ERA CASE STUDY
- On Set Tech required own shared storage solution, and dedicated Dailies facility
- ERA designed and built entire system
- Tiger Store provided 550TB of usable storage, that can be used as a SAN (storage area network) or LAN (local area network), connecting over a Mellanox high-speed Ethernet system
On Set Tech is a digital imaging and dailies service company that, as its name implies, works primarily on film and television drama productions. It provides DITs (Digital Imaging Technicians) to work as part of a crew, working with the cinematographer, to ensure what is coming out of the camera is good quality and gets to processing or post-production facilities in the right format.
Until the beginning of 2019 On Set Tech did not have a permanent office, instead working predominantly on location or at studios. With its work ratio now at 75 percent dailies and 25 percent DIT on films including Rocketman, Paddington 2 and Tomb Raider, plus TV series such as The Dark Crystal, The Crown and Save Me, On Set Tech decided to create dedicated lab facilities for handling the transfer and processing of the large amounts of data involved in these big productions.
Creating Capacity with a Dedicated Office Space
In January 2019 On Tech Set moved into purpose built offices within the Cinelab facility in Slough, to the west of London. “We needed our own offices and shared storage solution,” explains On Set Tech managing director Simon Chubbock, “which would allow us to network across multiple machines, create remote rendering systems and seamless archive to LTO, as well as integrating with the Cinelab infrastructure when necessary.”
This basic requirement formed part of the brief given to IT workflow systems provider ERA. A specialist in managed storage and networking services for the broadcast, post-production and media sectors, ERA was recommended to On Set Tech by Cinelab, which was already a client. “ERA provided us with sales, installation and technical support,” comments Chubbock. “They acted as our engineering department on this project, their experienced team built and installed the entire system. We didn’t need to lift a finger.” Gareth Hodkinson, senior sales consultant at ERA, says several storage options were discussed with On Set Tech before Tiger Technology Tiger Store was selected. This provides 550TB of usable storage that can be used as both a SAN (storage area network) and a LAN (local area network), connecting over a Mellanox high-speed Ethernet system. “We advised them that Tiger Store would give a lot more in terms of features and capacity.” Hodkinson comments.
“They acted as our engineering department on this project, their experienced team built and installed the entire system. We didn’t need to lift a finger.”
~ Simon Chubbock, Managing Director On Set Tech
Enabling High-Performance Workflows
The Tiger system enables high-performance SAN workflows. A client within each connected machine is able to communicate with the server, which offers a 720TB storage block. “This provides a very fast client server network,” explains Hodkinson, “which allows all the Macs used by On Set Tech to access everything on the storage system. In this way everyone is able to work collaboratively.”
This is a new way of working for On Set Tech and allows local disks from the location shoot to be loaded on to the Tiger server. On Set Tech runs on Macs, which in turn operate a variety of devices. These include Blackmagic Design (BMD) Da Vinci Resolve for colour correction and management, Avid workstations and the FilmLight Daylight on-set grading system. All of this, and the server/file installation, has to handle large amounts of real-time playback of high-resolution media, standard for modern productions for both cinema and TV. Footage is encoded in a variety of formats, including 4K DPX, 8K digital and RAW.
“ERA installed all the equipment and integrated the Tiger file system, which is able to effortlessly deal with huge image sequences,” comments Simon Chubbock. “It’s a very self-contained operation, which is necessary for security in these days of piracy, but we are also able to connect to Cinelab’s storage system over a 10G fibre link. This allows us to network projects and have access to material that has been scanned at Cinelab.”
This project sharing application is enabled by a standard Windows deployment and gives On Set Tech a capacity and flexibility not previously available to it. “We didn’t have shared access storage before,” says Chubbock, “but this now allows us to network projects and work across the same slab of storage. The system we have now is user-friendly, high-performance, and very efficient. It works very effectively with the codecs we use, including DPX, RED and ARRI RAW.”
Fast Installation with Plug & Play Capabilities
The installation of the storage system and network took place in May. For such a vital and sophisticated implementation, the time spent putting it in was minimal. “It took only a few hours,” Chubbock says. “And it didn’t take long to set up either. A lot of the work had already been done at ERA’s premises, such as building the RAID arrays and configuring the hardware. The installation was very quick. Everything works in a logical way and is easy to use for people who aren’t network engineers.”
“The installation was very quick. Everything works in a logical way and is easy to use for people who aren’t network engineers.”
~ Simon Chubbock, Managing Director On Set Tech
Work is continuing to add more features and capabilities. This includes an application for handling scanning of film negatives, which, although the file system is able to handle this data-heavy task, has not been set up yet. ERA will also be adding many Seagate SSD’s (solid state drives) towards the end of the year, which is intended to give an even faster tier of storage.
On Set Tech is already enjoying the benefits of having a dedicated dailies facility with a large capacity, fully networked storage system.