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UQAM Keeps its Technology Edge with EditShare

A partnership between a university and EditShare provides end to-end workflow collaboration with ingest, multi-codec support, centralized storage, media asset management and playout.

Canada’s Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) is renowned for its communications program and the priority it gives to using cutting-edge technology in the classroom. And that explains why requests for admission into UQAM’s Media School specifically run upwards of 1600 per year for its 190 or so openings. Approximately 35 students are accepted for the film program, a similar number in the TV option, 60 on the journalism course, 25 on interactive media and 70 on management courses.

“Our students can achieve a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in film, television, media production management, journalism and interactive media,” explains Gilles Boulet, Director of Audiovisual Services at UQAM. “We also offer Master of Arts (MA) programs in film production, film scriptwriting, music for film (in partnership with our music department) and experimental media. Finally, we offer a PhD program in communications.”

The UQAM program runs for three years and, like most media schools, the students work on different projects and produce a diploma film or program to graduate. Top student productions are broadcast on Canal Savoir, a specialized educational television network in Quebec, while others are submitted to various film and media festivals around the world.

A Media Learning Environment Unlike any Other

The UQAM Media School has 23 full time professors and 50 plus full or part-time tutors, many of whom are working professionals within the media industry. Among the state-of-the-art facilities that are available for the students are a film studio equipped with Arri Alexa and Red cameras, 2 television studios with nine Hitachi HD cameras and Ross Video switchers, 20 video edit suites using Final Cut Pro (FCP) or Avid Media Composer, 15 audio stations, 4 video lab rooms, 3 sound studios, a projection theatre, colorization room and an ingest room.

UQAM’s Landmark Upgrade Introduces Students to the Very Latest in Integrated Tapeless Workflows

As part of a recent $4.2 million upgrade project to keep pace with industry changes and to complete the transition from SD to HD, UQAM investigated which systems would best suit its needs when it came to tapeless workflows, including ingest, servers, storage, connectivity and archiving.

“We wanted an integrated system that could support different codecs,” states Boulet. “The school uses several, such as DNxHD, ProRes, and DVC Pro HD. There was also a requirement for media sharing between different systems.”

Boulet and his team visited a number of Montreal-area broadcasters who were working in a tapeless environment using different technologies. Following those visits, a performance specification sheet was prepared, which Boulet sent to several system manufacturers, distributors and integrators in order to seek a solution to the school’s specific needs.

“Three different systems were subsequently installed on site for testing. Each of these trials lasted for two weeks. All three were thoroughly tested in the Media School’s actual production environment. Each system’s compliance with our performance specification sheet was scored, as was its general ergonomics and ease of use.”

As a result of this comprehensive evaluation process the Media School purchased an end-to-end EditShare solution that connects the various media functions and systems such as file-based ingest, storage, archives to the NLE workgroups, journalist systems and production control room. The integrated tapeless configuration streamlines the entire workflow from ingest through archiving providing teachers and students unprecedented access and control over projects and content across the full production workflow.

Boulet adds, “In mid-2012 we put the EditShare infrastructure to a maximum stress test and the infrastructure worked flawlessly.”

A Better Way to Manage Media Assets and System Interoperability

He goes on, “In addition to the integrated system aspect of the solution, we also looked at the ease with which the system could be expanded, as necessary. Robust and reliable asset management with searchable metadata and proxy files was also a major criterion for us and we were satisfied with EditShare’s capacities on that aspect. Finally, interoperability with different systems, technologies and codecs apart from a wide range of output formats was a key element in our choice of the EditShare solution.”

He continues, “With EditShare, our users of Apple, Adobe, Avid, ProTools, Ross Video and other systems can be connected and work together.”

The elements of the Editshare infrastructure introduced by UQAM include EditShare XStream high performance centralized storage, EditShare Flow for ingest and media management, two Geevs HDP 4/4 servers with Geevs Client software which handle studio ingest and playout, and EditShare ARK for archiving.

A Cutting-edge HD Studio Workflow That is Fully Integrated

In studio 1, the Ross Vision Mixer provides Video Disk Control Protocol (VDCP) polling of clips by name within a media space located on the EditShare Xstream shared storage platform. This enables the ability to cue, play and mark those clips from the Ross Vision control panel. The Ross switcher also includes four GPIs tied to the Geevs Workstations’ and the Studio MC interface on Geevs Chassis 1. Geevs Studio MC supports recording multiple channels of ISO camera angles while simultaneously creating low-resolution proxy files and also capturing information generated from the switcher’s GPI to create an Edit Decision List (EDL) of the director’s cuts. Having the EDL allows instant high-resolution playback of the cut sequence within Geevs and instant proxy-resolution playback of the same sequence within Flow, all without ever recording a mixed feed. The EDL can be dragged from Flow into Avid or Final Cut Pro, where it appears as a multicam sequence linked to the high resolution files, allowing cut points and camera angle decisions to be adjusted easily during post production.

The Geevs workstation also allows users the use of the Geevs Standard client that controls individual channels of Geevs Chassis 2. This Chassis’s remaining input channels can be assigned as program out records or other signals as desired.

In Studio 2, the Ross Carbonite Mixer with Geevs Chassis 1 provides part time access to the four channel inputs. The set up means that Chassis 2 allows full time access to a dedicated Channel for playout control via GPI commands from the Ross Carbonite.

Another element of the EditShare installation is Telestream Vantage Pro on an HP ProLiant server. The Vantage Pro is used when editing is completed; media is transcoded as needed for various distribution channels, such as webcasting, broadcasting, Blu-ray, and DVD. The entire EditShare backbone is deployed on 10Gbe using HP Essential Series switches. A dual 10GbE uplink to a Cisco firewall provides connectivity to the rest of the UQAM campus.

Also part of the set up is an EditShare Flow/ARK 32TB Admin/Database server that supplies 32TB of dedicated space for proxies, while allowing for file-based ingest channels and the importing of XDCam material.

A Flow/ARK Scan Server provides for a dedicated facility to scan for the presence of new clips on EditShare Media spaces and generates proxies for the Flow Database.

Finally, a Quantum Scalar i500 is employed for the data and metadata library of ingested media in LTO 5, while three XStream Workflow Director and an expansion chassis handle storage.

The Many Benefits of a Tapeless Workflow

With the EditShare tools now in place, Boulet is enthusiastic about the way the overall workflow within the Media School has been improved. “It has helped immensely - considering that we moved from a SD digital, but nevertheless tape-based environment, to a HD content-centric tapeless non-linear workflow. Now different projects and different students can perform different production steps at the same time. Concurrent ingest, editing, media processing, transfer, archiving can be achieved on diverse projects. Crossmedia reuse and repurposing of existing documents, shootings or media files is also a lot easier regardless of the original file type.”

He explains, “Our students register in different training programs and on different type of productions. With EditShare, we can carve specific privileges to students’ profiles and can set rules to ensure that no data is overwritten or destroyed. This is an especially important feature in a media teaching environment.”

With so many students involved with a variety of projects at any one time, Boulet believes that the management tool that allows for the creation of unlimited students projects accounts and the ability to customize privileges given to both them and professors will be of significant benefit during the courses.

“We anticipate that it will be easier for the professors and tutors to bring excerpts from different students’ productions and share them with the group for analysis and comment. It will also make it easier to check ongoing progress in each of the productions and have access to the actual productions for evaluation.”

Boulet adds there are a number of other long term benefits from utilizing the EditShare system. “Obviously, the main one will be for our students to experience working in an environment with modern equipment they’re likely to find in the industry when they begin their careers. Alongside that, there will be a benefit for the industry generally. That’s because employers will find a technically well trained and up to date workforce ready to start a career.”