When the San Francisco Giants installed an HD video board in 2007, it was ahead of the curve, the third baseball team to help usher in a new era of visuals.
Prior to the installation, the Giants shot footage for the game board on SD cards; the new technology required professional digital recording memory storage.
With a snap, memory storage requirements increased dramatically. The consultant the Giants worked with specced out a 2 TB hard drive server for their system, Paul Hodges, VP of the San Francisco Giants Productions, told CIO Dive. "We blasted through that in two months."
Cameras started to evolve, the Giants won the World Series — 2010, 2012 and 2014 — and Showtime followed the team around.
Winning championships thrust the Giants into the content acquisition and archives world, Hodges said. Since 2007, the production studio has worked to build its massive library, producing in-house video formats across social media channels.
It's a fitting investment. The Giants just installed Major League Baseball's first 4K capable scoreboard this year, investing $10 million on baseball's third-largest board.
The team just had to figure out how to capitalize on what was in its extensive archives. Teams with rich histories face losing the memories of their franchises if archives are not attended to and migrated to formats that can stand up through the ages. It's a lesson in preservation and disaster recovery as all media formats enter the digital realm.
The Giants' legacy spans its move from New York to San Francisco in 1958.
Whether a team is in the playoffs or the cellar, loyalty drives a passion for throwbacks, historic footage and media remembering the giants of the Giants.
"Part of all those tapes are those memories of the generational link to the game itself," Hodges said. "It becomes so valuable."
In July 2018, the Giants began a preservation push to digitize the organizations archives — 16,000 assets on an array of formats, from 16 mm film to VHS. The team partnered with information management company Iron Mountain to digitize the old video formats, many of which no longer exist.
When Hodges pushed for the project internally, he didn't try to come up with a monetization plan. "It was more the emotional attachment to, we got to save these assets, which was huge," he said.
Converting the tapes to digital formats will help the Giants realize what it has. Footage long forgotten reemerges and assets of team heroes can become accessible.
From Willie Mays' dazzling feats to Juan Marichal's leg kicks to Willie McCovey's intimidation at the plate, the Giants needed storage. Lots of storage.
Depending on the initial format, or what kind of resolution assets are converted too, media files are difficult to compress, Cindy LaChapelle, principal consultant at analyst firm ISG, told CIO Dive.
One of the special qualities of digitized images and video is it is not a data type that is highly compressible without impacting the quality of the pictures, she said. Compression can actually make files bigger.
Almost every frame of video is somewhat unique and a single analog video could have thousands of images.
The challenge is managing, cataloguing and having the ability to search those files, LaChapelle said.
Future of the footage
The Giants expect to finish the digitization project in October 2020, and thus far are about 20-30% done. The team had top-down support to protect the assets, but it has also breathed new life into historical footage.
The team is "seeing a lot of this film somewhat for the first time because there's so much other detail in the image that you don't see when it's been generational copied over in that world as well," Hodges said. "It starts to present its own noise and loss."
Once everything is digitized, it will become part of a library with backups. The goal is to eventually find an artificial intelligence system to weave in and derive insights on the media it has captured.
With advanced technology layered on, the Giants could type "Willie Mays" and see all the times he was shown graphically, his name appears in transcripts or his face was spotted by facial recognition systems, Hodges said.
"You can go even deeper and say, 'Mays 1972' and you can get right to those clips," he said. "You can't do that as it exists today trying to go though tapes even in the analog world or even in the digital world if you're just going through and trying to find the spine names."
AI "just unlocks everything," Hodges said.
The team could apply that technology to its existing roster.
Giants short stop Brandon Crawford grew up in San Francisco as a huge fan. In 1992, a plan was put in motion to move the team to Tampa Bay in Florida and the San Francisco Chronicle snapped a photo of a young Crawford leaning over the railing next to a sign that read, "Do what's right! Keep Giants in SF."
The celebrated picture holds the potential for more, Hodges said.
"How crazy would it be to take his face, to scan it into the system and see if maybe there was a foul ball that hit near their section in a game," he said. "Or maybe there's some other players that grew up and you could start to identify and hopefully pick off things that a human could never pick off."
That's where the potential of technology starts to get cool, as you start teaching the machine to recognize what you're interested in and looking for, he said.