Over the past three years, the media and entertainment (M&E) industry has undergone dramatic changes. For starters, cinema saw an unprecedented 70.4% decline at the start of the decade, according to World Economic Forum, a shift that prompted the movie industry to rethink everything from the ground up. Meanwhile, streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and others experienced a proportionally unprecedented surge in demand for film and TV content delivered over the internet—all of which was catalysed by the pandemic—putting many studios in a difficult spot, as the future of the industry appeared to be a moving target.
Movies and limited series weren’t the only sectors to feel the heat, either; the landscape for everything from e-sports and live-streamed events to short form content platforms underwent dramatic upheaval, as well. Meanwhile, the data management teams who made all these changes possible have been working over-time behind the scenes so their businesses can keep up. As the direction of the industry has become clearer, so also has the need for a radical new strategy for data management.
Challenges to the Modern Data Management Workflow
While it’s true that pandemic consumption patterns have effectively upended M&E production norms, the wider industry has had a big data challenge for years. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, the evolution of high-definition cameras made it so that film shoots generate as much as 2 terabytes of data per hour and per camera. Not to mention that data then needs to be captured, stored, and moved to different locations, throughout the post-production and commercial release process. Factor in barriers to data mobility, challenges to data security, accelerated project timelines, and the industry-wide push to embrace digitally native workflows—it’s no surprise many businesses in the industry are finding data management an increasingly difficult task. Especially as many productions are asking DITs to do more work within shorter timeframes and limited budgets, each unique video production scenario will require a unique data storage solution.
Whether for a major studio production or small-scale virtual production, discovering a cost-effective storage solution that removes the roadblocks in data logistics workflows for better data accessibility, mobility, and security should be a top priority.
What Post-Production Teams Need from their Storage
From aggregating raw footage on set to duplicating and transporting final files after editing, every stage of the modern production process involves data. For some production houses, the old ways of managing data might still work. Especially for small-scale projects, deploying portable drives for on-site data storage and network attached storage (NAS) to safely back up all the data at a central location for later use works just fine. But many studios are finding their daily workloads expanding while their timetables are getting tighter, rendering this set-up no longer viable for the quantities of data they’re dealing with. Especially as the entertainment industry begins to make the transition toward digitally native workflows, many data managers are looking for an out-of-the-box solution.
The goal of this article is to rethink data management strategies from the ground up and demonstrate the benefits of migrating to a subscription- or as-a-service-based solution for data storage, data transfer and cloud import, in order to ensure everything from pre-production and post-production data is accessible via a uniform interface. Looking forward, data management teams don’t just need higher performing hardware or scalable storage architecture, they need to transform the way they think about data altogether, ushering in a new generation of data management solutions designed to optimize workflows the modern age.
The Benefits of Right-sized Storage Solutions
For DITs consolidating camera cards on-set and transporting them to the cloud, discovering a data management strategy that ensures their data is in the right place, at the right time, and with the right accessibility gives DITs the tools they need for fast ingestion of mass data sets for storage, backup, and archive—all while making sure they only pay for the storage devices they need, when they need them.
Of course, different projects require different infrastructure. Sometimes, a project might require a local, shuttle-like device for storage on-prem that is built to ease data transfers for collaborative post-production workflows. For others, high-capacity, direct-attached local storage built to consolidate large quantities of data on-set quickly and securely are necessary for the camera-to-cloud workflow. In both cases, leaning on a data storage provider to develop a data storage solution that addresses the needs of a particular project and later import that data to the cloud or multi-cloud gives teams time to focus on the work ahead of them.
Because this approach to data management is designed to accommodate workflows that are subject to change between projects—and even, on occasion, between shooting locations—users can also take advantage of the flexibility of as-a-service solutions to configure project-specific architecture to record and broadcast live events, capture a large number of camera feeds, or securely backup data on the go. After all, the cornerstone of a good digital media workflow is data flexibility.
Use Case: Boardwalk Pictures
In September 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, American actor Rob McElhenney and Canadian-American actor Ryan Reynolds announced their intention to purchase Wrexham A.F.C., a Welsh professional association football club that happened to be the third oldest in the world. By the time the deal was completed in February 2021, Boardwalk Pictures had already begun filming an award-winning docuseries that would follow the two rookie sports team managers as they bought and attempted to revive the team called “Welcome to Wrexham.”
Partly due to pandemic complications and partly because the raw footage for the project was shot in Wales, while Boardwalk Pictures’ post-production team was based in Los Angeles, completing the project presented substantial roadblocks for the studios DIT team. On the one hand, shooting each individual football match generated around 20 TBs each, according to Boardwalk Pictures Director of Technical Services, Dan Gordish. In the end, the total season produced upwards of 700 TBs of data.
To complicate things further, “we urgently needed to get footage over to LA,” Gordish said. “It was a huge challenge.”
Luckily, Boardwalk Pictures and the Seagate Lyve teams worked together to devise a solution that featured plug-and-play, direct-attached storage (DAS) devices for their workflows on set and a cloud import service to upload their data to the cloud, enabling their team to consolidate large volumes of data in Wales, physically transportation that data to post-production sites and rapidly ingest everything to the cloud for collaborative, accessible and secure workflows, significantly accelerate their time to data.
“Using a data transfer service [to move data] from the U.K. to the U.S. made it easy,” Gordish said. “All this was managed from the single portal—we simply added a shipping address, and the back end was figured out by Seagate wizards.”
In the end, the Boardwalk Pictures team discovered a cost-effective, on-demand DAS solution on set that effortlessly integrated into their teams’ existing architecture and enabled direct editing and transcoding without requiring specialized training, a task typical data management logistics typically prevent.
“Lyve Mobile has been a game-changer for us,” said Dan Richardson, Director of Technical Services at Boardwalk. “It has allowed us to transport large amounts of high-resolution footage quickly and securely.”
Using a trusted cloud import service also allowed them to quickly and securely move dailies from camera to the multi-cloud, both for active archive and collaborative post-production workflows, resulting in quicker data transfer, saving them several hours per week of overtime costs across multiple departments.
“The time to data improvement has been significant,” Richardson continued. “We used to have to wait weeks to get footage from Wales to Los Angeles. With Lyve Mobile, we can get the footage within days.”
Regardless of the needs of a user’s specific project, deploying DTaaS-based storage strategies gives them the ability to consolidate data on location quickly and securely, using a right-sized, direct-attached, on-prem storage system. When it’s time to move that data, DTaaS-based storage services eliminate the burden for remote IT production teams to figure out sneakernet methods to transport drives to and from set. Leaning on a storage provider to import dailies from a service center close to production straight to any S3 cloud bucket of choice also leaves room for post-production teams to focus on getting the edit done, instead of waiting for their drives to arrive.
When it comes down to it, you can’t produce, broadcast, distribute, stream, or market eye-catching content without a modern approach to data management. Investment today means improved workflows for content producers, tomorrow, and better insights for the business as a whole. Implementing a streamlined, secure, cost-effective, and complexity-free data management workflow that reaps the benefits of subscription- or as-a-service based data management that includes data storage, data transfer and cloud import services, is the best thing you can do for your M&E business to keep up with the industry transformation.
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