Customer story: Vin Di Bona
Vin Di Bona’s flagship show- America’s Funniest Home Videos – just passed the legendary TV show Bonanza as the second longest running television show in history. Debuting in 1989, AFV was YouTube before the Internet existed, with tens of thousands of Americans mailing in their home-made videos to be aired live around the nation. With that kind of history of innovation, it makes sense that VDB would be one of the first to incorporate into their postproduction infrastructure to acquire, edit, and deliver in UHD.
When the Animal Planet show “Insane Pools” got picked up for a second season, Discovery and Fishbowl Worldwide / Vin Di Bona decided to take the UHD plunge. VDB’s first call was to Key Code Media, a systems integrator based in Southern California, to help develop the technology required for a cost effective UHD workflow.
Practically incorporating an end-to-end UHD workflow while at the same time not missing a beat with existing HD shows, presented many challenges.
CHALLENGE #1: FORMATS
Often technical hiccups occur from incompatibilities between media from various location cameras and editorial. Converting to more friendly-for-post formats before editorial begins can give the creative teams more time to work and subsequently the ability to craft more compelling stories.
Traditionally, mezzanine codecs for unscripted television have been in the standard definition realm. While these files have a small digital footprint, and thus kept storage requirements low, they are less than adequate for modern viewing. The low resolution hindered the ability to check focus adequately, and there was little ability to facilitate a quick turnaround for a screener or for marketing needs. In addition, moving to UHD requires frame rates that many SD codecs simply don’t allow for.
Thus, the decision was made to standardize on DNxHD. As VDB has been Avid centric for many years, DNxHD was the only choice for a high quality codec that retained visually fidelity and handled the 59.94p material.
To further ensure efficiency during the process, VDB chose ContentAgent by ROOT6 Technology as their transcoding solution. CardAgent, a sister product to ContentAgent, understood all of the card formats from location. Not only did ContentAgent transcode the location card media to Avid ready DNxHD, but it also mapped the appropriate metadata from the files to usable fields within Media Composer. This not only freed up the assistant stations for other work, but also allowed the assistants’ time to work on other tasks.
CHALLENGE #2: STORAGE
While VDB already had a sizeable amount of SAN and NAS storage in house, the storage requirements for an entire season of an unscripted show – plus existing shows – were going to be hundreds of Terabytes.
Enter LTO. VDB was already utilizing LTO in various ways. They received LTO tapes from onset, they delivered content to their partners on LTO, and they archived on LTO. Could this be used during editorial, too?
ALE Conform – a new feature within DNA Evolution by Storage DNA – allowed for LTO usage during editorial. ALE Conform receives an ALE of an editor’s finished offline HD sequence, and can then relink those specific clips referenced in the ALE to the master UHD location media already on LTO. This media is then restored to VDB’s NAS system. From there, the sequence would be checked, consolidated to the SAN, and transcoded for delivery.
CHALLENGE #3: EDITORIAL
Upgrading every editing system would be a forklift upgrade, and many of the systems at VDB still had life left in them. This is where DNxHD for offline editorial proved additionally useful. DNxHD might be a larger file than its compressed counterparts, but its relatively low processing overhead during editing meant the computers could have a longer life cycle.
PhraseFind – audio search tool inside Avid – was also a major portion of the creative work-flow. As the tool has been discontinued, upgrading to newer versions of Media Composer would render this software tool inoperable. The decision was made to keep the offline systems on Media Composer v6.5 and v7. These systems handled DNxHD multicam with little issue, and allowed continued usage of PhraseFind. This meant that only the online bays had to be upgraded; as they would need to handle resolutions above HD for playback and finishing. These systems went to Media Composer 8.5.
Sharon Arnett: Executive Vice President of Post for Vin Di Bona:
“Ultimately, Key Code Media was the only choice for the project. They have a well-rounded technical team, which tailored products to work best with our Fishbowl Worldwide’s post technology. No one else could do that, within our 24/7 running facility.”
“Insane Pools: Off the Deep End” Season 2 is currently airing on Animal Planet.
Originally published in POST Magazine, April 2016