Customer story: Prometheus Entertainment
Prometheus Entertainment, a leading supplier of critically acclaimed, highly rated programming to the U.S. cable TV market, has deployed ContentAgent from ROOT6 Technology to streamline its Avid-based editorial operations by managing and automating complex ingest and framerate conversion workflows.
Producing dynamic and diverse programming for clients including History Channel, A&E, AMC and Warner Bros., the company’s prodigious output ranges from top-rated docudramas such as “The Girls NextDoor,” “Kendra on Top,” and “The Curse of Oak Island”, to imaginative and informative non-fiction series and specials such as “Ancient Aliens,” “America’s Book of Secrets,” and “Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed.”
With a burgeoning workload across several bases in Los Angeles, Prometheus Entertainment sought to centralize file-based ingest in order to maintain continuity between assets and projects both on and off site. Greg Cohan, VP of Post Production, takes up the story.
“We’d looked at several products that ingested to ISIS, but what ultimately tipped the scale for us on ContentAgent was that it felt set up for a holistic Avid environment, rather than specifically an Interplay proxy environment. This meant we could ingest both high resolution Avid media and offline resolution. Most ingesting solutions offer Avid H.264 or MPEG4 proxies which, in our opinion, are too low a bandwidth for our clients to review correctly.”
While Cohan appreciates the appeal of file-based operation he is acutely aware of its complexities.
“With all the advancements, we are confronted with the actual practicality of a workflow. What’s the pixel aspect? What’s the codec? Will Avid work with it native? Is the audio format supported? How do we examine each individual file for frame rate efficiently to link to it correctly? What ContentAgent ultimately offered us was a way to automate a complex process simply by dropping all our files into a folder. ContentAgent looks for all these variables and creates Avid managed masters that go right into our system.”
Prior to the deployment of ContentAgent, framerate conversion had proved to be a time-consuming and expensive bottleneck. But, as it offers optional integration with the highly acclaimed Tachyon advanced motion compensated framerate conversion from Cinnafilm, such hold-ups could now be avoided. As Cohan explains:
“The key to smooth video playback has always been to conform all masters to the master frame rate. Until ContentAgent, framerate conversion had always been a bottleneck. Back in the tape-based environment we either relied on a third party to conform to our standard rate, which often resulted in an “It is what it is” result, or we had to run individual conversion sessions in an online facility, processing through a Teranex or Alchemist system at a high hourly rate, which equally often left you with “It is what it is.” result. Our budgets back then to convert framerate or up-convert to HD were close $10,000 per one hour documentary episode.
“With advances in file-based workflows, it became possible to use the files as mixed framerates within Avid. This still left us with several bottlenecks. The first was in the ingest part of the workflow. We were forced to import every individual file into a framerate specific project, before copying them into our edit project. While this was suitable for offline edits, it made online a little more complicated. Once in an online, we would have to address interpolations on an individual basis. In a one-hour documentary series we might have 900 acquired clips. A portion of those would be SD and we would need to play them out of an Avid through a Teranex and back into a separate system for up-conversion. For framerate conversion inside Avid, we would need to individually adjust motion adaptors in several settings to find the smooth sweet spot. Content Agent automated this process and decreased the time spent in both offline prep and online conforms. So by adding in the Tachyon Advanced Frame Rate Conversion option we solved a problem we didn’t appreciate could be solved.”
In practice at Prometheus Entertainment the wide variety of source material is conformed to XDCAMHD50 Op-Atom MXF. This includes a multitude of framerates and resolutions which are being converted and/or resized to XDCAMHD 23.98 via Tachyon. The files are then copied directly to ISIS, with the AAF ready for import to editorial.
“We’ve radically transformed our workflow,” concludes Cohan. “Prior to ContentAgent, programme researchers would pull thousands of clips, load them to a hard drive and present them to editorial where each clip would then be reviewed for framerate. Batches would then be imported for the conversion of all material into the standard 23.98 project for offline. Now, we save our clips to SAS drives which ContentAgent processes and moves all material as it’s added. The AAFs are copied into Avid; job done.
“In summary I’d say ContentAgent complements our current workflow by taking large aspects of daily operations and automating them off system, freeing up the Assistant Editors and Avid systems to work forward while ContentAgent does the processing in the background.”