Skip to main content

National Geographic’s digital workflow simplifies stock footage licensing


New studio technology
— non-broadcast

Submitted by SGI Design Team National Geographic Digital Motion: Phil Spiegel, dir. archives and cataloging; Scott Galczynski, mgr., projects and services; Scott Norcross, tech. ops. mgr.; Kyle Knack, sys. eng.
SGI Professional Services: Zsolt Ferenczy, sys. eng.
OSSI: Brian Hurd, account mgr. Technology at work Brocade 4900 Fibre
Channel switch
InfiniteStorage 4000
RAID storage array
InfiniteStorage TP9300
Fibre Channel
storage array
InfiniteStorage CXFS
shared filesystem
Origin 350 SAN server
Sony PetaSite storage

National Geographic’s digital workflow simplifies stock footage licensing

National Geographic Digital Motion, the archive and stock footage licensing agent for all National Geographic Television film and video, wanted to transform its analog video archive and licensing business into a streamlined digital workflow. It has more than a century’s worth of moving images from around the world, and new footage, much in HD, arrives all the time. The company’s key requirement was the ability to store content and deliver content to the Web in uncompressed formats to maintain the highest possible quality.

National Geographic designed the system and selected the various components. For storage, it contacted OSSI, an SGI channel partner, who suggested SGI InfiniteStorage as the major storage and file-sharing component. SGI engineers suggested SGI Infinite­Storage CXFS shared filesystem and SGI Infinite­Storage arrays to optimize delivery of rich-media content and seamlessly support a variety of complex transactions.

One of the biggest challenges was the amount of data that would be brought into the system. When National Geographic encodes video, three different file formats are created at the same time: uncompressed, MPEG-2 and MPEG-1. The uncompressed data alone is about 100GB per hour.

National Geographic encodes its tapes into an asset management system backed with 34TB shared over two SGI InfiniteStorage TP9300 systems and a later-added additional 35TB of storage on a SGI InfiniteStorage 4000 system. The SGI storage is where National Geographic operators catalog the clips with key words and push them out to an external Web site to allow customers to preview the content and determine their purchases. Once licensed, that content is played out via the SGI SAN and made available in multiple formats, including NTSC, PAL or DVD as before, and now files over FTP. National Geographic will soon be able to encode clips in HD and offer customers all high-definition formats.

SGI CXFS met National Geographic’s criteria to support multiple operating system formats. Windows is its primary platform, but it also uses Macs with Apple Final Cut Pro. The SGI storage is divided into four file systems — two simultaneous encodes to CXFS, with each system encoding the three video streams plus some additional audio, and two transcode stations on CXFS. SGI CXFS is connected to the asset management system using Windows nodes. Archive of MPEG-2s and uncompressed QuickTime files is handled by a 900TB Sony PetaSite, with eight tape drives running an SGI CXFS client. National Geographic has purchased two more encode stations and two more transcode stations and upgraded the Sony PetaSite, ensuring a seamless cutover to HD in the near future.