Global, Europe’s largest radio company, is home to some of the UK’s biggest and best-loved radio stations, including Capital, Classic FM, and LBC.
In recent years, Global has taken huge steps to expand its offering and extend its reach, and they have achieved this through streaming many of their events and radio shows live from the studio, and using this as content across their social media platforms. Everything that is captured is hosted on their digital platform, Global Player, which audiences can access to revisit their favourite shows, podcasts and playlists.
Not only have Global “visualised” their radio output, but they have also broadcast a string of music festivals from high-profile venues such as Wembley Arena and The O2 for audiences on Sky TV.
With this much footage being captured, it was natural that the company’s storage infrastructure would require an upgrade. “We had an infrastructure that had expanded with us but was not fit for purpose anymore,” said Jon Crew, Broadcast Engineering Manager at Global. “We had a pretty basic NAS and a lot of external hard drives. Everything we had was full, and we had no useful archiving workflow.”
Aside from storage, connectivity was also an issue. Over the years, the facilities at Global had expanded to around 30 editing workstations, including Mac computers running Adobe Premiere Pro, networked together using gigabit ethernet, and with so much footage being processed on a daily basis at Global, it was clear this wouldn’t work for much longer.
“We capture all of the visualised radio outputs across our channels, so we have a huge amount of content acquired each day,” Crew explained. “We use Telestream Lightspeed for direct ingest from the studios. That is really important, because it means we can start a recording at the beginning of each show, but edit while the file is still building. Often we want to get a story out onto social media platforms while it is still hot, so being able to edit on a growing file was a key requirement.”
Global contacted London systems integrator Trams seeking proposals to provide 10 gigabit connectivity, improved workflow and archiving, but above all a better way to manage and track content. Specifically, they required the ability to automatically delete any discounted footage, to maintain on-site storage levels, and the ability to archive valuable content. Cloud storage would also be essential, to eradicate tape kept in the building.
Due to the length of some shows, much of the content Global produces comes in very large files, so an easy and practical way to navigate the archive was essential. For their long-term storage Global uses AWS so any solution would require a direct link to this.
“ELEMENTS came as a great recommendation from Trams,” Crew recalled. “As well as very solid storage and native Adobe and AWS support, it comes with a very rich asset management and workflow platform, the ELEMENTS Media Library”
The nature of the post-production at Global means that every project is immediate. Short form clips are most valuable when they are available very quickly, and the long form projects need to be turned around swiftly. The workflow for this involves an editor selecting the material they need, they put it into the bins, locking it with the project, and once an edit is complete, all the material is automatically archived and proxies are created. To speed up searches and to allow only the relevant content to be brought back from the archive, all proxies are retained on site.
Being able to browse proxies of our media archive is a game changer. We no longer need to restore whole projects just to locate a single file, and the archiving workflow means that it is easy to clear disk space for the next big project.Jon Crew, Broadcast Engineering Manager, Global
“The front end of ELEMENTS storage really suits the way our team works,” said Crew. “Mounting workspaces matches our straightforward files and folders approach. Our Mac workstations are directly connected to the server network, so we are editing inside the ELEMENTS workspace, which is another big bonus in terms of productivity, as it means we are not using the network to transfer lots of files.”
The infrastructure provided by ELEMENTS also supports broadcast of the major events hosted by Global. These are covered by a contracted outside broadcast production unit, which delivers all the content on disk to Global for ingest, typically 15 terabytes or more.
“We have the same workflow, apart from the initial disk copy,” explained Crew. “Our first task is to bring the highlights of the whole event into a one hour show for Sky. Typically we are committed to delivering that programme within a week of the event, so the pressure is on.”
“We revisit the content frequently for the full year,” he continued. “We retain the rights to performances for a certain time, so we will create packages for Global Player and for the various social platforms in different forms, perhaps focusing on a particular artist. The whole of the concert is likely to be used before we get to the same event the following year.”
ELEMENTS works well with the MacOS environment at Global. A right click on a file or folder in the Finder brings up the appropriate ELEMENTS tasks, allowing a producer to archive a complete project simply and securely. The automation toolkit also implements the necessary housekeeping functions, like cleaning file names to ensure they remain within the house guidelines.
The ELEMENTS support team always impress me. They are quick to respond, available when we need them and always happy to advise.Jon Crew, Broadcast Engineering Manager, Global
“We have a very specific set of requirements and ways of working, but the ELEMENTS system supports us perfectly,” Crew concluded. “It is also very important to say that the continuing support from ELEMENTS has been excellent, the best of all our suppliers. While they deliver excellent technology, they are still personable, the response is always very fast and very positive.”