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May 12, 2021

Production Asset Management: Meeting Performance Requirements of Live 4K UHD Studio Productions

By Namdev Lisman
This article was first published by TVB Europe, May 11, 2021.

The number of households with 4K UHD televisions is on a steady growth path; in fact, by some estimates close to half of all U.S. homes now have a UHDTV. On the production side, many larger-scale media operations have migrated to some degree of 4K UHD content acquisition and production. Until recently, 4K UHD production has been centered on file-based workflows for creating high-production-value content. That is changing, with more and more studios producing 4K UHD multicamera shows in real time for live streaming and broadcast.

Ever-increasing numbers of studios are producing 4K multicamera shows for live UHD streaming and broadcast, but working with multiple large UHD files can clog workflows and slow delivery of content. Advanced production asset management (PAM) removes those barriers by enabling real-time ingest, logging, and transcoding of multicamera feeds and then giving creative teams seamless access to tools such as Final Cut Pro X.

In this article, we will describe how PAM can shave critical time off production and postproduction in an FCPX workflow and facilitate the immediate, real-time management of 4K feeds in a live multicamera production environment.

4K UHD Performance Barriers

The number of households with 4K UHD televisions is on a steady growth path; in fact, by some estimates close to half of all U.S. homes now have a UHD TV. On the production side, many larger-scale media operations have migrated to some degree of 4K UHD content acquisition and production. Until recently, 4K UHD production has been centered on file-based workflows for creating high-production-value content. That is changing, with more and more studios producing 4K UHD multicamera shows in real time for live streaming and broadcast.

The increasing availability of affordable CPU and optimized hardware is helping to enable the simultaneous capture and real-time transcoding of multiple UHD streams into industry-standard codecs. One important development is Apple’s super-powerful new Mac Pro, which has seen lots of video professionals return to the Apple platform using FCPX for high-end video production and editing.

However, working with 4K UHD content still presents significant performance barriers in a live production environment due to the size and complexity of UHD files. A typical multicamera production has large quantities of these files, which need to be distributed to specific team members in a collaborative and efficient way together with timecode-accurate annotations. In addition, the production needs the ability to export UHD content to distribution end points with metadata in a tight delivery window.

Most media asset management (MAM) solutions are simply not up to the tasks of ingesting, storing, managing extremely high-resolution content assets, creating proxies, and packaging them to make them available to FCPX. Further, typical MAMs are loose integrations that do not allow for tight metadata exchange and don’t enable streamlined collaboration among production teams.

Multicamera Production Asset Management: Key Elements

Enter PAM, which is designed to enable real-time ingest, logging, and transcoding of multicamera 4K UHD feeds in a live production environment. The most advanced PAM implementations are able to enrich content with metadata on the fly and then make it available seamlessly to the creative team through the tools they’re accustomed to, such as FCPX – all from a single, centralized dashboard.

This type of PAM deployment enables fast and efficient import of media and annotations into FCPX, as well as a collaborative environment for sharing media out of FCPX and into the PAM. A predefined and auto-created bin structure and a set of placeholders give ingest operators a destination for capturing or ingesting 4K UHD streams with correct, prepopulated property values and keywords. The PAM not only ingests each stream from each camera, but also ingests a linecut and creates a neatly packaged multicam element for handoff to the editor that includes the real-time logged events along the multicam timeline.

Since the PAM system has already automated the creation of multicam clips of each take, based on the time-of-day (TOD) timecode, the FCPX editor is able to start right in on the craft edit and make any necessary changes to the live feed without disturbing the program timeline. With ISOs and line cuts preserved in the Final Cut Event, the editor can easily change switch points on the line cut as these timecodes are captured from the logger and visualized via annotations in the timeline.

The centralized PAM dashboard enables team members to visualize the progress of the project to ensure that all the tasks are assigned and executed within limits for an on-time delivery. The PAM also attaches a dynamic watermark on the video containing production name, operator, or contact info as a transparent and moving overlay to ensure the content remains secure.

Reaping the Benefits

Creating a proper multicamera project might take hours when done manually. By automating the process, the PAM saves critical time in the production and facilitates the immediate, real-time management of feeds needed for a live 4K UHD workflow.

For prerecorded programs, the time savings also translate to cost savings, since time is money for a high-end production. Editors are now able to access all camera feeds and smooth over mistakes that might have been made in the original line feed. Retakes can be avoided, lowering studio costs and reducing the time to deliver content and therefore increasing potential revenues. Ultimately, productions are able to increase both the quality and the capacity of content produced.

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