Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment Relies on Facilis TerraBlocks to Produce Big Screen Content Both Home and Away

HUDSON, MA (January 19, 2017) –Facilis, a leading international supplier of cost-effective, high performance shared storage solutions for collaborative media production networks today announced that Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment Productions (VWSE Productions), the world leader in video board production for major sporting events, is relying on several Facilis TerraBlock shared storage systems to produce big screen content for both their onsite production departments and for use offsite during major sporting events.

VWSE specializes in live sports entertainment and production with an emphasis on in-venue displays. The company is involved in the largest and most prominent sporting events in the world and has been embedded at Churchill Downs (the Kentucky Derby), The Rose Bowl Game, Notre Dame, USC, and every NCAA championship over the last 10 years.

“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.”

Recently, 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 offsite, 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 on the road allowing connectivity via Fibre Channel and Ethernet, depending on the workstation and the environment. VWSE Productions typically takes a team of three to twenty editors depending on the length of an event, and they can be on site at an event for two to three weeks or more.

“The 8D has worked well for us. We migrated from a solution we came up with which worked great for one or two 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 during major events productions, 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 offsite 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.”

A unique feature of the Facilis shared storage network is the ability for storage servers to be seamlessly connected and disconnected whenever a server needs to “hit the road.” 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 on site at the event. Filming might happen the week leading up to an event and naturally a lot of content is generated on game day. 

“Once we get on site at the event, 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.