Open Road Entertainment is a powerhouse broadcast and theatrical marketing company based in Burbank, California. At any given time, the rapidly growing facility has 40 to 50 different projects in motion, and with that frenetic creative activity comes significant technical complexities. “Our base content, which includes video, audio, graphics and text, is delivered by different clients in different formats, which can be challenging to manage. In addition, we are transitioning from Final Cut Pro to Avid Media Composer, so we were doing a lot of transcoding for both system imports and sometimes for the exchange between the two NLEs,” comments Ryan Egan, post-production manager, Open Road Entertainment. “We were also constantly trying to keep the storage balanced and in check. Smaller projects are typically around 500 gigs of media, while larger projects can get upwards of 15 terabytes, depending on what comes in.”
With over 40 workstations dedicated to the creative process, Open Road Entertainment employs a stable of talented writers, producers, editors, designers and music supervisors to collaborate on theatrical advertising and broadcast promotion. With content at the center of this high-powered team, Open Road Entertainment needed a media-aware storage platform that would map back to the character of the facility and better manage its growing business. “Our first move was to get to a file-level shared storage solution. We had been on a volume-based storage solution for many, many years and with the growing business, it was no longer supporting our needs. With the continued growth in projects and content, we were being stifled by the platform’s single-write, multi-read limitations and needed a solution with bandwidth, scalability and reliability,” states Mark McKellop, assistant engineer. “And because we run on so many NLEs, we couldn’t really commit to a proprietary system like Avid storage. We needed an option that was a little bit more flexible.”
The existing storage solution could not be re-partitioned, which left the team struggling for space. Projects would quickly outgrow and absorb two, three and four volumes. “In addition to pure space issues, our legacy storage system had some quirks that really slowed down collaboration among the team,” explains Ryan. “One editor would write to a drive, but the rest of the editors and creative staff wouldn’t see the update until they unmounted then remounted the drive. So every time there was an update, we had to quit out of the NLE or compositing application and log back in to remount. This wasn’t always possible especially when you are in the middle of a project. We had workarounds, which led to a bit of fragmentation, as content would be stored on external drives or separate servers. We had reached the end of the line with that set up.”
Because there were no sharing capabilities, the team had to create volumes on the server for each editor to set their capture scratch to minimize how much they re-rendered content or re-signed. Without the ability to share projects, there were added complications, especially when someone had to track down original sequences among the 20 editors.
The first move to upgrade infrastructure for Open Road Entertainment was to research file-level storage platforms designed for media workflows. They found all they needed and more in EditShare’s XStream EFS scale-out distributed shared storage platform. Serving as the central hub for Open Road’s online department, the 480TB XStream EFS solution – which includes Flow media asset management and Airflow web-based media management – provides the performance and space Open Road needs, along with critical media management tools that transform the workflow process.
“We would have never been able to turn the projects the way we did without making the switch to EditShare. Because we work under a lot of strict deadlines, there is just always that kind of pressure to get it done. We cannot have any bottlenecks with content access and sharing, and the new EditShare system delivered on that and more,” comments Roger Bacon, assistant engineer, Open Road Entertainment. “The system was also much easier to administer; it’s been nice to be able to assign drives in the whole system. In our old system, if I granted you access to a new project, you would have to log out and log back in to see it, which was a pain. With EditShare, it’s so much simpler – just assign and it appears. I also like the ability to assign to groups.”
Simplicity is key as the workflow at Open Road Entertainment is interconnected; projects cycle through all Avid, Final Cut and Adobe Premiere NLEs as well as After Effects and Pro Tools systems. Ryan elaborates, “We have Premiere deliverables. We have projects we kick out of Final Cut. We have projects we have to kick out of Avid. A lot of times we’re working a project that goes through all three NLEs. Most of our audio work is done primarily within the NLEs but we do have three Avid Pro Tools systems that we use for finishing.”
Designed for sharing cross platform and cross application, EditShare solutions give creatives direct access to files with tools to work in the format that they need, immediately. Backed by the performance of a scale-out system, there is never a downgrade in speed as storage capacity grows. With 40 systems logging in simultaneously through the day and evening, that’s a critical performance capability Open Road lacked in their legacy infrastructure. In addition, XStream EFS ships with EditShare advanced project-sharing capabilities. “There’s already a big difference with sharing projects and having everything in one place. An editor can toss another editor a sequence, or an assistant editor could come in and grab a sequence or update if necessary, and it’s all right there,” Ryan explains.
Beyond the performance boosts and media sharing, the Open Road Entertainment infrastructure boasts a media management layer that lets them organize assets in a way they can share across the facility and, eventually, with clients. Fully integrated within the XStream EFS platform, the Flow media asset management and AirFlow web-based modules provide key production capabilities including asset tracking, fast production tools for managing ingest and storyboarding, and remote access.
Roger comments on the multi-faceted package of capabilities, “I like that there’s extra features like Flow because we can utilize more of a collaborative server than straight up storage.” He elaborates on Flow specifically, saying, “Just having the Flow proxies available to preview saves us a lot of time, because they’re created automatically, so producers can easily log in and review material we are working on then give direction without having to track us down and say, ‘Hey, have you got that yet? If you got it, have you brought it in yet?’ They can just retrieve it themselves.”
The Open Road team also wants to get away from having to do any transcoding and will use Flow Automation capabilities to build client-specific workflow automation protocols that manage tedious processes like transcoding. Roger comments on the value this will bring: “Automating the transcode step gives us the ability to immediately take data that’s being delivered to us and start work. It’s a big timesaver. Very big.”
And for AirFlow, the team also has big plans. Aside from being able to access media remotely, the team plans to use it for client review and approval, consolidating the production and delivery tools to one platform. “Because the client review and delivery tools are in a separate application that is disconnected from what we do, we have to package the media separately for delivery to the client. Eventually, we would like to use AirFlow to securely share content with clients, especially for the review deliveries. It will keep everything in one place and give us a way to check and balance what went where. No need to be on the system that sent it. Less overhead and more control,” states Mark.
With the ever growing workload, the Open Road team needed to add an additional 96TB XStream EFS node. Offering near unlimited scalability, it was as simple as ordering and connecting to the main system.
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