Fast Access To Content Helps Mediapro U.S. Serve Its Clients Well
Viz One And Object Matrix Storage Streamline Workflows For Sports Channel beIN Sports’ Rapidly Repurposed Content
With the cessation of live sports around the world, dedicated channels and production companies have scrambled to create new programs from repurposed content. This has placed renewed value on media asset management (MAM) systems, storage and multi-faceted collaborative workflows that have been implemented to generate revenue and satisfy viewers pent-up demand for sports content.
To support customers and drive innovation Vizrt is advancing industry perceptions beyond the one-dimensional constructs commonly associated with MAM systems, and towards a software-defined Production Workflow Management solution consisting of Ingest, Content Management, and Editing.
In 2012, beIN Sports, which produces three channels for the U.S. market—two linear, in English and Spanish, and an OTT channel called beIN Sports Connect—launched its U.S. operations in Miami from a full-service production facility owned and technically staffed by Mediapro U.S. The rights management and production services company are also providing beIN Sports with the technical infrastructure and solutions necessary to create, produce and distribute a wide variety of sports shows on television and online.
Despite no live events, the sports outlet’s staff of 70 journalists/producers/editors use nearline and archived assets on a daily basis to produce a wide variety of renewed content. This includes a series of “La Liga” classic soccer matches with new commentary provided by live announcers as a voiceover to describe the action with a new perspective. It also covers other sports, like tennis, MLW fights and even teqball (a combination of soccer and table tennis).
“It was important to deploy a system that would not limit beIN Sports and what they are trying to do on a daily basis,”Ismael Marcer
Head of Operations & Technical Services at Mediapro U.S
MAM Without Limitations
To support this frenetic activity the technical A/V systems integration team at Unitecnic U.S, led by Ismael Marcer, Head of Operations & Technical Services at Mediapro U.S, has implemented a 15,000-hour content repository based on a Vizrt Viz One MAM solution and an Object Matrix MatrixStore private cloud. The highly flexible combination provides fast and unlimited access to all media assets in a myriad of ways, depending upon the project at hand, and can be easily scaled up as the need arises with no performance degradation. And because object storage is the same technology that enables the public cloud, it gives beIN Sports and Mediapro’s other clients an extremely cost-effective, fast and highly scalable environment from which to streamline its internal workflows. The faster the beIN Sports editors gain access to content, the sooner finished programs get to air.
“It was important to deploy a system that would not limit beIN Sports and what they are trying to do on a daily basis,” said Marcer, adding that the Vizrt-Object Matrix solution was implemented especially for beIN Sports, although other Mediapro clients in Miami— DirectTV Latin America, ESPN and Hola! TV—use a similar production storage system configuration. In fact, the facility beIN Sports now calls home includes two additional studios. A second facility, with four studios right next door, opened in 2014.
“We had confidence in Vizrt, knowing them from many previous projects overseas, and Object Matrix, because we wanted to implement the latest and most flexible storage system,” he said. “They both had the best technical solution to fit our needs and also at a reasonable cost.”
Tight Integration Is Key
In Miami, Mediapro maintains 20 Viz Engine real-time rendering servers, two Viz One MAM systems (one for beIN Sports and a smaller one for Hola TV), and 75 seats using Viz One. The upgraded Viz One uses a new 528TB MatrixStore installed in 2019. Content is edited on 15 Avid Media Composer systems stored in the XDCAM 50 format. There is also a tight integration between an Avid Interplay production asset management storage system, the MatrixStore object storage and Viz One to help editors search and retrieve assets and begin working quickly.
The MatrixStore system leverages object storage that uses a computer data storage architecture to manage data as objects and links it to associated metadata for each project at hand. Marcer said this enables editors and producers to retrieve desired assets five times faster than content stored on LTO storage “libraries”.
“This makes them much more productive,” said Marcer. “In todays’ fast-paced world of media, reducing time to air is critical for everyone.”
Viz One also helps simplify the content handling processes by allowing users to locate specific highlight clips quickly across several games—instead of having to search each game individually. The beIN Sports team uses it to search for clips among several games simultaneously, saving significant time and effort.
“When we put this system in in 2012, LT0-5 was the common storage media used for archiving,” said Marc Andreu, Director of Media Management for MAM systems at Mediapro US. “With our file-based storage system, access is fast and easy. And we can add storage immediately if we need more.”
Migrating Storage from Tape to Files
The Viz One includes modules for ingest, transcoding, proxy editing, logging, management, metadata, audit-trails, reporting, and many more, and at Mediapro they continually expand its capabilities as required by its clients. For each show, content loggers and ingest staffers perform browser-based basic editing and clip preview, proxy generation and metadata entry, then they execute fast transfers of clips to a high-resolution server and on to master control for its destination.The Viz One search engine has been optimized for Mediapro’s large database of thousands of assets. This improves the responsiveness and user experience. Improvements have also been made to the search system.
Another important capability of the new Vizrt-Object Matrix solution, compared to LTO tape, is that there are no mechanical parts to fix if anything goes wrong. This makes maintenance easy and reduces human intervention with the system. If Viz One were to go down, which has never happened at beIN Sports, they can use an Object Matrix tool called Vision to allow users to browse what’s in their archive.
“The key is that the content must always be available to them, and we make sure that is the case,” Andreu said. “there cannot be any interruption to our clients’ workflows. Luckily, there has not been any problems with either system, or upgrading the software for each is easy so it keeps the technology up to date.”
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Automated Storage Strategy
The joint solution at beIN Sports now supports an automated content storage strategy that sees them place the most used assets on the object storage array for nearline use and older assets on the Viz One for later use. Due to sports rights licenses owned by beIN Sports, some content comes with a limit time period use, so the transient archive deployed—the data is not permanent— knows exactly when to delete the content when it can no longer be used legally. This self-managing technology, coupled with automated workflow integration, enables a rapid return on investment.
“This type of automated digital librarian is something that can’t be done with LTO tape storage,” said Marcer. “It really comes in handy when you have so many assets and then new ones coming in all the time. This allows the beIN Sports team to focus on creativity and not worry about where the assets are stored. They want them when they need them, so we make sure this is possible at all times while strictly adhering to rights issues as well.”
“Some companies own rights to content for a short period of time, so this is a good solution to keep track of that,” said Andreu. After three months (or longer) they can delete the MAM using a purge date. “Once that period expires, you cannot use the material, so it gets stored in another place or it is deleted. In this way, the Vizrt-Object Matrix solution is helping us to manage our storage better and be more efficient in how we use it.”
Future-Proof and Cloud-Ready
While all of beIN Sports’ content is stored in an on-premise configuration, both the Vizrt and Object Matrix systems have accommodations for integrating cloud storage in a hybrid architecture if and when Mediapro decides it’s in its client’s best interest.
“If we have to migrate to a cloud solution, it’s much easier to do it from an Object-based storage system as compared to an LTO library,”Ismael Marcer
Head of Operations & Technical Services at Mediapro U.S
said Marcer, adding that beIN Sports requested an on-prem MAM because they are using it a lot and want to be sure all of its content is secure. “And Viz One provides the ability to scale to the cloud when they are ready. Then the storage system can be configured in a hybrid workflow or on-prem and cloud working together. If the customer wants to have some content in the cloud, we can do it, but it’s not happening so quickly. With this Vizrt-Object storage system, we’re ready when they are.”
These days the biggest challenge for any sports channel is to remain relevant and entertaining to fans in a time of cancelled sports activity. Mining its trove of assets has worked wonders for beIN Sports, as its rating s have remained respectable. The secret is the efficient use of archived material and fast-access file exchanges between Viz One, object storage arrays, and the editors that need to repurpose them. Stored assets are only valuable if they can be reused I creative ways that make them new again.
“Right now, as you might expect in these challenging times, beIN Sports is using Viz One like crazy,” said Marcer. “Here at Mediapro we always try to provide technical solutions that best fit our clients’ needs. Viz One and Object Matrix storage work so well together because both companies bring a forward-looking approach their respective technologies. That’s the kind of thinking our clients expect from us.”