The beating heart of Fox sport's new workflow
ABOUT FOX SPORTS
Netherlands-based Fox Sports, owned and operated by Fox International Channels, Endemol, the Dutch Eredivisie football league and the Dutch football association (KNVB), offers two premium television services: Fox Sports Eredivisie and Fox Sports International – both launched in August 2013. Fox Sports Eredivisie holds exclusive rights for live coverage of the Eredivisie, Eerste divisie and the KNVB Beker national cup competition, broadcast via three channels. Fox Sports International provides live European and International football, including, UEFA Europa League, England’s Premier League and Italy’s Serie A.
The entire workflow at Fox Sports’ studios – located at the MediaArena on the outskirts of Amsterdam – is based around EVS technology, from ingest and metadata management through to live studio production and second-screen content delivery. The aim with the two new Fox Sports services was to deliver improved quality of content contribution across multiple platforms and to improve the overall viewer experience. EVS’ long-standing relationship with Endemol Sports, combined with its Sports360° concept, made it the obvious choice of partner for the project. The scalability of its technology, along with EVS’ reputation for reliability, were also key deciding factors, as was EVS’ ability to offer a complete workflow.
Five EVS XS production servers, each capable of recording up to four signals, ingest up to 20 live feeds simultaneously, providing dual XCDAM HD/ DNxHD encoding for greater interoperability and reactivity during the production process. EVS’ IPDirector product asset management suite controls the XS servers and manages content, including the Ingest Scheduler tool to dispatch the incoming feeds to either the nearline storage – EVS XStoreSAN – or Fox Sports’ Avid Interplay/ISIS systems and live logging (metadata input and log sheet creation) via the IPLogger application.
Fox Sports also has 30 licenses of EVS’ IPBrowse application, enabling journalists and production staff to quickly and efficiently search for relevant material – as lo-res proxies –- on the nearline storage from their desktop or laptop. Users can use the tool to select content and send it to different destinations, including Avid post-production systems.
Victor Winkelhagen, head of production at Endemol Sport, explains the benefits: “The IPBrowse application has been a real eye-opener for us. Not only does it help us save time, it also allows us to enrich our editorial work. For instance, when a presenter is referring to a specific event or player during the post-game show, we can immediately search for the related clip with IPBrowse and send it for playout on the background monitors. Being able to work with a centralised media platform has led us to become much more effective in our editorial work and has even helped us to promote different packages across the network.”
After ingest, two types of metadata are added to incoming feeds: objective metadata, including match statistics (eg, goals, fouls and yellow cards) and, subjective metadata based on visuals (eg, reactions from the players, fans or coaches and quality of strikes). Both types of information is used to compile a log sheet containing several fields (eg, description of the event, keywords and colours to identify the action and ratings, etc).
All the objective metadata is compiled in London by sports specialists Opta, Eredivisie’s official statistics provider, and automatically integrated into the IPDirector database via the Ingest Scheduler tool. The subjective metadata is added by loggers at the broadcast centre who view the match live, verify the Opta log entries and add information based on what they see. The metadata is then made available in real time for all users of the IPDirector suite. Using the EVS IPLog2Post tool, all of the log entries are automatically associated with media files within the Avid editing systems. A total of six logging stations are located at the broadcast centre, with each logger creating on average between 200 and 300 individual logs per match.
LIVE PRODUCTION WORKFLOW
Fox Sports’ studio set-up includes three production galleries, housing six EVS XT3 live production servers with LSM remote control panels. These are used for live replays, creating highlights packages and quick turnaround of content. The servers provide full dual encoding support, capable of handling both XDCAM HD and DNxHD formats. All the EVS servers are connected via EVS’ XNet2 high bandwidth media-sharing network, which allows content to be accessed directly from the XS ingest servers.
The whole workflow is managed by EVS’ IPDirector production asset management suite, allowing operators to transfer content recorded on the XT3s to the nearline storage and Avid systems, or vice versa. XS servers are also utilised for studio playout, including finished edits from the Avid systems. Each server can handle up to six channels, with two servers installed in each of the production galleries.
Any of the content recorded on the XT3 and XS servers can be saved as a clip and enhanced with graphics provided by Reality Check systems and Vizrt as well as via Red Bee’s Piero sports analysis tools before playout or transfer to the nearline storage and Avid systems. The galleries are also equipped with projection equipment provided by JVR.
AN INSTANT CONNECTION
One of the key elements of Fox Sports’ new workflow is the ability to easily exchange media between the OB trucks at the venues and the broadcast centre at the MediArena in Amsterdam. During a match, LSM operators at the stadium create clips which are automatically extracted from the XT3 servers and transferred to the XStoreSAN nearline storage at the broadcast centre via high-speed transport technology (300Mbps fibre connection) from Aspera. All incoming clips corresponding to a time code are automatically linked to a log sheet that is produced by the loggers at the broadcast centre.
As a result, journalists and production staff have easy access to clips created on location as the live action happens; on average between 75 and 100 clips are created during the course of each match. In practical terms, this means that highlights packages can be created during the course of the game, rather than having to wait until the match is over before highlights can be compiled. Content on the nearline storage can also be transferred from the broadcast centre to the different venues.
According to Winkelhagen this generates a significant time saving. “There are two major benefits from this workflow. First, we can start to compile clips for highlights and promotional material a lot sooner, which saves us about an hour of work compared to the past. Second, we can tell our stories differently and enrich the live programme with relevant content that has been overlooked by LSM operators at the venue, but has been spotted at the broadcast centre – such as an angle that clearly shows a penalty,” he explains.
At the stadium/live venue operators also use EVS’ EpsioLive graphic tool, designed specifically for sports applications and forming an essential part of the LSM remote control panel, to insert the offside line into the first replay.
SECOND SCREEN AND BEYOND
In addition to its television services, Fox Sports also offers content via its Sidekick second-screen app designed by Infostrada. Subscribers to Fox Sports channels can make use of the app to view match-action from different camera angles and review statistics directly from their tablet or smartphone. Sidekick is populated with content fed through to the app via EVS’ C-Cast live multi-cam media delivery platform.
This second-screen workflow is a two-man operation based in Amsterdam: one operator using IPDirector to create clips as well as add descriptive keywords to each clip, and the other to review all angles and manage their approval from a standard workstation. Once approved, the clips and associated metadata are transcoded to Infostrada’s CDN and available within seconds on the Sidekick app.
The new Fox Sports studio and live production workflow was up and running in time for the start of the current 2013/2014 football season. Having EVS technology at the heart of its live sports production workflow enables Fox Sports to ensure that the whole process from ingest, editing and playout through to highlights creation andsecond screen delivery runs smoothly and seamlessly. Providing production teams access to content that has been ingested means the broadcaster has the ability to enrich its coverage – including half-time analysis – with additional material and alternative camera angles, giving its viewers a better overall experience – in particular when combined with the Sidekick second-screen offering.