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XenData Beta Sight

Mark Lindey, senior engineer and systems administration at Modern VideoFilm (MVF), and the XenData X64 Edition in MVF's server room.

Mark Lindey, senior engineer and systems administration at Modern VideoFilm (MVF), and the XenData X64 Edition in MVF's server room.

Modern VideoFilm (MVF) delivers postproduction services and quality control to its partners such as Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, NBC, and Universal. MVF was recently the lead postproduction facility for James Cameron's epic Avatar, managing all of the color correction and effects integration for the film.

While MVF's recent work on Avatar has been a highly visible part of what the company does, it has also been responsible for housing and implementing quality control for many companies, including online providers of digital video content. At MVF's facility in Burbank, Calif., client video files are tested for audio and video quality and data integrity, ensuring that each media package is correct and in line with the required specifications. The approved package is then moved back to the client where, for example, a lower-resolution media can be created and placed into the client's distribution channel.

One of MVF's main priorities has been shortening the amount of time taken from submission to making the clients' product available to the user. For some of the more ambitious projects, the company has successfully reduced this time to just a few days instead of several weeks.

With so much data being exchanged and hosted on servers, one of MVF's most important responsibilities is keeping clients' assets protected and secure. For this reason, how assets are stored and archived is critical. One of the essential functions is that of a data safe deposit box where clients' data is kept safe, ensuring that video assets are not leaked and that Client A's content remains separate from Client B's.

With so many terabytes of data being moved, MVF's servers would often reach capacity with client data and so the company needed to decide between buying more disk storage, eliminating some video assets, or choosing a different storage technology.

XenData digital video archiving software


MVF made the decision to work with XenData, a provider of digital video archiving software for the media and entertainment industry. XenData software manages LTO data tape libraries to create a highly scalable digital video archive. To meet MVF's needs for high-performance archiving, XenData agreed to install a prerelease of its XenData X64 Edition, version 4. (The X64 Edition was only put on general release with version 5 in October 2009.) It was first installed in October 2008 at the Burbank facility with a Sun StorageTek SL500 LTO tape library with 150 active tape slots. The capacity of each LTO-4 tape cartridge is 800 GB, which means that MVF started with 120TB of LTO tape storage. Later, the tape library capacity was upgraded by enabling another 130 slots to reach more than 220TB. In October 2009, MVF upgraded the XenData software to version 5, which provided additional functionality.

As is the case with online digital video, keeping the work time to a minimum is critical for many clients, so the system had to be flexible and efficient. The X64 Edition has improved the archiving and storage process in both of these ways. For some projects, it is necessary to produce two or more copies of each LTO tape. To do so quickly, the administrator configures the XenData policy to automatically write the additional replica tapes. This configuration takes the administrator only a few minutes for each new project. The archive system will then create replica tapes automatically.

The archive has a file system interface, and XenData policies can be configured so that each new project has its own network share and its own set of LTO tapes. When a new project is implemented, the administrator creates the network share on the archive for that project and sets appropriate permissions to allow only the authorized users to access this share. With larger-scale clients, each package of high-resolution content often contains so many different components that it is important for MVF to employ an interface that enables it to keep everything securely together on the archive and allows all related files to be moved as a group. XenData has afforded MVF the ability to do this securely and quickly.

 
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Another useful aspect of the XenData software is the way it dynamically expands each set of tapes, assigning blank LTO tapes as needed.

The new XenData Version 5 provides additional functionality. MVF has found the XenData Prefetch and Smart Copy and Paste fuctions to be particularly useful because they allow the company to restore video assets in an optimized order, which saves a significant amount of time when a large number of files are being restored.

With such a high-volume facility, the ability to implement a cost-effective system is important to Modern VideoFilm. Because XenData licenses its product per tape slot and not per terabyte, MVF has been able to save money. Using XenData to park the asset instead of putting it on spinning disks boosts efficiency, otherwise an awful lot of spinning disks would be needed to maintain everything that's done for clients.

The goal at postproduction companies such as MVF is to continuously deliver a high-quality, systematized approach to their clients, ensuring that assets are processed quickly and accurately and delivered securely to the customer. The installation and implementation of XenData's software is in line with these overall efforts and has enabled Modern VideoFilm to greatly expand its video archive capacity, cut costs, improve efficiency, and support the drive for ever-decreasing submission-to-end-product delivery times.