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Shoulder High Productions Installs Next-Generation Storage System from Media Distributors for Transbay Transit Documentary

Polaris RAIDâ„¢ System Enables Scalable Workflow and Editing for Massive 5-Year Documentary; Brings Enterprise-Class Storage to Independent Production Firm


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Shoulder High Productions, a noted San Francisco-based independent film production company, today announced that it has installed Media Distributors’ recently-introduced Polaris RAID™ storage system for use in the production and post-production of a five-year documentary project on the development of the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center. The next-generation storage system, the most effective in the industry, will enable Shoulder High to easily store and access footage in a single-system environment.

Marketed by Media Distributors’ Line 1 Media division, Polaris RAID is the industry’s most affordable RAID storage solution. The system will be marketed to production customers that require large-scale storage for video and effects workflow. The system – at $11,999 – offers the most competitive price for its storage capacity. Combined with Media Distributors’ Constellation VCM™ asset management system, the first video asset management system to leverage next-generation enterprise tiered storage techniques and digital fingerprinting, Polaris RAID provides for a highly flexible, scalable storage and distribution system for a wide range of customers, from large-scale video rights holders to small production and post-production companies.

Chris Baldwin, principal of Shoulder High, stated that the three to five years’ worth of archival footage for the project – dubbed as the “Grand Central Station of the West� – was a tipping point for him in seeking a replacement for his growing array of removable hard drives (or JBOD – just a bunch of discs – array). The story of the history and the future of the public transportation infrastructure of the San Francisco Bay Area, Baldwin’s documentary will examine the more than 60-year journey to build the new Transbay Transit Center, a gigantic three-block long work of art that will act as the new hub for all public transportation systems of San Francisco. The TTC will also house the future High Speed Rail system which will allow travelers to zip between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just under 2 1/2 hours.

“I was at a breaking point, where I had to move to a more scalable editing environment, after I had been awarded the Transbay project. With other documentary projects in the pipeline, this was the moment to research and commit to a well-thought-out production solution for my entire company. I was fortunate enough to discover the Media Distributors Archive Station and Constellation storage and asset management systems at NAB 2009,� said Baldwin. “The Polaris RAID system was an ideal system for us; it combines the incredible search capabilities of Constellation with a powerful storage system.�

Baldwin’s team is using two Apple Final Cut Pro systems, a render farm, and the Constellation VCM system to manage the entire workflow environment. The company was previously using an ever-growing number of hard disc drives to track all of the assets, which will now flow into the Polaris RAID.

In addition to his work on behalf of the Transbay Joint Power Authority on the TTC project documentary, Baldwin produces a 90-minute monthly seminar series for the Long Now Foundation, a group dedicated to fostering long-term thought, and is currently shooting a long-form doc for them on the development of a 10,000-year clock that is being built in the Nevada desert. The Long Now Foundation work, produced since 2005 in HD, is just one aspect of a local storage issue that Baldwin has had to address.

“There is a massive amount of media that adds up with HD documentary production. Due to the intensive nature of the Transbay project – with 50 terabytes of data that I have to juggle – you can only connect so many Firewire and eSATA drives,� said Baldwin. “I knew that I could use Constellation for the data and metadata management. Some of the corporate jobs we do for the likes of Apple, Genentech, and Intel take up hundreds of gigabytes per project, so it takes no time at all to fill a 1 terabyte external drive. RAID hard drives are no longer a long-term solution if you produce long-form doc or episodic television. The Polaris RAID system offers an extensibility path that is very cost-effective for us and enables us to map our pipeline with our workflow in a manageable way.�

Baldwin, who had purchased hard drives from Media Distributors for several years, felt that the Archive Station system would work well with his tapeless P2 environments. With an Intel eight-core system, Shoulder High’s LTO and Blu-ray Disc back-up could be performed within Polaris RAID, and integrated seamlessly with Baldwin’s Final Cut Pro workflow.

“I have multiple edit stations with need for access to content, and just as Apple Final Cut Pro enabled a new generation of editors to start up a business, without $50,000 of infrastructure, I now have a real storage area network, with a workflow system, that provides for greater productivity at affordable price points. I can now perform post-production work as fast and efficiently as I would want,â€? said Baldwin. “In addition, the combination of the Polaris RAID at RAID 6 and the Constellation integration to the LTO-4 and Blu-ray long-term archive features provide me with a secure solution that offers bullet-proof data redundancy. In this business, if you’re at risk of losing data, you’re at risk of going out of business. The RAID and Constellation back-up systems absolutely alleviate this stress and the library organization keeps me working — not searching for files.â€?

Media Distributors’ chief engineer Tony Cahill noted that Shoulder High Productions is emblematic of high-end independent production companies that seek more sophisticated storage and workflow systems today.

“We see Polaris RAID and Constellation providing automatic archive and management of total production assets from the opening of the lens cap to the final edit, and Shoulder High demonstrates the demand we have from smaller outfits for what was only recently considered a larger-facility type solution,� said Cahill. “The economies of scale for tapeless workflow are leaning more favorably to the independent production industry, and Media Distributors is poised to capitalize as a leading product and service provider for this market segment.�

Established in 1998, Shoulder High Productions serves a wide range of clients with an even wider range of stories. Over this amount of time SHP has worked on Award winning, fictional Short Films, international wildlife documentaries, corporate communications for the Silicon Valley’s leading companies, and video podcasts for many of the non-profits in our community. Our tag line for our first 10 years was “Media of the World, For the World� and we set as mission to work on projects that aimed to make the world a better place.

Given this wide range of clients and stories though, we have decided to from two companies to better highlight our specific focuses and services. Launched in 2008, Sustainability Media Productions is now the new Green Division of Shoulder High Productions. SMP will serve our clients and partners telling stories of cultural and environmental sustainability. Shoulder High Productions has therefore reoriented itself as a full service, content neutral, media production company. SHP will hold onto our tag line though as we are still creating “Media of the World, For the World.� For more information, please visit



Since 1998, Media Distributors has become the nation’s largest independent distributor of professional recording media products to the production, broadcast and entertainment industries. Supported by 85 full-time employees, it has earned this position by leveraging its numerous authorized dealer relationships to provide its customers with outstanding service, competitive pricing and a best in class branded product offering. The company offers a vast array of products, including professional videotape, motion picture film, data media, storage, video editing systems, rentals, software, disc duplication/publishing systems and media accessories. In addition, Media Distributors offers a number of value-added services, including product re-certification, recycling & disposal, custom barcoding, consultation and systems integration. Offices nationwide, including LA, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: If you would like a color photograph of Tony Cahill, chief engineer of Media Distributors; Chris Baldwin, CEO of Shoulder High Production, or screenshots or product shots of the Polaris RAID, Constellation VCM, or Archive Station products, please contact Chris Pfaff at 201-218-0262 or