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Let the data soar

TVBEurope gets an insight from Alexey Senkovsky, director of the camera equipment department at Mosfilm Studios, about its work in 2020 and moving to a CODEX workflow

Mosfilm is a film studio which is among the largest and oldest in the Russian Federation and in the whole of Europe.

Its output includes most of the widely acclaimed Soviet-era films, ranging from works by Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein, who is commonly considered the greatest Soviet director. Mosfilm is the studio that produced Red Westerns and the Akira Kurosawa co-production Dersu Uzala, as well as the epic War and Peace.

The Moscow film production unit with studio facilities was established in November 1923 by the motion picture mogul Aleksandr Khanzhonkov and I. Ermolev. The first movie filmed by Mosfilm was On the Wings Skyward directed by Boris Mikhin. In 1927, the construction of a new film studio complex began on Mosfilmovskaya Street in Sparrow Hills of Moscow. In 1934 the film studio was renamed to Moskinokombinat, and in 1936 finally to Mosfilm, which it has been named ever since. 

The famous Mosfilm logo, representing the monument “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” by Vera Mukhina and Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin, was introduced in 1947 in the musical comedy, Spring directed by Grigori Aleksandrov and starring Lyubov Orlova and Nikolai Cherkasov.

Since its formation, Mosfilm had produced well over 3,000 films. Many of the film classics shot at Mosfilm throughout its history were granted international awards at various film festivals. By 2005, the company had expanded to over ten independent studios, spanning 13 sound stages and occupying an area of 13,000 sq. meters. Tours of this “Russian Hollywood” have become increasingly popular due to a well-kept inventory of Mosfilm’s enormous depot featuring 170 tanks and 50 vintage period cars. The biggest sound stage is leased annually to hold the Golden Eagle Awards. In 2011, Mosfilm released a selection of its classic films online for free streaming keeping the content library relevant.

X2X had the fortunate opportunity to speak with Alexey Senkovsky, Director of the Camera Equipment Department at Mosfilm Studios about what Mosfilm’s has been up to in 2020. Alexey has been working directly with X2X partner, Sfera Video Ltd. in Moscow on upgrading their onset workflow support. Sfera Video, led by Vassily Lunev, recently provided a complete CODEX workflow solution, including a Media Vault shared storage system, to support the on-set data back-up and augment the dailies workflows.

Tell us about Mosfilm and the type of services you provide and who your clients are?
Mosfilm is the leading Russian film company producing almost all the film, television and video content in the country. The studio’s production capacity is more than a hundred films per year. Mosfilm also produces, distributes, and sells the film, television and video products. It also provides services relating to all phases of filmmaking – from writing a screenplay to making source materials for a film production. Our clients are any companies or individuals engaged in the production of feature films, TV series, advertising, music videos, etc. Most films are made at studios that are located at Mosfilm.

In recent years Mosfilm has been actively involved in the modernization of its production and technical capabilities. A great deal of work has been done on the reconstruction of stages and studios and on equipping them with updated studio and lighting  equipment and latest cameras that meet the highest modern-day standards. The most advanced digital equipment is installed in Mosfilm Sound Studio, in the TV-cinema department, and of course the Camera Equipment department that I manage. 

Mosfilm provides all kinds of work on productions from the editing of films and video, to creation of the telecopying and computer graphics. All of this work is carried out using the most advanced equipment. The Studio has created a unique museum of historical costumes, props, and vintage cars. The tour is quite popular for the community. Mosfilm is the only studio that has preserved its film archive and carries out a great amount of work on the restoration of films from its golden collection at its own expenses. Mosfilm is actively involved in Russian film festivals in many countries and runs retrospective shows and screenings in Russia, as well as in other countries. We have even now made these classic films available for streaming.

Mosfilm is an industry-forming company for the Russian cinema system. Having overcome the financial crisis of the 90s, the studio has not only preserved its traditions and professions in the sphere of cinematography but has become a highly profitable enterprise. In the past nine years, it has increased its profitability by more than 10 times. 

Nowadays Mosfilm consists of the new technologies, active filmmaking, highly skilled creative workers, plus the rare content collection of classic films and props. All this allows the studio to be considered the leading enterprise of the Russian film industry and to contribute highly to the revival of Russian cinema. 

What kind of content does Mosfilm create? Is it for TV, Cinema, etc.?
Mosfilm provides a wide variety of services affecting all stages of the production of feature films, TV series, commercials, TV shows, music videos, etc., In addition we provide rental of pavilions, costumes, props, transport, digitization of material, rental of filming equipment, storage of film archive material, plus post-production of DCPs, etc. Mosfilm does not produce its own content, except for the digital restoration of Soviet films. 

What cameras does Mosfilm work with and what are the typical file types that need to be stored and archived? (i.e. film scan, RAW, ProRes)? 
ARRI ALEXA Mini LF, ALEXA Mini, ALEXA SXT, ALEXA Plus, RED EPIC/Dragon, with file format support for RAW MXF, ProRes 4444XQ, ProRes 422, Proxy, DPX from film scans and .MOV files that we create and store. Basically, any camera that the cinematographer chooses to shoot with.

Does Mosfilm work with only Russian productions or do they work internationally as well?
Almost 100% of our work is in support of productions for the local Russian market and restoration of classic Soviet films.

How big is the team using the CODEX Media Vault? 
The current team is just two or three people who work on-site in support of productions. 

Do you manage all projects in-house or do you scale out of house with remote freelancers? 
We manage all projects in-house with our team and the production DIT.

Why was there a need for a CODEX Media Vault shared storage system? 
We have recently started to involve DIT specialists in our workflows for the on-set image analysis while capturing and managing the storage backups, editorial conversion and archiving of this material. The Media Vault provided a quiet but reliable solution for on-set.

How important is it to have access to all of your content in one easy to access shared storage offering like the Media Vault? 
For us it was the total workflow we were considering. We own a CODEX Vault S for data management and most importantly to quickly analyze and review the quality of the incoming content. We use the Media Vault as the primary backup, and it is 10GbE connected to the Vault S workstation. With this set-up on-set we can directly organize the RAW material, convert the files for editorial and archive to LTO. It sounds complex but is quite simple.

What creative applications are you utilizing in-house and on what platforms? Do you have a mixed creative platform with macOS and Windows applications being used with the Media Vault? 
Normally we are using on set the CODEX Production Suite software running on the Vault S (Linux OS) and the Media Vault is connected via 10GbE with Apple macOS workstations. We use other applications for editorial and visual effects.

How does the CODEX Media Vault improve on your previous workflow? 
We have owned the Codex Vault S for the last 5 years. Many small Russian film production company usually works with less expensive solutions based on simple PC’s. But for Mosfilm’s projects this isn’t acceptable at all. We recently upgraded our Vault S to have removable storage with the SSD based Transfer Drive. With the ability to connect the older Vault S with a 10GbE card to the Media Vault and then connect this over 10GbE to an Apple Mac workstation with Thunderbolt connectivity, allowed us to augment the Vault S workflow with the new Capture Drive and Transfer Drive Dock, and with the new modern drive adapters for the ALEXA Mini LF Compact Drive proves Mosfilm has the most professional approach and proper treatment, storage and delivery of captured material. 

How easy is the CODEX Media Vault to use? 
It was very easy to set up the network interconnection between all our equipment with the Vault-S system and Media Vault as the shared storage. Sfera Video and Vassily Lunev were great help in helping to educate and define what CODEX and X2X were offering with the Media Vault. The overall bandwidth performance is fantastic and with the Apple macOS connected systems, and Thunderbolt connectivity of the new Transfer Drive dock, CODEX has continued to provide us with the most complete production workflow solution in support of Mosfilm productions.