working focused developers on improving cloud production techniques and meanwhile 5G – in all its varieties – has become more widely available.

In parallel with this, Atomos and (now part of Adobe) had been busy developing their contributions to the cloud production chain. Atomos, chiefly known for its Apple ProRes-based portable monitor-recorders, can interface with virtually any camera and is widely used in acquisition as a gateway to postproduction. More recently Atomos has added H.265 encoding to its repertoire, as well as network connectivity and a cloud-based portal called Atomos Cloud Studio that adds additional functionality such as camera to cloud, collaborative workflows, and remote production.

Atomos’ Connected monitor-recorders simultaneously capture two versions of the footage: a high-quality Apple ProRes or Avid DNx ‘hero’ file and a lightweight H265 HEVC 2K or 1080 ‘proxy’ file that gets instantly uploaded to a collaborative platform like from Adobe (in the case of the LA Clippers), or other cloud platforms like Sony’s Ci Media.

The high bitrate and low bitrate versions share the same file name and timecode reference, allowing auto-conforming with any popular NLE. That includes Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve, and Avid Media Composer, which can all be used to create a high-resolution, finished project.

Proxy file sizes are much smaller than the original hero files, so they will load faster, use less processing power and, most importantly, upload to the cloud much faster using the public internet. For many social media platforms, and indeed for breaking news on conventional broadcasting services, proxy video quality is perfectly usable, something which has made the LA Clippers’ groundbreaking new workflow possible.

The “missing link” between the network output of the Atomos recorder-monitors and the internet is provided by cellular wireless connectivity. While even 4G can give adequate bandwidth for the super-efficient H.265 codec, 5G promises much more: higher data rates, lower latency, edge processing and even “private” segmented networks for broadcasters needing guaranteed network space. LA Clippers use Sclera Digital’s bonded cellular kits to provide a Wi-Fi interface to the cloud.

Sclera Digital is a portable internet provider based in Los Angeles that uses bonded technology to transmit reliable internet using multiple carriers, for seamless integration with traditional production workflows. Sclera Digital’s custom-designed backpacks enable DPs to remain mobile while capturing content around the courts.

If there is a unifying theme to the current phase of production and broadcast technology, it is, arguably, granularity. Rewind fifty years, and there was a paucity of channels (the UK only had three!). Viewer choice, as we now know it, was virtually non-existent, with no on-demand content, leaving viewers at the mercy of schedulers.

Today, there are hundreds of channels, OTT streaming – and social media.

One thing hasn’t changed though - revenues matter. In today’s hyper-granular world, what gets noticed is not just quality but timeliness. There can be no engagement without capturing viewers’ attention, and to do that, you typically must be first.

For an organization like the LA Clippers, there’s no shortage of content, and capturing that material is assisted by a collection of tools that would make previous generations of production teams’ eyes water.

And with this increased granularity comes the likelihood of capturing events and actions that could be sensationally interesting but would go completely unreported without modern technology. A look of exasperation at a missed opportunity, gestures at a referee, a brilliant maneuver that might be missed by the “general coverage” cameras, or a delighted face in the crowd. The closer you look, the more you see. Meanwhile, there’s the main sporting action. There is a plethora of content to choose from, and some of it needs to be published immediately.

With everything in place: cameras, proxy encoders, background uploading, network connections via Wi-Fi and bonded cellular, camera to cloud and cloud or remote editing, it’s possible to get branded and packaged clips on social media within minutes, if not seconds.

From a viewer’s perspective, if you’re searching for some action, the first to have it posted will get the views. It is, literally, a race. Seconds count.

For the LA Clippers, an essential goal of their social media marketing strategy is connecting and engaging with fans, both in the arena and through their owned platforms.

To support this, the Clippers’ Content & Production Department, led by Head of Content Tommy Zweibel, captures a variety of content for social channels including highlights, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage. Short-form videos allow the team to interact directly with their fans, include them in the conversation around the team, and show that they’re listening. In addition to continued engagement with their core audience, the Clippers’ social strategy provides them with a much bigger stage to grow their fan base.

In the demanding environment of live sports, the internal media production team has a busy schedule traveling with the LA Clippers during the season. The production squad gathers a vast quantity of video and photography on game days, organizing and delivering it in real-time to remote editors, and then on to the social media team for distribution. The camera crew needs to go where the action is, from team warm-ups to location b-rolls and interviews. Pulling all this media together can be a challenge, especially when it comes to downloading large files for editing and distribution. “What we needed was a solution that could seamlessly integrate with our Sony FX and FS camcorders, provide on-board recording capabilities, and video monitoring, and create collaboration between our camera, editing, production, and social media team,” adds Zweibel. “We were looking to unlock the potential for remote collaboration and share the content directly from camera to cloud.”

To help evolve their production workflow and enhance efficiencies, the LA Clippers’ media production team turned to the Atomos Ninja Ultra monitor-recorder. With its new AtomOS 11 operating system, optimized for camera to cloud, coupled with the Atomos Connect module it allows the media team to simultaneously share files and collaborate in real-time using Frame. io. “The beauty of our new workflow is that our videographers no longer worry about rushing to get clips to our remote editors. Our editors, who are working on a variety of software applications, have instant access and once edited, content gets uploaded to social for our fans to have real-time Clipper updates,” adds Zweibel. “Whether we’re instantly populating our social feeds, or producing a team story, this way of working has enriched our creative output, not to mention our productivity.”

The new 4K H.265 upload facility of the Ninja Ultra allows the production team to capture content and automatically upload high-quality 10-bit 4K H.265 proxies to right after each take. With these 4K proxies, editors can punch in and crop the image using different aspect ratios for delivery on multiple social media platforms. Delivering 4K clips to the cloud through this H.265 upload feature allows the LA Clippers production team and their remote editors more creative flexibility and freedom when choosing their composition, all without sacrificing quality.

“We no longer wait for camera cards to download – the footage is ready to go into editing after each take, helping us work in tandem. We are constantly trying to keep up with the athletes and grabbing those memorable shots, so we must move quickly and share these moments with fans,” concludes Zweibel.

The LA Clippers are focused on creating unique fan experiences that drive engagement and loyalty, and using social media to connect to audiences is at the core of their marketing strategy. Creating authentic content is driving the experience. Fans want content on demand, and cellular comms combined with Ninja Ultra with integration is helping the LA Clippers to meet these expectations – with speed and efficiency.