The transition from traditional optical film to digital formats has been a boon for resolution, editing, and post-production additions for film studios. But, as Pacific Title and Art Studio has discovered, it can also create hassles with extremely large files that transfer over the network at different speeds.
In order to play back film in a non-interrupted, sequential mode, Pacific has looked to the Brocade SilkWorm 48000 Director for the feature-length films it works on, which have included "Spiderman," "The Matrix," and "Snakes on a Plane." The SilkWorm 48000 is 4G-bps channel director that provides a foundation for server and storage consolidation, routes traffic, and centralizes SAN (storage area network) management. Its designed to integrate with multiple operating systems to enable better handling of high-volume processing applications like data warehousing and data backup.
"When you go to a movie, each second of film has 24 frames," said Andy Tran, senior executive vice president and chief technology officer at Hollywood-based Pacific. "When the film is in a digital format, each frame has a different amount of information, which means that each is a different size."
Teams of artists at the company need to transfer parts of a film to each other, or work concurrently in different locations, and the difficulty comes with transferring such large chunks of data—each frame is at least 13 megabytes or larger—because theres a danger that the film snippets will download out of sequence.
Often, films have to be done under tight deadlines, and that makes any issue with playback a major problem. In addition to simply viewing film, the artists need to make changes to color and special effects at the same time that other artists might be working on the same file to tweak components like resolution or overall visual quality. Having the frames sputter through the network out of synch would be a serious issue at Pacific.
"If you play back one frame before another and its out of whack, it disrupts the whole workflow," said Tran. The company experimented with other products, he added, but had difficulty in getting the results it wanted. "SilkWorm can deliver data in non-blocking mode, and thats unique."
In addition to the SilkWorm, Pacific utilizes Brocade SANs to support other post-production work, such as support of homegrown systems that convert optical film to digital formats.
Tran added that Pacific uses multiple vendors for storage of its data files, but that Brocade is effective in that arena as well, since it integrates well with both Linux and Windows.
"We use Brocade mainly for switching the files," said Tran. "But they work great with other devices and products."
Also a benefit in the partnership with Brocade is the upgrade capability. Recently, Pacific did a significant infrastructure revamp, and the interoperability of its multiple vendors, particularly Brocade, made the transition smoother.
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