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NEIGHBOR Film & Video Workflow Solution Case Study

April 4, 2013 by Joe DiBenedetto

Boutique animation studio, NEIGHBOR, had a dilemma – the newly formed company, sprouted from a much larger post-production company, needed a centralized storage solution that would be both fast and future-proof.

Neighbor Workflow Diagram for Case Study

Neighbor Workflow Solution Diagram (Click to see larger)

NEIGHBOR’S STUDIO REQUIRED A SOLUTION THAT WORKED WELL ACROSS A MIX OF OPERATING SYSTEMS.

Maya Animators would be working on both Windows and Mac-based platforms, while the studio’s designers and compositors preferred Mac Pro workstations, running CS6, After Effects, Premiere, and Nuke X.

Add to the mix, a Boxx Technologies Linux-based render farm that would handle Maya renders delivering the final image sequences back to the Mac Pro and Windows based workstations for compositing.

Additionally, two Final Cut Pro workstations would be hitting the server hard, editing creative content for both NEIGHBOR and their sister company, creative agency, KNOCK Inc.

KNOCK had growing storage needs for the 45 designers working on mac workstations. Again, a centralized, expandable storage solution was vital for their operations.

NEIGHBOR President, Rich Haesemeyer needed a solution. “We knew we needed a cross-platform storage solution that would become the backbone for our entire facility moving forward. Four senior level artists and animators would need the ability to both helm projects single-handedly and collaborate effectively as a team. We needed seamless integration, extremely high bandwidth and a solution for future expansion.”

SMALL TREE COMMUNICATIONS OFFERED THE PERFECT SOLUTION WITH THEIR TITANIUM 16-48 STORAGE PRODUCT.

NEIGHBOR had invested heavily in topped out workstations loaded with memory and powerful graphics cards. “We knew we didn’t want our storage server to be the weak link in the pipeline. We would be conforming edits in FCP and Premiere. Both Red and Arri Alexa footage would be sent to animators and VFX compositors for further integration. “The Titanium 16 worked flawlessly,” explains Haesemeyer.

All client projects and associated media live on the Titanium. Broadcast commercial work forms the basis of much of NEIGHBOR’s endeavors, with almost all of their spots finished in HD or 2K. NEIGHBOR’s pipeline allows for all artists to access the media simultaneously, continually updating their composites during the post-production process. Real-time playback is a must. Often times, multiple artists need to preview their work in an uncompressed HD format simultaneously.

The workflow on a typical project for NEIGHBOR, begins with ingest of the camera’s original media drives from the shoot. Red R3D or Arri Alexa footage is ingested onto the Titanium through any of NEIGHBOR’S 6 10GbE capable workstations.

10GbE direct attached FCP and Premiere workstations then go about the business of managing the media, creating an offline, and delivering required plates to animation and VFX artists. Both stations utilize the Titanium as direct attached storage for both capture and output.

Both Mac and Windows based workstations, running After Effects, Maya, and Nuke access the footage directly off of the Titanium. Each artist’s workstation is directly connected to the Titanium via installed 10GbE PCI cards. Rarely are proxies needed for workflow considerations. Both Nuke and After Effects compositing is a breeze. The Titanium rapidly delivers multiple streams of video to the multiple compositors simultaneously. Moreover, multiple artists can access the footage at once, rendering completed composites back to the Titanium at blazing speeds. Virtually no loss in performance has been noticed by NEIGHBOR’s artists even under demanding workflow conditions.

Meanwhile, a Linux-based 10 node Boxx Technologies Maya render farm connects to the Titanium through dual 10GbE uplinks to a gigabit Ethernet switch. Each node on the farm both reads and writes directly to the Titanium, allowing for seamless, immediate integration of Maya animation renders into both After Effects and Nuke composites.

As composites and finalized animations are completed, each iteration of the project is updated on the Titanium. Again, FCP and Premiere edit stations have immediate access to the media allowing edit timelines to automatically update as revised renders and composites are completed.

Lastly, once a project is finished, all media related to a project lives on the Titanium allowing for a single backup and easy archival of the project once it is completed.

EIGHT MONTHS LATER, THE TITANIUM HAS WORKED FLAWLESSLY – NOT A SINGLE HICCUP SINCE INSTALLATION.

The support team from Small Tree has been tremendous. “From day one, Small Tree has been the most responsive company I’ve ever worked with. They promised before the purchase that they would be with us for the long haul. They delivered on that promise. Every call we’ve made about configuration issues was resolved within hours not days” notes Haesemeyer.

“At the end of the day, we wanted a NAS that once installed and configured we could forget about it. I’ll admit I haven’t been back to the server room to tend to it since.

That’s about as close to bulletproof as it gets!”


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