How Aframe helped Nine Networks
When Australians want to watch The Voice, The Block, any of the National Rugby League or Cricket Australia broadcasts, they tune in to The Nine Network. Nine also brings viewers locally produced programs and exclusive international news, current affairs, sporting events, entertainment and lifestyle programs.
Nine’s promo team produces an average of 300 promos every day, targeting regions and demographics with multiple different sells. The 50-60 of those that require after-hours approval by network executives and producers presented a serious challenge to their high-throughput workflow.
“Our process was to export QuickTime reference files of finished promos from our post production system manually and have an edit coordinator park on a system to transcode them to H.264.mp4 and WMV files that were small enough to email, then send them out to each reviewer,” explained Dylan Van Dyke, Nine Technology Operations Support Manager. “The impact on our transcoders was becoming a problem. We ingest a terabyte of data daily just to work on the content. Using transcoders to compress promos for review put pressure on that.”
On the other side, upon receiving emails after they’d left the facility, executives and producers found video files that sometimes weren’t of adequate quality to pick up detail, and struggled to make meaningful notes without having accurate timecode references. If they were on a device that didn’t support the file format, they had to make their way to something that did, or wait until the morning when they were back in the office.
“The editorial team would leave at night not knowing what would come back, and get in the next day having to re-make promos that had been rejected overnight. We made it work, but it was frustrating for everyone, and it was keeping people in the office a lot longer than they had to be,” Van Dyke said.
With this problem nagging them, Van Dyke and Nine Network Chief Technology Officer Mathew Yelavich found themselves at NAB in 2014 looking for a solution. With features that support uploading, transcoding, storing, sharing and collaborating on large scale, Aframe had what they needed to streamline their under-pressure promo review process.
Nine tapped Aframe’s video review & approval solution, setting up a workflow in which the editor can export a file (OP1a MXF) that gets placed automatically into a shared folder that both Aframe and Nine’s transcode system watch. Aframe picks up the high res export and creates an h.264 proxy that is playable on a wide variety of devices – PC, Android, Mac, etc., and creates a collection of promos or a single promo for review. The user then sends an e-mail or link (which may be password protected) to all reviewers at once. Reviewers can play the file and approve or reject the promo and provide feedback no matter where they are or what device they’re on at the time, securely and efficiently. Since the file is an exact proxy of the original, it is timecode accurate, making it easier to give (and follow) notes.
“For us, exporting from the MAM was a no brainer. We’re already converting to XDCAM for playout, so why not just copy and send to Aframe for upload? What’s great about Aframe is that it doesn’t limit you to just XDCAM or DNX. Being able to throw any file in there and have Aframe handle it makes things so easy,” Van Dyke said. He added, “For reviewers it takes away the stress of something that doesn’t always work. Aframe sends the link, and as long as you have an Internet connection, it works, and it plays back in great quality.”
Van Dyke noted that the Aframe promo review process also helps Nine make its promos better – not just more efficiently produced. “Executives can now give editors timely feedback, and we can be more reactive to what’s happening on-air, now. A creative director, at home in the evening, can make changes on the spot and push them back to the promo team that night – not the next day. That kind of immediacy matters and helps keep us competitive.”
Yelavich, CTO, said “What first attracted us to Aframe was its flexibility and ease of use; we needed to get multiple formats to staff for review and approval, wherever they were as quickly as possible. Review and approval workflows have always been challenging for us. In addition Aframe has presented productivity gains across multiple business units. We only expect our reliance on Aframe to grow.”
Van Dyke noted one more benefit, close to the hearts of the team at Nine. “In my group, which supports the editorial team, our motto is ‘Get People Home.’ We apply that to everything we do. If a piece of kit goes down or a process takes longer than it should, we try to fix it. If something can be done at home after hours vs. having to sit in the office we try to make that happen. Aframe has helped us keep people connected to the internal process wherever they are. This has made things easier.”