Keeping up with fan expectations for game day broadcasts can be challenging. Beyond the action on the field, viewers anticipate an immersive, fast-paced and entertaining experience that engages them across multiple media platforms.
For Raycom Sports, television broadcast partner and digital rights holder for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), delivering a high-quality live broadcast remains the focal point. Raycom also is investing in technology and workflows to expand opportunities for visual storytelling.
“Fans expect a game broadcast that’s far more complicated,” explains Alex Farmartino, Coordinating Producer at Raycom Sports. “The expectations are really high. So, as you try to keep people engaged, it’s a hard thing to chase after. If you don’t have the equipment, you can’t keep up with the increased expectations.”
A production and marketing company headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Raycom Sports produces live broadcasts of 140 football and basketball games for the ACC each year. “Our key mission is still to capture the game and then to generate compelling content from that,” states Farmartino. “We use Avid to generate the content that drives our games. Avid enables us to keep up with the increased consumption demands in a way that would have been impossible if we didn’t have a lot of the gear that we do.”
Extending the Fan Experience Beyond Game Day
During basketball season, Raycom broadcasts as many as six basketball games a day. For Farmartino and his team, the deadlines don’t stop for months at a time. “In our busy seasons we have a deadline every day, sometimes every couple of hours. If there’s a commercial reel, if there’s a tease, all these different elements have to be ready; you can’t afford to have hardware or software slow you down or prevent you from hitting those deadlines.”
“Avid is the backbone of our production infrastructure. Whether it’s a studio show, an hour-long show about a game that’s happened, or the game itself, Avid provides reliable technology that allows me and my guys to focus on telling compelling stories. The main reason we’ve stuck with Avid is — it works.”
Raycom’s production team has 10 Media Composer clients tied into Avid’s shared storage solution. They use MediaCentral for media management which automatically indexes the media database, AirSpeed Multi Stream to pull in live feeds of the games for digital distribution, and FastServe for ingest, edit and playout, enabling the production team to turn content around in seconds—without having to render or transfer files.
Shared Storage Helps Leverage Assets Across the Organization
In addition to live sports broadcasts, Raycom’s production team produces a studio show called the ‘ACC Blitz’, creates original programming, such as ‘Football Saturdays’, and broadcasts the Carolina Panthers pre-season. The production team also works with one of Raycom’s partners to produce the ESPN event ‘TBT’, The Basketball Tournament.
Plus, Raycom Sports partners with Stadium to produce content for the ACC digital network, website, and social media feeds; and provides access to the ACC historical archives. “The Avid environment ties these workforces together because everybody shares the same assets,” explains Farmartino.
“We have one giant database with all the projects we work on; right now, that’s probably several hundred projects people can navigate to, and that’s for the basic sharing from room to room. And, we have it as the landing spot for our EVS ingest, and for our FastServe ingest. MediaCentral really is the engine that drives all of our tapeless workflows through Access and the way that it integrates with Media Composer.”
Raycom has been using Avid storage for over a decade. But, as they increased content creation, the demand for storage grew. “It’s a lot of footage, it’s a lot of feature shoots and game melts and game records with all the different assets,” states Farmartino. “The biggest issue we had in recent years, with all this work, we just didn’t have enough space. We needed more storage.”
This year, Raycom upgraded from 80 terabytes of storage on four chassis with Avid ISIS to almost 200 terabytes in a single Avid NEXIS chassis. “It’s pretty cool to see where the technology has gone and just how much you can get in one chassis now. It’s impressive,” exclaims Farmartino.
Adding to Raycom’s escalating need for storage was the urgent requirement to preserve ACC history. Raycom maintains the ACC library, which is recorded on 25,000 tapes, dating back to the early 1980s. This invaluable, irreplaceable historical footage is in a variety of tape formats, including three-quarter inch, Beta, Digi Beta, and DVC Pro. Raycom set a goal of digitizing the entire archive by the end of the year and turned to Farmartino to get it done.
When Raycom’s management team asked what it would take to complete the job, Farmartino knew exactly what he needed. “We needed more ingest channels and we needed more storage, and we needed the latest version of the database.”
Farmartino continued, “I got more storage with Avid NEXIS. I got the indexing database with MediaCentral. And, with the new FastServe servers, instead of having four channels per chassis, now I’ve got eight channels per chassis. Plus, if we need to do a 4K or UHD, we can do that, too. We have a very tight window, but the expectation is that we’re going to do it, and at a great level, and all three of these products are going to be a big part of that initiative.”
“I think the big thing for me – and the reason I like the Avid total solution – is the design of the products; they all fit together and it’s not a standalone thing that becomes a challenge to integrate with somebody else. It’s a workflow. It’s links in a chain and it’s all coming from one place which makes it very cohesive.”
“The speed and efficiency of Avid allows people to get more done. You can just do more with all these new tools. When you have enough space, more search capabilities, and a reliable index it makes it possible for your editors to do more.”