Monday, July 5, 2010

NASCAR and digital preservation

At first glance, these two things don't seem to have much in common: NASCAR is an automobile racing sanctioning body, and digital preservation is an activity most commonly associated with cultural heritage professionals and academics. However, the two are intimately related. The NASCAR Media Group (NMG) produces NASCAR-related original programming in a wide array of formats, manages NASCAR's relationships with broadcast networks and other media providers, facilitates the integration of NASCAR-related content into other forms of entertainment -- and preserves the materials that it creates. Judging from a recent statement Chief Operating Officer Jay Abraham made to TV Technology reporter Robin Berger, it's dead serious about doing so:
We are responsible as historians and archivists to ensure, preserve, and maintain [NMG's information assets] in a stable, safe, and backed up manner.
NMG, which just moved into a new Charlotte, North Carolina facility, uses a variety of tools that enable it to streamline production and preservation:
  • Building4Media's Fork Production Suite enables NMG to ingest almost 10 terabytes of data from multiple locations every day and to add metadata at the time of receipt. NMG worked with Building4Media to enhance Fork's time-code stamping capability.
  • Front Porch Digital's DIVArchive video content management system. NMG also worked with Front Porch Digital to ensure that DIVAsymphony, the service-oriented architecture framework for DIVArchive, would work well with various third-party products.
  • An Active Storage system provided NASCAR with 200 terabytes of initial storage capacity.
  • A SpectraLogic T950 tape library provides backup and, if needed, could be expanded to store 1.6 petabytes of data.
  • An NMG-developed tracking system will pull data from all of these systems and enable staff to track a given file from the moment of acquisition through its placement in the archive.
NMG has justified its digital preservation investment on the grounds that it will enhance NASCAR's bottom line -- now and well into the future -- and it will be interesting to see whether its investment fully pays off. I suspect that it will. NMG used to produce programming in cooperation with its broadcasting partners, but it has gradually centralized production under its own auspices. Doing so has cut costs for both NMG and the broadcasters, but it's plain that centralization gives NMG more power at the negotiating table than it would otherwise have. Moreover, its ever-increasing volume of readily accessible, properly managed, and eminently repurposable digital assets is probably going to be a cash cow: NMG-controlled materials are finding their way into in feature films, video games, and other forms of entertainment, and will likely make their way into forms of entertainment that haven't been invented yet.

I'll also be interested in seeing how other sports sanctioning and governing bodies approach digital preservation. NASCAR is a bit unusual in that it is dominated by a single family, but every sanctioning and governing body is keenly aware of the monetary value of the content it produces and zealously interested in safeguarding its intellectual property rights. Moreover, they have both the money and the motive to think big -- which is more than most governments, universities, and corporations can say at this time.

By the way, if you need studio time, satellite feeds, or production services, NMG can, for a fee, provide them. You can also arrange to store "your company's entire library of assets" in NMG's content management system -- which leads me to envision a future in which NASCAR becomes a huge digital preservation service provider.

Stranger things have happened.


Arian said...

Interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an AIIM National Capital Chapter event at Nationals Park. Part of the event was a presentation from the IT director for the Nationals.

He said that each stadium in Major League Baseball has fiber optic cable dedicated to sending complete video (from all cameras) and data (play-by-play/stats) to MLBAM (Major League Baseball Advanced Media). MLBAM then pushes that out to all sorts of web platforms and mobile applications.

MLBAM, which is a limited partnership of MLB teams, also runs the website for each team (which is why all baseball teams have essentially the game website). According to the Nationals IT guy, whenever anyone in DC needs video for whatever - they contact MLBAM as they are responsible for long-term storage.

Switching sports, when it comes to film storage and media, you can't overlook the work that NFL Films does. They are probably the model that all these other sports are attempting to emulate.

Generally speaking, I think its probably worth keeping an eye on these kinds of entities to see how they address electronic records challenges.

l'Archivista said...

Arian, thanks for the info about MLBAM and NFL Films. My interest in sports is pretty much limited to pulling for the Saints and lamenting the ongoing struggles of my hometown Browns. Prior to reading about NMG's work, I had not given much thought to how the rise of digital media has altered how professional sports teams and their governing bodies conduct business, but you're absolutely right: those of us who have a professional interest in digital preservation need to pay attention to what these organizations are doing.