When we think about media production for global sporting events we generally think about the “live” action. However, a surprising volume of file-based content is generated by broadcasters before, during and after the live event, including highlights, segments, studio components and more. For fast-turnaround content during the game, broadcasters often transfer footage to central headquarters for editing, formatting and packaging. From there it might flow to various digital media outlets or even back to the trucks for insertion into the live game feed.
This production model rests on the ability to transfer huge amounts of data, whether large files or many small clips, in a fast, secure and reliable manner. Traditional methods such as FTP present significant challenges when moving large amounts of data and can add huge risk to the tight timelines of sports productions. Advances in intelligent and accelerated file transfer solutions have been one of the greatest enablers of multi-channel, multi-platform content and the enriched experiences expected from today’s sporting events.
Automated File Acceleration Technology at Major Sports Events
Automated on-premises file acceleration software has long served as the backbone for delivery of content from OB trucks to and from headquarters, quickly and securely moving large volumes of data. Before the game, things like graphic elements and produced segments from the studio are delivered to the truck for use during the game production. After the game, the “melt file” consisting of the most relevant content is transferred back to headquarters for access by content producers and for archiving.
During the game, the fast-turnaround workflows noted above generate staggering amounts of data that can only be accommodated with highly automated, accelerated file transfer solution.
For example, just one OB truck at a 6-hour game might generate 2000 – 2500 clips, with larger weekend-long tournament events generating up to 40,000 clips for 10 trucks. Using automated file acceleration technology, broadcasters can ensure that the content is steadily flowing out of the truck and back to headquarters, where it can be available for use within minutes of capture.
Person-Initiated File Acceleration for Mobile Teams and Fly-Away Kits
In addition to the live production team, broadcasters sometimes use small, mobile teams with fly-away kits for ancillary coverage throughout large sports events. These teams gather everything from athlete interviews and fan footage to event-related news and local color stories for online, social and mobile platforms as well as for filler on network and cable channels, local TV stations, and sometimes even the primary broadcast.
To keep their gear light-weight and remove the need for on-site technical personnel, mobile teams often turn to SaaS file acceleration solutions like Media Shuttle for person-initiated transfers for the file-based elements of their work. Anyone on the mobile team can easily send clips and edited segments from the venue back to headquarters.
In fact, many broadcasters will only utilize mobile teams and fly-away kits for smaller events because of the enormous resource savings a team of journalists with laptops can achieve compared to traditional OB trucks. Mobile teams are also a vital secondary or backup source of content in regions where there may be uncertainty around getting access to sufficient satellite or terrestrial connectivity for a live feed. With only an Internet connection and a solution like Media Shuttle, mobile teams can transfer footage back to permanent facilities without technical assistance. Even in remote places, intelligent file acceleration solutions can make the most of poor internet connection.
Pioneering Use Cases for File-Based Content
Sports entities were among the first to embrace person-initiated SaaS file acceleration when Media Shuttle was launched as the first of its kind. The product’s intrinsic ease of use and ease of deployment align perfectly with the time-sensitive, unforgiving nature of sports production. In fact, one of the first significant pilots of Media Shuttle was in 2012 at a high-profile sports tournament, when the production team from a major broadcaster had a late-breaking requirement for extensive file-based content transfers. Since then, it has since become the de facto standard for person-initiated transfers of large data sets and is used by all sizes of media companies for everything from feature film and episodic television to VFX and AR/VR, but sports broadcasters continue to be early adopters of new features and APIs.
For example, the Media Shuttle System-to-Person Automation API in particular has opened up new workflow integrations that are particularly applicable during large sports events to help automate contribution and distribution workflows. This API allows broadcasters to automatically receive selected content from asset management systems using Media Shuttle’s accelerated transfers. Broadcasters can create automated workflows that distribute content to people and/or request that people submit content directly into their systems, a huge benefit during time-strapped sports production.
Pushing Technology and Financial Models Forward
The unique environment of large sports productions — the compact time-lines and live coverage along with high-engagement, high-volume, multi-platform auxiliary content — is constantly testing and pushing technological and financial models forward. Every sports broadcaster, everywhere in the world, is looking to achieve maximum coverage with minimum technical and financial resources. To enable file-based content production and distribution, file acceleration technology (both automated and person-initiated) is becoming increasingly central to covering major sports events. And if history is an indicator of what’s to come, sports entities will continue to push the bounds of technology that other industries will follow.