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In January of 2010, thelab, a media arts company that creates and produces content for broadcast, print and interactive media, found out that its client BBH had been selected to produce 360-degree advertising for General Motor’s luxury brand, Cadillac. The project was expected to generate a torrent of 4K RED files, which would need to be processed fast.

Anticipating the impact of this dramatic increase in file volume, thelab’s director of technology, Steve Ting, sought a more efficient way to ingest, manage and edit assets, starting with 30TB of footage generated during the first shoot. To design and implement a solution that would dramatically increase thelab’s ability to store, process and render vast amounts of content, Ting engaged technology firm Control Group and challenged it to do it in less than 60 days.

The solution was a high-performance SAN, which enabled administrators to create and partition additional storage containers without having to bring in additional, disparate systems. Running on top of the SAN was StorNext, a crossplatform, clustered file system that allowed clients running any OS to collaborate on large media files, eliminating slow network transfers and the need to duplicate data.

Amping up rendering capabilities was a BOXX Technologies render farm solution managed by Deadline render management software. The BOXX solution centralized rendering for 3-D and 2-D files, allowing a variety of media file types to be rendered on the same hardware. The result was a decrease in render times for some scenes from 12 hours to just two.

Control Group also expanded thelab’s existing GigE infrastructure and installed additional QLogic Fibre-Channel switches for the SAN, providing the higher port density and additional bandwidth necessary to support the new services.

Mac workstations were connected to the SAN over Fibre Channel using Apple’s Xsan software, while the group’s Windows workstations and render farm accessed the file system over Ethernet using the StorNext Distributed LAN Client (DLC) software. The software allowed the machines to be native StorNext clients with high-bandwidth access to storage over thelab’s existing Ethernet infrastructure, reducing the amount of new fiber cabling required.

Enhancing StorNext was Storage Manager, which provided advanced hierarchical storage management capabilities as well as full support for automatic migration of data between disk, tape and archive tiers based on business rules. To streamline editorial workflow, Control Group installed Final Cut Server (FCS), enabling asset management, file organization, versioning, searching, check-in/check-out and online/offline workflow. FCS provides normalization of all video to a common working format. Integrated with an Episode Engine cluster, FCS enabled seamless centralized transcoding for delivery to a variety of video and codecs without sapping processor power from editor workstations.

The new platform enabled thelab to produce a 30-second spot for the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V, from shoot to finish, in just 25 days.

  • Post & network production facilities
    Submitted by Control GroupDesign teamControl Group: Scott Anderson, partner; David Rocamora, sr. consultant; Charlie Miller, sr. consultant; Erik Childs, eng.; Ivan Wright, eng.; Stephen Cheevers, proj. group director; Miles Green, dir. of network eng.
    thelab: Tom Conti, COO, exec. VP; Steven Ting, dir. of IT; Rob Pepe, dir. of oper.; Julian Schlaver, chief strat. officer, VPTechnology at workAdobe: After Effects
    Apple: Mac Pro workstations, Xserve servers, Xsan clients, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Server, Compressor software
    Autodesk: Maya
    BOXX Technology: RenderBOXX servers
    eyeon Software: Fusion
    Prime Focus Software: Deadline
    Promise: VTrak RAIDs
    QLogic: SANbox 5802v 8Gb Fibre-Channel switches
    Quantum: StorNext StorageManager, Scalar i500 tape library
    Telestream: Episode Engine
    V-Ray: Rendering engine

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.