Managing Assets to Maximize Impact
COW Library : Broadcasting : John Pipes : Managing Assets to Maximize Impact
Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM) is a global nonprofit Christian organization based in the St Louis area of Missouri. We are all about helping people in practical ways where they live. This takes shape through humanitarian aid efforts around the world and also in the media where New York Times best selling author Joyce Meyer shares her teaching ministry.
Our television program, "Enjoying Everyday Life," airs daily on more than 400 stations worldwide in 39 different languages including ABC Family, The Discovery Channel, TBN, WGN, Daystar and many others.
The ministry is not a traditional brick-and-mortar church with a congregation, so content for TV, web and DVD distribution is shot at our domestic conferences, international crusades, at our aid outreaches- feeding centers, medical clinics, orphanages, hospitals, disaster relief areas, and in our studio in St. Louis. Our productions range from live multi-camera concert and speaking events, to single camera film style documentaries of humanitarian need and aid efforts. We also produce interviews packages, video support for our events, partner campaigns, promotional material, and much more. By the time you read this, we will have recently wrapped up a leadership training and open-air festival event in Kolkata (Calcutta) India, where we anticipate thousands of people attending.
A Joyce Meyer Ministries arena event.
We have a lot of production going on which means a lot of data to manage. Effectively communicating what was shot, where it is, and how to get to it is incredibly important to our team so that the deadlines of a daily TV program are met. In the last two years this process has gone through a big change for us as we have transitioned from a standard definition tape based workflow and AVID editing suites to high definition production and post production based upon Sony's XDCAM HD format and Apple's Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Server post solutions. Now we have the ability to manage metadata, automate processes and at least partially take advantage of a file based work flow.
Stage set-up for an open-air event, with some of the six cameras for live recording.
I say partially take advantage of a file based work flow because the practical application is that ingesting from, and editing to, disc the old fashioned way as HD-SDI video for half-hour TV programs is still the most reliable way in our experience. Sony's XDCAM HD format does give us the benefit of data where we can take advantage of it-while maintaining a one-to-one relationship of what video we shot to what video we archive on a shelf in the vault. For our needs, we have to keep our original media. We just shoot too much material to make transferring footage and then erasing it from flash cards practical. The possibility of erasing a card before a transfer occurred would be too great. XDCAM discs have a long shelf life and are comparable in price to tape which is what we were used to, so this has been a very good solution for our needs.
Our recent India production is a great example of how much media we generate. We packed 130 fifty gigabyte XDCAM HD discs for the trip. We covered the crusade with a six camera switched HD package. This multi-cam team will shot four days of concert footage and teaching sessions recording ISOs of each camera along with a line cut and back up line cut. Simultaneously two HD EFP crews were in country documenting humanitarian needs and aid efforts. Examples of this would be how JMM is helping women in the Mumbai red light district get out of the sex trade at our Transformation Center. This Center provides safe housing, food, and skills training so the women can become self-reliant and support their families. We also had a crew at our Aids hospital and orphanage in Chandrakal. Then in Kolkata the EFP crews will document our clean water well digging and free medical clinics.
All of this media then becomes potential content for "Enjoying Everyday Life". A typical daily program could have a combination of Joyce teaching at a conference, in-studio content with guests, a package about ongoing humanitarian aid efforts, or an interview package about how a person's life was helped by the ministry.
For conferences and crusade events we basically built a six camera HD TV truck, only not in a truck. Our broadcast engineer Brian Laschober partnered with Bill McKee of Broadcast Technical Services in Houston to create a multicam system that is rack mounted in flight packs so it can be shipped anywhere in the world. We use the new Sony HSC-300 triax cameras recording to Sony XDCAM HD 4:2:2 at 50Mb 1080i. The flight packs are engineered as HD-SDI throughout and switched on a Ross Synergy switcher. We use Miranda multi-view and routing technology and Sony and Marshall monitoring.
Our studio in St. Louis mirrors this setup with a four camera switched system permanently installed.
In the course of a typical conference we go through 96 50GB XDCAM HD disks, with each of those disks holding roughly 90 minutes of 1080i footage. At these events we record 24 tracks of iso audio, captured directly to disk using an iZ Technology RADAR digital recording system, and Tascam DA-98s as backup. We temp mix onsite to the XDCAM discs but always post the audio in ProTools before it goes to TV, radio, web, CDs, or DVDs.
Post production and asset management begins as all of this media gets labeled, bar coded and entered into our vault library system. The footage is then ingested to our shared storage by an assistant editor or an editor who identifies clip names for batch digitizing. We have about 64TB of usable space for video post on Xsan, another 24TB for motion graphics and web on Xsan, and about six more terabytes for audio post on Studio Network Solutions SANmp. We have quickly found that this is not a lot of space, we are constantly challenged by the needs to manage it as we push its limits.
When we moved to high-definition, we worked hard to reduce the ambient noise in the edit suites. We extended everything with KVM cabling to get the CPU out of the room. The only things in each suite are a desk, a 30-inch Apple monitor, speakers, waveform/vectorscope, a keyboard and a mouse. Additionally, each suite has a software control panel for the router, so that any source or output is available with the press of a button.
Editorial is spread across 15 Final Cut Pro edit suites, two FCP ingest stations, and 9 Pro Tools rooms. In addition to our video and audio editors our team of 50 broadcast professionals also includes two quality controllers, two motion graphics artists, six producers, two engineers, two cinematographers, a production assistant, three duplication specialists, a DVD producer, support staff, and a newly created digital content position for tagging metadata.
Understandably asset management is a huge initiative for us. It has been a big adjustment from tape logs and time code window burns to Final Cut Server, but one that is welcome and needed. We're currently creating a keyword searchable system using FCS and look forward to all the gains a digital content workflow can bring to the team.
Miranda NVISION 128x128 router with dual NV9000 controllers. "When we moved to high-definition, we worked hard to reduce ambient noise. We extended everything with KVM cabling to get the CPU out of the room. The only things in each suite are a desk, a 30-inch Apple monitor, speakers, waveform/vectorscope, a keyboard and a mouse. Additionally, each suite has a software control panel for the router, so that any source or output is available in any suite with the press of a button."
It's a four-week cycle for a program editor to complete the six programs that air in a single week in all of the various versions. They edit the program to length, adding motion graphics created by our two full-time artists, and any other special content as directed by the producer, such as testimonials, studio interviews, or footage from one of our humanitarian aid efforts.
AUDIO AND VIDEO EDITORIAL
Footage shot in studio or at conference and festival events begins the post production process in audio editing and mixing. The multi track recordings are ingested to ProTools, mixed, EQ'd etc. and then laid back to the original XDCAM line-cut discs recorded in the field, replacing the temp mixes. I still refer to these devices as decks, or VTRs, even though they are really disc recorders. In fact this new technology included a learning curve for us, as only the Sony PDW-F1600 XDCAM HD deck will allow for this type of insert editing.
Once the audio is finished and laid back, the XDCAM discs are ingested to the Xsan, where we have 22 fibre-attached clients.
The assistant editor typically ingests the footage and begins the metadata tagging process with reel, clip name, and description information. We ingest XDCAM media two ways -- as data using Sony's PDW-U1 USB drives using XDCAM software through Log and Transfer, or as HD-SDI using conventional Log and Capture in FCP with AJA Kona 3 cards. What we are finding through our post-production workflow - after trial and error, I must say - is that we are ingesting via HD-SDI as ProRes 4:2:2 through the AJA Kona 3 for long form projects, and via XDCAM clips in native format for short form projects.
Another change as we've moved to high definition, both in the studio and in our arena and festival events, is that we've done away with a lot of physical monitors by going to multi-view. We have a four-camera switched set-up in the studio here in St. Louis, and the six-camera switched set-up on the road, and monitor all of these cameras on a single Miranda multi-view monitor. There's also been a bit of a learning curve, as it's more complicated to set these up than a traditional single monitor - but it has worked well for us, and was a huge savings to not have to buy so many new HD monitors.
Regardless of ingest codec (ProRes or XDCAM), all sequences use the same codec for editorial which is Apple's ProRes 4:2:2. We started using ProRes HQ, but after extensive testing by our engineers we have found no perceptible difference between this and standard ProRes, yet the space savings is significant, so standard ProRes is where we landed. This has been accepted by all of our stations and networks.
As mentioned earlier, for shorter projects like promos we ingest using native XDCAM codec with Sony's PDW-U1 USB drive at 4:2:2, 50Mb, because of the increased speed of ingest: about two times real-time, but this is converted to ProRes in the sequence.
The main infrastructure of the central machine room (CMR) is a Miranda NVISION 128x128 router with dual NV9000 controllers and 4 layers : HD and SD SDI with embedded audio, timecode, and stereo analog audio. All router inputs and outputs go through patch panels, and we use these frequently. Machine control is wired to a CAT6 patch panel, which gives the editor freedom to use any deck.
All of our Mac Pros are in the CMR to reduce noise in the edit suites and to shorten the runs of fiber, network, machine control and SDI in/out of each system. The distance from the furthest edit suite to the CMR is pushing 200 feet, so we are using Gefen USB and DVI+ extenders. Every edit suite has Miranda virtual control panel software which allows editors to route to the inputs of their Kona 3 cards, VTRs and the HD, SD, and audio monitors in their edit suites. Every input and every output is routable.
For NTSC, we have the following video recorders:
Last year we pulled out our last ¾", VHS and SVHS VTRs. WWe had a handful of smaller stations that were still requesting these formats, but now most of those stations are now airing direct from the DVDs we send them.
Our CMR also houses CCUs, RCPs, switcher frame, monitor wall, DAs, intercom, and engineering equipment for our studio.
The Xsan infrastructure is housed in 2 different areas of the building. The CMR is home to seven Xserves (3 for Xsan Metadata controllers, 1 for Final Cut Server and 3 for rendering/Q-Master nodes), house and metadata network switches, and 16 Mac Pros. The Xsan storage and fibre switches are located in the JMM data center, which is a climate-controlled room with gas fire suppression on a different floor. The CMR and data center are connected by 144 strands of fibre.
When we were in the designing stage of the CMR and new edit suites we wanted to make sure we didn't miss anything that we would later regret; that included things that weren't directly related to the television equipment infrastructure. We brought in our HVAC and electrical contractors to discuss power loads and cooling needs. The location of our CMR is where our old duplication area was and we already maxed out the cooling and clean power. Our HVAC contractor installed dual 5 ton units and we placed the 28 racks so that the air is forced thru the front of the racks and the return is located above the racks. Our building design required us to use plenum rated cables, and we knew this was a major limitation, so we had come up with a solution. Our building already had a clean power solution in place, including a generator, battery backup until the generator gets up to speed, and surge suppression. Our electrical contractor installed 2 electrical panels in the CMR, one connected to the house clean power to supply 1 to 2 dedicated 20 amp circuits per rack and a second panel for the HVAC units. The HVAC is also on the generator. We also had our electrical contractor run twenty 3" conduits from the CMR to every edit suite and necessary areas, this allowed us to run non-plenum wiring.
Since making the transition to HD we formed a digital content team to help improve our department's asset management. This team is in the process of developing more advanced asset management tools for the entire staff. These tools include best practices for labeling, metadata tagging at the disc level, naming conventions on disc and in Final Cut Server, Xsan file structure organization, keyword searches, logging practices, and proof and approval workflows. As an example, at ingest unique disk names become part of the metadata, identifying which camera the disc came from, what meeting it came from, along with the date, etc.
At the time we built the new HD post production infrastructure, Apple had just discontinued their Xserve RAID solution for storage. We had been almost ready to purchase this Apple solution so when it went away we had to look elsewhere. We actually wound up somewhere I didn't think we would, which is EMC. They are typically a high-end solution in the corporate enterprise world and don't have a large piece of the pie in the media space. Our CIO had very good success with EMC and recommended we look into it. We did, and were very impressed. It has been a good stable solution.
For full redundancy, we had to go with the Studio Network Solutions fibre card, rather than the Apple fibre card. It's the SNS Ellipse card that is allowing us to unlock the power of the EMC storage system.
As a media team we felt this initiative was so important we created a new staff position we call the Digital Content Coordinator whose main priority is to metadata tag content descriptions in Final Cut Server. This team also helps make sure that the media files on Xsan, the proxy files in Final Cut Server and the Final Cut Pro project files relate to each other- all following agreed upon standard organizational and naming conventions. All the names for these bins and clips need to match for producers and editors to be able to spend less time searching for things.
AUTOMATION WITH FINAL CUT SERVER
Final Cut Server is a good organizational tool, but in addition to this it has also significantly helped our post workflow with its ability to automate processes.
Our digital content lead Bryce Bagwill has scripted several automation process. One is for proxy files to be created as soon as an editor checks a project into FCS. All of the low resolution compression rendering takes place on a cluster of three Xserves processing together using the Apple Qmaster system. Final Cut Server then automates notification to anyone who needs access to the footage, such as producers creating content, myself as senior producer, or executives who are reviewing and approving.
Some of the machine room wiring, including fibre and KVM cabling.
JMM has 90 complete programs on our website at any given time, so web encoding is a big part of what do every day as well. Final Cut Server also helps automate this process for our web encoder, so that we can schedule the heaviest rendering for nighttime. In addition to our Xserve rendering cluster, we can also call upon unused cores within the other Mac Pros that are in the central machine room, to use that processing power at night while our editors aren't working.
Automations in FCS helps our proof and approval processes. Editors send low res proxies of projects in process to producers who can watch everything from a full half-hour program to a small promo segment, or even an individual clip. The team can leave comments or annotations, contribute photos, modify storyboards, pass along copies of scripts, or even web links. Final Cut Server automatically sends notifications to keep the team aware of the status of individual items within the workflow.
16 Mac Pros in the Central Machine Room. Apple Final Cut Server takes advantage of unused cores at night to assist the Xserve rendering cluster.
Once programs or segments are complete, final approval can happen in various ways-using Final Cut Server, or via iDisk, or even old fashioned DVDs. But for me nothing is better than watching the segment or program in the edit suite with the editor and producer if at all possible.
Another major improvement Final Cut Server affords us is the automation of our closed captioning workflow. This may not sound like a very big deal, but when you post six programs per week, edited into nine different versions, the numbers add up fast. Automation for CC via Server is a big help for our editors.
The process begins when an editor drops a finished sequence onto a drop folder. Final Cut Server then compresses that sequence into a manageable size, and FTPs (is this a verb now?) it to our closed captioning provider, Aberdeen Captioning. Once they've done the work on their end, they send a closed captioning file back to us. Final Cut Server then notifies the editor that it is available, and ready for import.
Compared to our previous tape-based workflow, automating closed captioning has resulted in significant savings to the ministry in both tme and resources.
Another interesting HD wrinkle has been how HD captioning gets to the XDCAM disc. For high definition masters, the closed captioning information no longer goes into the sequence as a clip in a track. Rather than the analog "Line 21" (EIA-608) transport, the CEA-708 standard embeds the captioning straight into the HD-SDI stream for recording, whether to tape, or in our case, back to XDCAM disc at the point of editing to tape.
DUPLICATION AND DISTRIBUTION
Once a program is mastered to disc our in-house duplication department makes the air dubs and ships them out. It seems we send out tapes in every known format to meet all the different network and station requirements. With HD this has only become more complicated. Currently only a handful of networks we air on accept high definition masters, and even in that small group there are many different formats required. Because of this, Up/Down/Cross conversion of our media has become an important part of what our duplication team does. AJA FS-1 and Link HDC-925 up/down/cross converters play a vital role in the central machine room.
For us FTP delivery of finished programs to stations and networks for our TV program is only in the investigative stages. We would like distribute the TV program in the future much like we do with our radio program, which is distributed to more than 100 stations via FTP.
SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
We feel that we are only scratching the surface of what we can eventually build with digital asset management and a file-based workflow. At Joyce Meyer Ministries we produce media content in an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork so we're excited about how these new systems will enhance that process. Going forward we recognize and understand the media we create will not only help to preserve the legacy of the ministry, but will also help build its future. As new technologies continue to emerge we hope to discover even better ways to use a data centric workflow to enhance our team's ability to collaborate and to find ways to reduce cost.
As a nonprofit, we are very conscious of stewardship issues. Any time and money we can save using technology like automation means one more mouth we can feed, or one more person we can house, one more person we can help, and for us that is what it is all about.