Ascent Media Group Selects SGI Technology to Enable One of the World’s Most Secure Film and TV Post-Production Facilities
SGI Servers, Storage and Networking Drive Faster Parallel Processing of HD, 2K, 4K and Digital Asset Management for Deliverables
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., (February 27, 2006)—Ascent Media Group (AMG), a long-time customer of Silicon Graphics (OTC: SGID) and an industry leader in content creation, post-production and distribution of film and television, selected SGI® server, storage and networking technology as the heart of a new state-of-the-art facility in Burbank, Calif. The SGI hardware and software is part of AMG’s data-centric production network solution, known as ProdNet, which offers studio clients ultra-secure methods for accommodating a large variety of deliverables. With content piracy estimated at $3.5 billion annually, the 100,000-square-foot building, which was gutted to the walls, has been rebuilt to be one of the most modern, most secure, all-digital facilities in the world. SGI Professional Services worked hand in hand with AMG to design and integrate the ProdNet system, which is dedicated to manufacturing, repurposing, and distributing large media assets in huge volumes, with no concession to bandwidth limitations.
Ascent Media Group’s deliverables include digital intermediates in HD, 2K or 4K resolution for a host of Hollywood blockbusters, post-production and satellite delivery of television programming as well as digital cinema masters, multi-language versions for home video, DVD, and a variety of entertainment content for the exploding market in wireless mobile devices. With studio clients requiring more efficient post-production workflow for film releases and-in another effort to combat piracy-reduced time-to-market for home video and DVD releases, AMG searched for a partner to facilitate these requirements. AMG chose SGI as prime contractor for the equipment and services as SGI has had considerable success in achieving efficiencies and increased productivity in designing and deploying state-of-the-art Digital Intermediate facilities in Hollywood, London, Madrid and other cities worldwide. SGI products, solution design and services specifically address the problems of faster turnaround in a 4K data-centric media environment.
“The statistical advantage that we and SGI created with ProdNet is the increase in speed overall. From the time the film is put up on the telecine or scanner to the time the DVD is completed, we have basically reduced the time-to-market by half,” said Kevin Sanders, chief technical officer of Media Management Services for Ascent Media Group. “When we were initially designing ProdNet, one of the things we decided on immediately was the necessity to accommodate the extreme varied bandwidth and storage required by all our different departments. We have used SGI technology for many years and are well aware of SGI’s track record throughout the media and entertainment industry, which means SGI is more than familiar with the robust system integrity requirements and all-or-nothing deadlines of this business. The advantage of ProdNet is the ability to do several jobs concurrently instead of one job at a time. The technology that achieves this is parallel processing, powered by SGI CXFS-based metadata servers strategically designed to power the heart of the I/O, and SGI TP9500 storage. It is capable of being dynamically allocated from one department to another as needed. Instead of doing the processes in a linear fashion, workloads can all be stacked on top of each other and be done in parallel. The DVD can be working on the same title and the same files as audio, telecine, the language localization services. All the various departments in this building can access that same title asset at the same time. SGI accommodated our needs and requirements; they had both an economical yet all-inclusive solution.”
SGI® InfiniteStorage CXFS™ shared filesystem was a major delivered product component for AMG, particularly in the telecine department, where each frame must be handled as an individual file as opposed to a portion of a larger file. The frames add up to 24 files for each second of film. In addition to these enormous numbers of files, the file sizes range from moderate to large, depending on whether they are high-definition, 2K or 4K resolution. Moreover, the process requires not only opening and closing a lot of files consistently, the files have to be on time.
“A millisecond late in opening a file disrupts the continuity,” added Sanders. “Being able to guarantee that kind of delivery from a storage system through a network is extremely challenging to any file system. The SGI InfiniteStorage CXFS system is very innovative in their approach to that problem. It becomes quite an effective solution for doing this type of digital imaging.”
One of immediate benefits of SGI’s robust server, storage and networking systems is evident in the AMG 4K suites, which use the first commercial implementation of Quantel iQ and Quantel’s new Pablo Suite, a complete color-grading suite expressly designed for digital intermediate work. Sanders reports, “With the interface that we have with the SGI storage and ProdNet, we are getting feeds and speeds between the Quantel iQ, our SGI TP9500 storage system and ProdNet that are faster than either Quantel or SGI has seen anywhere else.”
At the core of AMG’s ProdNet are three SGI metadata servers based on SGI® Origin® 350 technology, each one with 8 CPUs, acting as the SGI InfiniteStorage CXFS servers for the storage system. AMG has a total of 20 SGI Origin 350 servers. ProdNet was fully up and running in September with one SGI® InfiniteStorage TP9500 storage system; a second SGI InfiniteStorage TP9500 and a TP9300 storage system will be coming online shortly, giving AMG a total 100TB of enterprise class storage in addition to 80TB in local caches around the facility.
SGI InfiniteStorage CXFS shared filesystem delivers the ability to share data, natively, at Fibre Channel speeds with other operating systems. AMG machines run Windows®, Linux®, Solaris®, and Mac® OS X. The SGI Origin 350 metadata servers are used for CXFS SAN-attached storage for the more higher-end devices that need the performance of CXFS Fibre Channel-connected file systems as well as for SAMBA and NFS connectivity, allowing data access via standard networking techniques. All three SGI InfiniteStorage systems connect into Brocade director class Fibre Channel switches. Foundry Networks’ sFlow is used for real-time network management controls, which also supports ProdNet’s security. The ProdNet system is designed fully redundant with no single point of failure anywhere.
ProdNet’s advanced network security web was developed following extensive research and consultations with such agencies as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and government law enforcement agencies. The entire facility is monitored 24 hours a day by a file-based video surveillance system. Assets are constantly tracked during operations, using barcode scans to and from all locations. ProdNet is strategically designed to allow seamless collaboration across all departments within the facility while simultaneously unplugging the entire infrastructure from the outside world. Because Internet bandwidth is routinely used for illicit trafficking in movies and other copyrighted works, no department at AMG’s new facility can access the Internet; the facility has multiple intrusion detection systems, real-time heuristics that map all normal production use, and access to functional areas is monitored and strictly based on log-in profiles. The SGI infrastructure was designed with this in mind.
“ProdNet was designed by Ascent Media Group as a solution that will likely become a template for how high-end, robust, secure, end-to end digital production networks of the future will be structured,” said Chris Golson, senior director, Media Industries, SGI. “SGI technology, with our CXFS shared filesystem and scaleable storage, gives Ascent the ability to grow their infrastructure and grow their digital pipelines, relying on SGI to expand performance, bandwidth, and computational requirements as needed, or all at the same time. Ascent Media Group is now perfectly positioned for the secure digital workflow of today and the growth of tomorrow.”
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SGI, also known as Silicon Graphics, Inc. (OTC: SGID), is a leader in high-performance computing, visualization and storage. SGI’s vision is to provide technology that enables the most significant scientific and creative breakthroughs of the 21st century. Whether it’s sharing images to aid in brain surgery, finding oil more efficiently, studying global climate, providing technologies for homeland security and defense or enabling the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, SGI is dedicated to addressing the next class of challenges for scientific, engineering and creative users. With offices worldwide, the company is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., and can be found on the Web at www.sgi.com.
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