"Lights, camera, action" are the words uttered by countless budding film directors to some of the greatest movie icons of all time. The history of film spans hundreds of years. Film editing has moved on tremendously from the early days of the invention of the motion and projector camera. The 1990s witnessed the special effects explosion, and with the reinvigoration of 3D movies, viewers' increased demands for special effects such as VR and with the backdrop of current economic constraints, production companies are under pressure to ensure they stay at the forefront of their industry.
These pressures can lead to inefficient work practices and mistakes. Most recently, ITV was caught offside when a transmission error cut short Nike's first airing of its World Cup ad'. In November last year, ITV also aired the wrong version of a "News of The World" ad during an episode of X-Factor. Mistakes are both financially punitive and can damage reputations beyond repair.
Today, media organizations constantly look for ways to increase competitive advantage, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and win more business. Often, they rely upon the creative talent of their staff, but increasingly talent is being merged with an innovative IT infrastructure, and storage technology plays a critical role.
The nirvana of most postproduction houses is to achieve a multiple streams in a realtime, tapeless storage and workflow environment. That is, the ability for multiple teams of renderers, colorists, and animators to work on the same piece of media, within the same storage infrastructure (namespace) in realtimeand of course with assurance that the final media file produced is the correct file for multiple channel distributionthus avoiding the embarrassment experienced by ITV.
Previously, one of the greatest pain points for postproduction companies has been waiting for just-shot film to be uploaded onto a film scanner before staff can work on it. Postproduction companies also had to wait for that data to be downloaded to local storage devices. Single teams could only work on single pieces of film and then re-save to their local device before a different team could commence their own editing. This resulted in delays and often the wrong film file being worked on.
Recently, significant technological innovations have helped companies move toward their nirvana. However, only a handful of vendors are in the market and all provide proprietary storage environments at a software and hardware level. With ever increasing storage capacity and storage requirements a proprietary storage environment is costly and complex.
However, as recently demonstrated by postproduction company Smoke & Mirrors, a realtime multistream processing environment can now be achieved using open, nonproprietary software and hardware.
In June 2010, Smoke & Mirrors went live with a new organization-wide, open, central storage environment at its offices in New York and Soho, London. With ongoing support, design, and integration of the system undertaken by HPC and storage specialist OCF, the environment uses IBM General Parallel File System (GPFS), IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM), and DataDirect Networks (DDN) hardware. The system delivers a range of benefits:
- Smoke & Mirrors can add storage capacity when required (to meet demand)
- Because GPFS can sit on top of nearly any storage platform, Smoke & Mirrors can add storage hardware from any provider
- Upwards of six users can simultaneously read and write to the same digital video sequences at resolutions of over 2K in realtimeand in some instances 4K for 3D stereoscopic workwith the digital data delivered directly to a central, shared storage pool (reducing delays and potential for errors)
- All digital data is automatically backed up to a Quantum tape library, with IBM GPFS and TSM working side by side. This saves Smoke & Mirrors three person days per month spent searching for old content to archive and also enables the team to recall that content instantlya task that could previously have taken several days.
Replacing a previously manual process, which involved scanning, couriering and uploading data to local storage pools, the storage system at Smoke & Mirrors provides considerable competitive advantage and enables the company to increase staff productivity and deliver content to customers far more quickly.
"Previously, we had to scan, courier, and upload digital format content to our offices, which could take days to complete," says Mark Wildig, CIO, Smoke & Mirrors. "Once the digital data was available, we could only work on it consecutively; we were frequently creating silos of data. Our productivity and efficiency has improved by upwards of 30 percent."
For media companies wanting to benefit from the efficiencies and productivity gains of a realtime workflow environment, then they must think carefully before throwing all their eggs into one vendor's basket.
For certain, the data growth media companies have experienced is not going to subside, neither is the demand for higher resolution film. Because of this, media companies need to adopt a storage environment that offers not only performance, but above all else flexibility and choice.