CHF Media Group – Adobe Flash-based creative pipeline

ERA Case Study CHF Media Group

Production company, CHF Media Group was formed in 2011 and benefits from a long heritage within ITV. One of its first strategic deployments was the creation of an animation company – Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick Entertainment.  Cosgrove Hall achieved national treasure status over four decades with a succession of popular children’s animation series, including the seminal Danger Mouse, Count Duckula and Wind in the Willows. Pip Ahoy!, a new 52 x 11 series aimed at pre-school children and featuring the voice talent of Sir David Jason went to air in the UK on Channel 5 in June 2014.

Customer Challenge

Over the years CHF has established its own iconic 2D animation style which has become completely synonymous with its brand. In an era when many other animation houses have moved over to 3D, CHF wants to preserve its handcrafted 2D hallmark, but to create a new workfl ow with all the efficiency and processing power that file-based operations offer. Pip Ahoy! is the first of four projects on the company’s slate and also the first time the animation house has worked with an Adobe Flash based pipeline. Establishing a creative pipeline that can deal with producing 572 minutes of animation via Flash required ERA to work closely with both CHF and Adobe to analyse the workflow, which has very different technical priorities to the more widespread 3D model. This has particular implications when it comes to balancing power, connectivity and cost for the animator workstations.

ERA’s Solution

For ERA, ruling things out was an important part of the workflow analysis. After discussions with the client, the normal methodology of using a render farm to manage both workflow and file sharing was discounted as a possible solution, mainly because there are no mature tools at present to manage Flash within this model. Paying for cost intensive
render nodes that would not be effectively utilised would have been a waste of budget too, so the decision was made to spend more money on quality graphics cards and workstations featuring increased CPU and power to deliver the best results.  Dual CPU workstations allow rendering to be done and the machines to carry on being used for other tasks as well. 24GB RAM is three times the norm whilst the machines have somewhere between two and four times the normal CPU power to enable optimal productivity. The key was to create the right CPU/RAM/Graphics card balance to meet the project requirements and was done in conjunction with Adobe. ERA supplied a complete infrastructure to CHF which consisted of 40 HP workstations equipped with NVIDIA K4000 graphics cards, two Mac-based Avid editing workstations, Autodesk Smoke, Cisco networking, high performance storage, and a StorageDNA LTO-based archive. At CHF, ERA designed the main system and the support infrastructure, as well as providing the support and delivery contract – and even the finance for the infrastructure investment! ERA was the one-stop-shop on this project!

“We worked closely with ERA and took care in selecting and setting up the processes which we now have,” says Rachel Giles, Group Operations Director at CHF. “Their knowledge and expertise has helped us out on many occasions where it would not have been possible for the people in place here to solve the issues. They have also taken over a software supply pipe for us along with their already chunky hardware lease, which has helped tremendously.”

Solution Benefits

  • An effcient and reliable file-based workflow capable of supporting CHF’s creative team in generating their iconic 2D animation style
  • A solution that enhances bottom line effciency & profitability, supported by a flexible finance package to minimise the risk of new technology deployment
  • Creation of an open and scalable IT infrastructure which matches CHF’s needs today and offers the potential to grow in the future to meet business growth
  • The optimum combination of IT resources, empowering the creative team in a way that every pound spent on IT is wisely spent
  • Peace of mind offered by ERA, taking the technical stress and anxiety away from CHF management, enabling them to concentrate on the creative challenge safe in the knowledge that their IT architecture is entirely fit for purpose and future proofed

Click here to download a pdf copy of the CHF case study.

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About Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick Media Group – Quality Family Entertainment

Formed in 2011, CHF Entertainment, part of the CHF Media Group (CHF) is the reincarnation of the multi award winning animation house, Cosgrove Hall, famous for big brand children’s shows such as Danger Mouse, Wind in the Willows and Count Duckula.  CHF continues that tradition by creating entertaining, innovative and brilliantly characterised children’s television shows. CHF‘s new suite of shows are produced in the UK by a highly talented creative team headed by Brian Cosgrove and Simon Hall. The production team offers a solid production base with experience, creative talent and an infrastructure to deliver quality family entertainment, including dramatic real-life features for factual, educational and interactive projects for a global audience. CHF programmes benefit from a diverse set of revenue streams from broadcast, publishing and gaming to mobile and internet content and merchandising.

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