Video-8 builds NRL digital library

Press release from Well Above

When the Rugby League decided to build a digital library they turned to digital media migration specialists Video-8 to help them with the process.

Shane Mattiske, NRL Director of Strategy and Special Projects explained, “We made a strategic decision to compile and digitise all available masters of footage ahead of our centenary year. This footage once digitised would be archived into a full digital library and then used for various projects. We clearly saw the importance of the archive and the huge opportunity to use it through our Centenary and beyond. Our first priority was to preserve the footage and then to maximize its potential.”

Rugby League’s team went to Video-8 where the digital specialists presented their unique Media Factory digital asset management solution. Media Factory which comprises a Front Porch Digital DIVArchive system, Anystream Agility ingestion and transcoding tools and Magna Systems’ Media Pilot web interface uniquely allows clients to view material in their archives, trim and bin clips and edit metadata from anywhere in the world.

Video-8 Managing Director Robert Scott said, “We presented the workflow, showed how we would compile and digitise content and create a tape master as well as a digital file copy. The Rugby League team were impressed with the technical capabilities of Media Factory and its ease of use particularly the remote access.”

With the proposal accepted the difficult task of retrieving and compiling all the footage began.

Shane Mattiske said, “Time was of the essence as some of the footage, dating as far back as 1948, was physically deteriorating due to age. We started with the oldest and most valuable footage first then moved onto test matches, State of Origin series and finally more recent club games. Video-8 assisted us in finding and collecting the masters from previous broadcast partners. When you consider the amount of material involved it was an enormous task and Video 8 certainly provided a lot of valuable assistance to our team.”

In the first 12 months of the project Video-8 ingested, digitised, migrated and archived over 3000 hours of footage.

Robert Scott added, “This was a hugely significant project. We handled over 12,000 physical masters with some classic footage including the famous Tina Turner ad campaign. Most of the footage was passed through telecine onto Digi Beta Cam tape before being ingested into Media Factory.”

With the project proceeding at a fast pace Rugby League’s team began to realise the scope and quality of their precious library assets.

Mattiske said, “We took full control of the library and compiled details of all the physical assets that Video-8 had gathered. It was an impressive list. Using the Media Pilot functionality within Media Factory gave us web access to all the assets which is a huge bonus. Media Pilot then became our single source of information allowing us to easily search for physical masters and digital assets.”

The newly digitised and accessible assets were then utilised in a range of different commercial projects including the spectacular Centenary commercial and the definitive Century of Rugby League Documentary series broadcast on Channel Nine and which is still available as a DVD set. The library also became the primary source of material for a series of special productions including a unique on-line series that highlighted great players and great moments of the game on and The packages included tributes to the game’s 100 Greatest Players, the Team of the Century and the Tries of the Century.

Scott added, “The first 12 months were all about digitising footage and archiving it onto our DAM system. After that time we began digitising footage and giving it back to the NRL on hard drives removing the need for Digi Beta Cam tapes altogether.”

In 2009 prior to the beginning of the season the NRL again sat down with Video-8 to discuss how to extend and expand what had proven to be a very successful digital media migration and archiving project.

Robert Scott explained, “Rugby League’s archive was growing physically each year. We suggested from this season that, in addition to digitising older footage, we would capture current games in the archive via electronic file transfer thus eliminating the need for physical masters of current content.”

With the NRL in agreement Video-8 began yet another first in Australia’s digital media migration landscape – migrating every game of the current NRL season.

Shane Mattiske added, “In previous years, games were put on 2 Digi Beta Cam tapes. This year we began a totally tapeless and more efficient workflow with all games shot in SD and HD delivered as 30Mbit IMX files in an MXF wrapper (the standard Media Factory format) on a hard drive. Video-8 performed a very simple archiving function and the games were then instantly available to us and our partners.”

According to Mattiske the process is an evolving one with old master tapes still being collected and the Video-8 system adding new functionality. He said, “Video-8 has now added the integration and management of physical and digital assets into the system. We also have the capacity to add logging data directly within footage against the timecode and can create compiles outputting them in various formats. The digital library has made our lives easier and more efficient. We now have a single source archive that meets all of our requirements for sending footage to broadcasters, online partners and commercial partners. It’s a system that positions us to meet future changes both in technology and in the media environment. We’ve done our best to ensure it is future proofed.”

There have been some real good news stories that have emerged as a result of creating the NRL’s digital library including film hidden in a cupboard for almost 40 years becoming an iconic piece in the Rugby League Films archive. The film of the 1961 Group 5 Grand Final between Moree and Warialda features the ‘Little Master’, Clive Churchill, who was captain-coach of Moree, in his last ever Rugby League match. It is the only known film of Churchill playing club football. The film had been kept in a cupboard at the home of then Warialda captain-coach Jim Payne until last year – but for a chance conversation at a reunion, it may have stayed there. However, a friend learned of its existence and sought to have it converted on to DVD for his father, who also played in the match.

Only then was it discovered that this was no ordinary piece of film.

“Some of the ways we are collecting film are as amazing as the players they depict, but it shows how important our fans are to building the archive,” said Mattiske. “Developing Rugby League Films was one of our most significant Centenary projects as it offers fans a unique insight into the great moments and heroes in our game.”

Rugby League history will now be a revolutionary component of the game’s future as the archive collects, collates and preserves all existing film and videotape of Rugby League in Australia for future generations to experience.

The archive also includes colour film of the 1951 Final between Manly and St. George, featuring Ken Arthurson scoring for Manly, the archive’s oldest footage in the 1922 Metropolitan XIII v Maoris match and the only known vision of the 1957 Major Semi-Final between St. George and Manly, in which legendary commentator Rex Mossop scores a try.

Robert Scott added, “Rugby League’s digital library is ground breaking for an Australian sporting body. I’m delighted that Video-8 is a part of it and we will be migrating an additional 800 hours of the NRL’s old archive in the next 12 months.”

Shane Mattiske concluded, “Video-8 have provided the Rugby League with an excellent full service approach to our ongoing digital archive project. We are delighted with our digital archive and are very glad the project has gone so well as now the future of the game is protected and in a great position for generations to come.”