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Professional media remote workflow solutions

In this article we will look at some digital storage solutions supporting remote workflows in the media and entertainment industries. We will look at how UK-based Jellyfish Pictures is using Hannerspace to aid with its global virtual studio expansion. We will also look at Avid’s latest NEXIS storage releases, including NEXIS-Flex that allows a subscription storage model as well as Blackmagic’s Cloud Store NAS products. Coughlin Associates publishes a report on all forms of digital storage used in professional media and entertainment.

Hammerspace provides access to data stored in data center clusters and clouds with a single namespace. Hammersmith and Jeremy Smith, CTO of Jellyfish Pictures recently briefed me about work they have done to advance Jellyfish’s special effects (VFX) and animation virtual studio strategy, including remote creative work. Among the video projects Jellyfish has worked on are various Star Wars movies and TV shows, including The Book of Baba Fett. They have also been involved in animation projects with DreamWorks Animation such as How to Train Your Dragon: Homecoming.

Jellyfish employs more than 300 artists across two UK studios and supports remote work all over the earth. Jellyfish found that Hammerspace’s Global Data Environment provided high-performance local access by artists where ever they work and allows rendering to be performed in any cloud region without creating multiple copies of data. Jellyfish had done a complete shift to virtual VFX and animation in late 2019, just before the COVID pandemic. With a pause in living video shooting special effects and animation demand increased to allow continued releases of movies and television shows.

Jellyfish needed to control its expenses and the increased work meant that the company had to use their own CPUs and GPUs but had to burst render to the cloud, usually in the most cost-effective cloud region to meet its production schedules, while controlling its budget. Jellyfish partnered with Azure and Hammerspace to orchestrate content to a distributed and growing workforce and to enable cost-effective rendering in a choice of geographic cloud regions. The figure below illustrates the advantages Jellyfish gained with this partnership.

With Hammerspace, artists were able to work om their home offices using their preferred set of tools while accessing the content shared across all locations. These locations can share the same data set or content repository with high-performance local read/write access to the content. Hammerspace was integrated with Jellyfish Pictures workflow management tool, Autodesk ShotGrid to let artists access the content the need, where they need it, with the workflow tools they were accustomed to working with. Jellyfish also used Hammerspace’s replication process to ensure availability of assets for ongoing work in the event of an outage.

Avid recently introduced its latest NEXIS workflow optimized video storage to support higher quality video content with 4K, 8K and HDR as well as supporting remote work from home and the increased adoption of cloud and as-a-service media capabilities. The company is focusing its video storage offerings to support cloud as well as on-premises storage. Over the years Avid has provided various store systems and services, focused on the needs of media and entertainment professionals.

The 2022 Avid NEXIS release provides increased deployment flexibility, purchasing flexibility, more collaboration and greater connectivity options. The release includes new F-series storage hardware, Avid NEXIS/VFS an intelligent virtual file system with patented media due times for on-premise and cloud deployments and an annual software subscription Avid NEXIS/Flex to provide an alternative to traditional Capex purchasing.

The Avid F-Series has faster storage controllers than prior products providing higher performance and enhanced network interfaces and supports a great number of files that the prior E-Series. There is also new expansion storage hardware to replace the prior E4 engine. The F-series includes SSD as well as HDD based storage hardware for trade-offs in performance and storage. The image below shows the AVID NEXIS F-series storage hardware.

Avid says that its NEXIS/Flex product augments Avid NEXIS on-premises solutions and compliments today’s Avid cloud solutions and allows an easier transition from Avid on-premises to Avid NEXIS cloud.

Bob Caniglia from Blackmagic spoke to me about his company’s Blackmagic Cloud Store products for media projects (particularly DaVinci Resolve!) that it introduced just before the 2022 NAB show. There were three types of products that were part of this release. The Blackmagic Cloud Store is shown below. It is a network attached storage device (NAS) that uses M.2 flash memory cards running in parallel (RAID 5 groups) to enhance performance and data protection and uses Dropbox live sync to distribute files between multiple units globally for very fast local file access with 1Gb and 10GB Ethernet connections. It also includes an HDMI monitor output with real-time storage status. Local ingest is supported using the USB-C ports. The product is available from 20TB to 320TB.

Blackmagic’s Cloud Store Mini is a smaller NAS box (8TB of storage) providing RAID 0 for the M.2 SSDs for fast file access with a single 1Gb and 10GB Ethernet port. It also works with Drobox live sync to distribute files to multiple sites and also comes with the HDMI monitor for storage status output.

The company’s Cloud Pod lets you turn any USB-C storage device into network storage (NAS). It features a 10Gb Ethernet connection, 2 USB-C ports as well as that HDMI monitor port and supports Dropbox live sync. It is designed to help upload USB storage content into a network for editors and colorists to work on the content.

Professional digital media products depend upon fast storage products. Hammerspace helped Jellyfish pictures create global remote studios. Avid’s latest NEXIS release includes faster hardware and new subscription model storage. Blackmagic introduced its Cloud Store NAS product line for shared video editing storage. Forbes

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