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BBC Sport goes North, moves to file

BBC Sport’s Technical Executive Charlie Cope talks to TVBEurope about the design of the BBC’s Sports Production System at MediaCityUK.

BBC Sport’s Technical Executive, Charlie Cope talks to TVBEurope’s Adrian Pennington about the design of the BBC’s Sports Production System at MediaCityUK. Its file-based methodology represents a radical break from the past.

According to Cope sport is just one segment of the whole BBC North operation that aims to transition BBC departments to a new set of file-based workflows.

“The MediaCity facility allows us to take all production in into the HD and tapeless domain and to have capability for 5.1 audio delivery,” explained Cope. “Inevitably not all of our production will be tapeless – we use freelance cameraman and footage from other broadcasters – but in terms of our own processes we are moving to a file-based production, archive and delivery system.

“From a sports perspective we are very much driven by live. Live is about 95% of our output so that drives our workflow choices. The front-end tools we need to deliver live fast turnaround content are critical to maintaining the quality of our production aspirations on screen,” he continued.

“We have moved from an environment [at Television Centre] where we had 4-5 different production systems, to a single production system that allows us to share content across platform and to ingest once, output multiple times.”

This includes holding all content and associated metadata in centralised storage that can be accessed by users throughout the division. That centralised planning and sharing of materials informs the design of the Sports Production System. It gives all BBC Sport staff desktop access to content whereas before it was more of a bespoke post-production system.

All this is taking place against a background of the move of BBC Sport staff up to Salford. “It is quite a challenging time in terms of taking advantage of the opportunity that the new building presents and not actually overloading ourselves with massive changes,” he said. “Consequently rollout will be staggered.”

The finishing touches and tests have just been applied to the systems, in time for Football Focus at the start of the 2011-12 soccer season. Match of the Day (presenters pictured) will join in the autumn and the BBC’s sports news service next year.

It may seem strange that the BBC’s sports department is moving wholesale to the North on the verge of the country’s biggest ever sporting extravaganza in the capital.

“That stems from a strategic decision put in place long before the announcement that London had won the Games, but the reality is that Salford will be working 100% by next July.”

Indeed, it is Cope’s responsibility to firstly oversee the technical implementation for Sport at Salford and concurrently to integrate the northern project into the BBC’s 2012 plans.

“We have a dedicated team working on 2012 and the workflows we put in place at BBC North, the way we share content, will inform how we share content across the corporation during the Olympics. We are just beginning now to tie the two together.”