Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment Relies on Facilis TerraBlock to
Produce Big Screen Content Both Home and Away
Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment Productions (VWSE Productions) specializes in live sports entertainment and production with an emphasis on in-venue displays. If you find yourself at a live sporting event watching a video board display, it’s almost guaranteed that VWSE Productions is providing the content for that, as well as the ribbon and auxiliary boards. VWSE Productions is involved in the largest and most prominent sporting events in the world. They’ve also been embedded at Churchill Downs (the Kentucky Derby), The Rose Bowl Game, Notre Dame, USC, and every NCAA championship over the last 10 years. With such a large client list, and even larger production list, VWSE Productions is the world’s leader in video board production for major sporting events.
VWSE Productions doesn’t just handle the content, they frequently conceptualize the show, write the scripts, provide control room solutions and crew the event with producers, directors, camera operators, and editors in preparation of the event and on game day.
“We are a turnkey operation when it comes to technical consulting, logistical support, and content production,” says Ryan Kehn, Creative Director at VWSE. “For a given event, we have producers and directors come in, call the script, and direct the crews. We have editors and graphic artists that create pre-packaged segments and editors dropping shots in during the event.”
Last April, VWSE Productions purchased two Facilis 96TB TerraBlock 24D shared storage systems through their reseller Cutting Edge Audio and Video Group for each of their production offices in Studio City, California and Raleigh, NC. The two matching systems replaced older Promise storage drives and other standalone storage solutions. The TerraBlocks became VWSE’s Tier 1 shared storage for all editorial work. Seeking a more portable solution for use onsite, VWSE Productions also purchased a TerraBlock 8D for use as a road server. Installed in a 14RU rack, the 8D, along with some Blackmagic Design and networking gear, becomes a mobile production hub when they’re onsite allowing connectivity via Fibre Channel and Ethernet, depending on the workstation and the environment. VWSE Productions typically takes a team of anywhere from 3 editors to 20 editors depending on the length of an event, and they can be onsite for 2 – 3 weeks or more.
“The 8D has worked well for us. We migrated from a solution we came up with which worked great for 1-2 editors, but as our operation started to expand, we needed to shift our focus to something more portable and versatile, something that could handle the intense loads demanded onsite, and the Facilis storage has been solid,” said Kehn.
For one international event this year, the VWSE Productions team rented a new TerraBlock Hybrid24 through rental company VER, so they’ve been making good use of Facilis systems in their workflows whether they own or rent them!
“The production offices in Studio City and Raleigh are active all year long, so when the team is not at an event we’re back in the office at our main production houses. Most or all of the pre-production editing work happens at those offices on our two Facilis 24D systems,” says Kehn. “When it’s time to travel onsite for production, we’ll copy all the files we need from a project folder on the 24D over to the 8D rack and ship it out to the venue 4 or 5 days before we actually get on a flight. Then once we come back with the 8D, we offload the material either directly back onto a 24D and wipe the 8D, or it goes, straight to our tier 2 storage and LTO archive, depending on the event.”
The editing teams do as much graphics template and feature work as they can in advance of events, with some things obviously having to wait until the crew is onsite. Filming might happen the week leading up to an event and naturally a lot of content is generated on game day.
“Onsite we’re in full production mode, especially for our larger events. We go out well in advance. We’re busy creating templates and generic stuff, like season re-cap pieces, etc.” says Kehn. “The real heavy-duty production doesn’t start until a week prior to the event once the details of the event are finalized. At that point, we essentially have a week and a half to get the rest of the show together, including all the team or athlete content, hype videos, music videos, interview pieces, plus all the graphics and multiple renditions of those graphics. It’s a really condensed timeline for some events.”
With such tight timelines, VWSE Productions demands that equipment be reliable, and easy to deploy and maintain. With Facilis, having the flexibility to connect to shared storage either via Fibre Channel or Ethernet has been important. The Studio City office is connected via 10gig Ethernet while the Raleigh office utilizes 8gig Fibre Channel.
For client workstations, the team connects a combination of Mac Pro towers, Mac Book Pros, and HP Z820 workstations to their Facilis systems. They are an “Adobe house” when it comes to editing and graphics applications, although they also use Cinema 4D for their 3D work.
“We have a lot of users connected to our systems at any given time. Maybe 6 heavy users on either Fibre or 10gig copper at any one time and our producers also connect over Ethernet as well. We demand a lot from our systems, and don’t have time for any problems. The reliability and flexibility of the TerraBlock systems has been good for us,” concludes Kehn.