How NFL Films Moves Big Data

3 men sitting on a couch watching football and reacting excitedly.

For over fifty years, NFL Flims has taught Americans how to watch football. As Steve Sabol, artist and longtime President of NFL films, used to say, “Good storytelling never goes out of style.”

Yet the way NFL Films tells their story and how it travels from game day to television broadcast has changed dramatically over the years. A recent behind-the-scenes video reveals just how much large file transfer technology has improved the process.

NFL Films has about 50 camera crews shooting in 16 cities every week during football season. Each stadium has a permanent system to gather and send footage back to NFL Film headquarters. For a typical two-camera game, several hours of footage need to be transmitted. And for higher-profile games with multiple cameras, it jumps to between 10 and 15 hours.

Add all that up and the media team is receiving about eight terabytes of data per week. That is an enormous amount of raw footage to not only weed through for choice moments, but to transfer over the Internet. Getting the files back to the editing studio in a timely manner is critical to air on time, especially since Inside NFL was moved up from Wednesday or Thursday.

“With Inside NFL moving up to Tuesday night,” says Senior Producer James Weiner, “it was a question of do we have enough time to tell the story?”

In years past, the editorial team wouldn’t even receive footage for west coast games until Tuesday. Now, with the upgrades NFL Films has made to their file transfer technology, game footage is available while the game is still going on. 

“From a technical side, they’ve given us everything we need,” says Bob Ryan, Senior Consultant to NFL Films.  “It’s really the difference I think between a biplane and a fighter jet the way this thing has speeded up.” 

Photo: From Kevin Costner’s new movie, 3 Days to Kill.


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