If you're a fan of live action sports video, it's a good bet you've seen the work of Action Sports Productions.
For more than 12 years, ASP has provided live multi-camera HD broadcasts, webcasts, and post production for some of the world's most high-profile events in surfing, skateboarding, motocross, and more. It's a challenging environment, and as ASP's founder Jay Johnson points out, there's no green screen in the real world. "We're covering major surfing event productions like the NSSA Championships, and we're not in a controlled studio environment - we're hanging from scaffolding two miles out over the ocean," says Johnson. In this no-second-chance environment, the setup needs to be stable, dependable, and deliver the best quality video. "In the surf industry, everything is webcast and it's all pretty high quality," says Johnson. "Surfing competitions are major productions - very high-end edits, multiple camera shoots, HD coverage - and the system has to work flawlessly and deliver the highest quality content." With location shoots anywhere from Huntington Beach to the oceans off Fiji, rugged portability is a key requirement, and ASP opted for the dependability of an Apple-based system. "We were looking for a Mac-based solution because it's a very stable platform and the hardware travels well," Johnson explains. And travel it does. The shock-mounted SBK flight case houses three Mac Minis, outfitted with AJA Io XT interfaces and running ToolsOnAir's just: Broadcast Suite, a complete production workflow environment that includes multi-channel ingest, timeline-based playout automation, real-time graphics integration, and media asset management. "ToolsOnAir offered exactly what we needed in the way of a solid, intuitive workflow," says Johnson. The system includes three Mac Minis with AJA Io interfaces connected via Thunderbolt. One Mac Mini handles ingest running just:in, passing video to a second Mac Mini recording to solid state drives. Playout and graphics integration is covered via just:live, and a third Mac Mini serves as an editing station using Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. AJA's Io XT is a compact, portable solution for video capture and playback utilizing lightning-fast Thunderbolt technology. Features include 3G/Dual Link/HD/SD-SDI, component analog and HDMI connectivity, and uncompressed HD and SD 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 capable video and audio connectivity. "We work in very challenging environments, and the stability of this setup is critical," says Johnson. "The Mac Mini and AJA Io XT is a great hardware solution, and the speed and throughput of Thunderbolt is incredible. And that, combined with the ToolsOnAir workflow, is what makes this all possible." ASP's workflow setup includes 3 Mac Minis and 2 Io XTs. One Io XT passes video from the first Mac Mini running just:live, ToolsOnAir's live production management tool, to the second Mac Mini, equipped with a recording device. Then a second Io XT takes data from that Mac Mini to a third, where ASP uses Apple Final Cut and Adobe Premiere Pro to edit. "I work in very challenging environments, so to have stability in my workflow is key," said Jay. "I'm not in a studio, I'm out hanging from scaffolding 2 miles over the ocean - but my mobile units still need to deliver the highest quality content. These surfing competitions are a major production along the lines of an NFL game - very high-end edits, multiple camera shoots, HD coverage - and I need reliable tools. AJA's Io XT is absolutely a key component to having a successful workflow." ASP's most recent surfing project was broadcasting Nike's NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) Championships in Huntington Beach, CA. "With the new workflow we were able to successfully produce multiple webcasts for the event, with absolutely no issues," said Jay. "The incredible throughput of Thunderbolt paired with these reliable tools is really the only way this could all be possible."