File-based working has brought significant benefits to post-production, notably increased efficiency and the opportunity for wider networking. It has also seen a proliferation in the amount of material that has to be stored and a greater risk of footage being accessed -or even stolen – by unauthorised people. Increasingly facilities are handing over management of their entire infrastructure to third party providers as a way of dealing with these problems. Among the visual effects (VFX) houses to take this route is Jellyfish Pictures, which has moved to a fully managed service provided by broadcast IT specialist ERA. Jellyfish opened in 2001 and now has five studios split between London and Sheffield. It is a leading name in animation and VFX for both feature films and TV series, with credits including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Dennis and Gnasher: Unleashed.
Moving to a 24/7 centralised operation
ERA already provides disaster recovery (DR) services for Jellyfish but changing needs, including the addition of a new facility in the north of England, has led to a broadening of the business relationship. Jeremy Smith, chief technology officer at Jellyfish, explains there were a number of reasons behind the decision to expand the arrangement with ERA into a fully managed service: “Space and power is always at a premium in London and we need peace of mind to be able to expand capacity easily when the demand is there without worrying about space, power and cooling issues,” he says.
A key driver in moving to a flexible, centralised operation that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week was being able to bring together and better control a number of remote facilities. Jellyfish has four sites in London – Margaret Street in Fitzrovia and two at the Oval and one in Brixton to the south of the capital – and the recently opened virtual studio in the Yorkshire city of Sheffield. The company also has animators working in various locations across Europe who feed their contributions to the UK offices.
ERA runs the managed service from its data centre in the west of London, linking to Jellyfish’s studios in Fitzrovia, the Oval and Brixton over individual 10GB fibre connections – with 1GB internet back-ups – and to Sheffield using a 1GB Internet link. “We can also bring in additional workstations and servers on the ERA infrastructure when we need them without worrying about connectivity or bandwidth,” says Smith. “There’s also the option of public cloud services because ERA can offer on-demand capacity from the major cloud providers.”
The managed service has full TPN (Trusted Partner Network) approval. The TPN scheme was jointly devised by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Content Delivery and Security Association (CDSA), with the aim of raising awareness of the need for security and preparedness in the media and broadcast sectors. As part of this the TPN is designed to promote the capabilities of modern assurance technologies and set a benchmark for all manufacturers and service providers.
The ERA/Jellyfish installation includes:
- a high performance storage system based on PixStor, which runs a containerised workflow;
- DR storage services, high-end animation workstations designed by ERA, which
- work on PCoIP (PC over IP) for remote access;
- managed security services for firewall design and management, using Cisco and Fortinet products; and
- network infrastructure management and control, including Mellanox Core switching with Dell Edge gateways.
The new service will be managed by ERA from its data centre, while Jellyfish, which pays a monthly subscription for the service, runs all the applications. Jeremy Smith says that as well as the flexibility of a centralised workflow, a major consideration in opting for a managed service was the increased security: “As part of this ERA has included TPN approval for the data centre services and also provides completely managed firewalls and networking to meet the TPN requirements expected by the likes of Netflix and Disney.”
- High performance storage system based on PixStor
- DR storage services
- ERA designed animation workstations operating on PCoIP for remote access
- Managed security services using Cisco and Fortinet
- Network infrastructure management and control, including Mellanox Core and Dell Edge gateways