EditShare Takes a Ride with the World Surf League

Governing body of the world of professional surfing takes soup-to-nuts video production to the next level with the EditShare Field 2’s advanced project sharing capabilities and collaborative tools.

A growing professional organization with a sizeable fan base, the World Surf League (formerly the Association of Surfing Professionals) manages and provides year-round coverage of the sport’s professional championship events held in some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the globe. With a new owner, and newly restructured under a for-profit model, the WSL has also adopted a new mission over the past 12 months, aimed at creating a commercial environment that gives fans intimate access to the best surfers on the best waves in the world.

The WSL delivers a soup-to-nuts production of 21 annual professional surfing events, with the broadcast team delivering on-the-scene, live broadcasts of the world’s most talented surfers along with pre- and post-show coverage at WorldSurfLeague.com. Vice president of post production Rob Hammer leads a team of production and post-production professionals who are responsible for processing, storing and organizing thousands of hours of high-quality footage; delivering a plethora of edits and video content; and overseeing the technical processes, equipment and infrastructure required to make all this happen. Hammer knows there are no retakes or second chances when it comes to surfing, and the WSL’s new mandate means that he has to select equipment that he knows will support the organization.

“My job, really, was to start from scratch,” says Hammer, who began his career as a freelance commercial editor in New York, and then went on to head the post-production group at Time Warner/ Time Inc., where he helped oversee production of video content for outlets such as People, Time and Sports Illustrated. “The pre-acquisition WSL had a lot of great people, but they have never had to run their own production or post company. It was always one-off events. So the challenge was to come in and build it from scratch without breaking the bank.”

The demands of on-site video editing and post in isolated and sometimes hostile locations means that the gear Hammer and his crew use to collaborate on everything from trailers and highlight reels to full-blown shows has to be rugged, dependable and easily transportable.

“We try to keep our footprint small, because we are conscious of the places that we go to,” Hammer says. “There’s a cost involved and there’s also an environmental impact – you know, just housing that many people in a place like Fiji, for instance – but, that being said, we do have a bit of a crew there to make sure that when we turn this media around, it happens quickly,” he explains, adding that it’s “not like the old days,” when editors might have to wait as long as two days before getting access to footage.

Traveling nine months out of the year, Hammer and his crews schedule roughly 12 days for any one Championship event, with much of the time spent waiting for the perfect wave. “For us, every location is remote,” Hammer notes. “Even when we’re in places like San Clemente, California, we’re down on the beach with little to no infrastructure, no power, no connectivity. You have to bring everything with you.” Hammer knew his crew would be working with tremendous amounts of content under intense environmental conditions and very tight turnaround times. In a testament to its unbeatable performance, he opted to purchase three EditShare Field 2 units for his mobile production kit. The EditShare Field 2’s rugged, compact design meets the most stringent airline regulations for carry-on baggage and offers all the standard features of its storage siblings, including RAID-protected hardware and advanced project sharing for Avid, Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro and Lightworks editors.

“Every event kicks out somewhere around 60 to 100 terabytes worth of media,” Hammer recounts. “We usually have six editors accessing a single Field unit, and even though we all share the same workload, each person is responsible for their separate part. So there might be two or three people editing features, for example, at the same time that others are doing highlights or handling newsfeeds. EditShare’s project sharing is key for these situations as it allows everyone to view the evolution of the content for various spots and programs.”

Each Field 2 unit is outfitted with SDI cards for managing centralized, multi-channel ingest. Live footage is acquired by Grass Valley cameras and specialized RF-controlled camera rigs developed specifically for capturing water-based action. Offline WSL specialty shooters, equipped primarily with RED Epic DRAGON 6K cameras and supplemented by GoPro cameras, capture archival footage for features and promos. Adding another piece to the mix, Blackmagic Design Production 4K cameras are also occasionally employed for seated interviews and other off-beach moments set in a studio environment.

For pre-recorded shows, camera footage is offloaded to Blackmagic HyperDeck recorders, and then ingested directly into one of the WSL’s three EditShare Field 2 units. The EditShare Field 2 is configured with the EditShare Flow Media Asset Management ingest application and Field HD/SD-SDI cards to facilitate multi-channel baseband recordings. For live broadcasts, clipped material is ingested to the EditShare Field units via EVS media servers. The intuitive Flow Browse interface allows users to view raw clips and preview live video streams, select codecs and wrappers for ingest, and even provide initial metadata for live feeds, while Flow’s “edit-while-capture” capabilities enable editors to start cutting as soon as ingest begins. With support for a wide range of camera formats, the WSL team relies on the Flow MAM application to provide centralized ingest and immediate proxy generation, allowing editors, producers and other production professionals instant access to files.

Format-agnostic, the EditShare Field 2 provides an open architecture that works seamlessly with virtually any industry-standard system, including editing software from Apple, Avid and Adobe. The WSL employs Adobe Premiere Pro CC for editing. First introduced at IBC 2013, EditShare Flow’s extension panel for Premiere Pro lets Creative Cloud users browse and search for content on EditShare storage as well as annotate metadata across shared projects and platforms.

“We’re using all of the tricks we can to get as much speed as possible out of the units,” Hammer says, noting that editors can sometimes get overly ambitious with projects, especially on what he calls “live days,” as opposed to non-surfing, or lay days as they’re known in the industry. “Theoretically, we’re working above what that machine should output per user,” he confides. “We’re at about 150K per second over what we should be getting per person, so we’re really maxing it out and it’s keeping pace with the crazy demand.”

Learn more about Field 2

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