New storage for wide-area post workflows30 May 2012
Working on large-scale productions led Egg Post Production in Dublin to expand its facilities with a production-wide storage architecture. Based in central Dublin, Egg Post Production has recently expanded and upgraded its Georgian townhouse facility to feature the latest in post production technology. The new building boasts 10 offline cutting rooms with both Avid and Final Cut Pro, two online finishing rooms, a Nucoda Film Master grading room, a 7.1 surround sound dubbing theatre driven by a NEVE DFC, a 10 seat VFX area and a DCP authoring room. Egg has a strong pedigree in posting TV drama and features including BBC’s Roy series 1 & 2 and Ripper Street, Sky’s 12 part epic Sinbad, RTE’s The Clinic, Pure Mule and Prosperity, as well as features such as Eden and Triage. Egg has also posted various feature films including Lapland Odyssey, Parked, Isztambul and Earthbound for Ripple World Pictures and four Hallmark Movies for Parallel Films. This depth of experience in features and drama helped the facility to secure the contract for Sky 1’s multi-million pound epic series, Sinbad. Egg had responsibility for the offline editing, grading, online editing, the sound post and some of the visual effects for this Impossible Pictures production. The facility was also awarded the contract to post produce BBC’s latest drama epic Ripper Street. Working on features of this scale required EGG to review its storage infrastructure and file transfer workflows. Shared storage "Ahead of starting this new project (Sinbad), we knew we would need more capacity as well as the ability to share data between several other parties involved in the production," explains Gareth Young, co-founder of Egg Post Production. "What we needed was a production-wide storage architecture that could offer us the performance, capacity and ability to scale in line with our needs while offering us guaranteed compatibility with all our systems as well as our remote partners." Egg already used a number of SANs and Direct Attached Storage pools but had experienced issues with not having the right source material available to the right work area across its 10 offline rooms, two online rooms, Grade and 10 VFX workstations. One of its key requirements was the ability to segment portions of storage and allocate quotas to external partners who connect via dedicated WAN links. The shared storage pools needed to be available 24 hours of the day but it was critical that any third party access should not impact on performance of its own processes — especially when working in projects with multiple contributors.
With the principle photography for the Sinbad production primarily based in Malta, Egg required a fast and secure method to get the daily rushes back to Dublin for offline editing. The limited broadband capacity in Malta also required a solution that would maximise all the available bandwidth all of the time. Fast cluster installation Having recognised that adding a new SAN would not be the right direction to take and still unsure about more traditional NAS solutions from IT vendors, Egg consulted Tyrell CCT to find the ideal solution. EMC Isilon checked all the boxes in terms of data security, scalability and integration with existing creative production systems. EMC Isilon uses a node based clustered storage architecture which is based around its OneFS file system. Egg deployed four EMC Isilon X200 Nodes combined with the EMC Isilon SmartPools, SmartQuotas and Aspera software applications. A key feature of an EMC Isilon cluster is that once the first node is setup and configured, adding in extra storage takes just 60 seconds per node. Consequently, the four node cluster was racked, installed, configured and running in a single day by the team from Tyrell CCT. To meet the workflow requirements of the project, Tyrell CCT implemented an Aspera Enterprise Server as the central traffic control between the Dublin EMC Isilon cluster and the production units located around Europe. Aspera’s fasp technology is designed to overcome the latency, reliability and security issues of standard FTP transfers. With its high speed WAN links Egg is capable of simultaneously delivering massive amounts of data to both internal resources and production partners, with efficient and high-speed transfer performance, configurable bandwidth sharing policies and the ability to monitor and control target transfer rates. Push and pull The combined solution has allowed EGG to dramatically improve the processes it uses to manage rushes, create and edit visual effects while streamlining its collaboration with other production houses also working on elements of the production. "The EMC Isilon platform has proven its worth and allows us to have a single platform that is available to everybody within the organisation. It allows us to quickly move our file-based rushes to where they are needed in an efficient workflow across the entire production — this is a much neater way of doing everything,” says Young. As productions are becoming increasingly geographically dispersed the ability to join the production partners via high speed WAN links is essential. However with this comes the unreliability and security issues of the public internet. With the Aspera Enterprise solution Egg is able to overcome these difficulties and push and pull data to and from the EMC Isilon cluster in a cost effective, secure and reliable manner. Also with the SmartPools and SmartQuotas applications on the cluster, Egg can segregate, prioritise and manage the storage capacity for all aspects of the Sinbad production and also for other concurrent jobs on which they are working.