As one of the leading post-production houses in the UK, ENVY is deservingly named, delivering programmes across a diverse range of genres including factual, drama, comedy and light entertainment. Situated across five central London locations and offering its clients a full spectrum of post-production services – from offline and online to grading, VFX and audio – ENVY’s technical operations are sizeable and require expert use of the latest technologies to deliver consistently high standards. It was precisely this commitment to technical excellence that recently led the company to invest in a major expansion of Pixit Media’s PixStor scale-out NAS and SAN system.
“We had originally invested in PixStor a couple of years ago,” explains Jamie Bean, Systems Technologist at ENVY, “though our initial system had been for a very specific area of our workflow, providing 2K realtime playback and fast data access for our VFX finishing systems.” ENVY now wanted to extend this capability for their Longform Department and introduce a central asset repository that would be accessible to all its users and provide the backbone for an end-to-end file based workflow across the facility. “One of PixStor’s chief characteristics is that its performance is not only guaranteed but sustained, and it doesn’t diminish or fragment through continued usage,” says Bean. “It’s predictable and very low maintenance from an IT perspective which makes it a great fit for central storage.” Price was also a key factor with PixStor’s server based licensing model allowing ENVY to increase its storage capacity with only commodity hardware costs to consider, a proposition which Bean describes as “very compelling.” After careful consideration ENVY chose to install 267TB of useable storage capacity offering 19.2 Gb/s of network performance in addition to its existing PixStor set-up. The expanded architecture increases the efficiency of ENVY’s workflow, offering much greater collaborative capability across all creative departments. The VFX, online and grading systems all access the storage using ENVY’s high-performance network, with offline and production users connecting via a PixStor gateway node and standard gigabit – allowing all users access to the same file system. The solution was installed by solutions specialist ERA, working in close consultation with Pixit Media to ensure that the final proposal fitted ENVY’s data requirements hand-in-glove.
“Our relationship with ENVY is fundamentally based on listening to the team’s requirements and being able to propose the correct technology at the most competitive price point,” comments Sean Baker, Managing Director, ERA “The fact that ENVY is expanding its original PixStor is a testament to this.”
End to End Workflow
The PixStor now functions as ENVY’s main workflow hub. Media is ingested to the PixStor from where it can be formatted, shared and edited to suit various project requirements. Media can be transcoded for multiple offline versions or conformed using Flame for VFX and finishing work. Project data can then be shared centrally, aiding
collaboration by virtue of being accessible to all creatives throughout the facility without the need for time-consuming file transfers. “The primary reason for expanding the PixStor was to improve our workflow,” recalls Bean. “The better we collaborate, the more efficient our creatives can be and the more effectively we can serve our clients.”
The PixStor expansion also forms part of a greater overall investment toward file-based delivery. The new storage provides a central location.
Ultimately PixStor has proved its worth at ENVY on account of its flexible nature and attractive cost-to scale ratio. “We were easily able to expand our system to adapt to forthcoming changes in our workflow,” says Bean, “and PixStor genuinely scales linearly. You add more storage, you get more performance. Plus we can have SAN and NAS style users on the same system so that the costs saving benefits are huge.”
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