Tag Archives: Facilis

The challenges of creating a shared storage ‘spec’

By James McKenna

The specification — used in a bid, tender, RFQ or simply to provide vendors with a starting point — has been the source of frustration for many a sales engineer. Not because we wish that we could provide all the features that are listed, but because we can’t help but wonder what the author of those specs was thinking.

Creating a spec should be like designing your ideal product on paper and asking a vendor to come as close as they can to that ideal. Unlike most other forms of shopping, you avoid the sales process until the salesperson knows exactly what you want. This is good in some ways, but very limiting in others.

I dislike analogies with the auto industry because cars are personal and subjective, but in this way, you can see the difference in spec versus evaluation and research. Imagine writing down all the things you want in a car and showing up at the dealership looking for a match. You want power, beauty, technology, sports-car handling and room for five?

Your chances of finding the exact car you want are slim, unless you’re willing to compromise or adjust your budget. The same goes for facility shared storage. Many customers get hung up on the details and refuse to prioritize important aspects, like usability and sustainability, and as a result end up looking at quotes that are two to three times their cost expectations for systems that don’t perform the day-to-day work any better (and often perform worse).

There are three ways to design a specification:

Based On Your Workflow
By far, this is the best method and will result in the easiest path to getting what you want. Go ahead and plan for years down the road and challenge the vendors to keep up with your trajectory. Keep it grounded in what you believe is important to your business. This should include data security, usable administration and efficient management. Lay out your needs for backup strategy and how you’d like that to be automated, and be sure to prioritize these requests so the vendor can focus on what’s most important to you.

Be sure to clearly state the applications you’ll be using, what they will be requiring from the storage and how you expect them to work with the storage. The highest priority and true test of a successful shared storage deployment is: Can you work reliably and consistently to generate revenue? These are my favorite types of specs.

Based On Committee
Some facilities are the victim of their own size or budget. When there’s an active presence from the IT department, or the dollar amounts get too high, it’s not just up to the creative folks to select the right product. The committee can include consultants, system administrators, finance and production management, and everyone wants to justify their existence at the table. People with experience in enterprise storage and “big iron” systems will lean on their past knowledge and add terms like “Five-9s uptime,” “No SPOF,” “single namespace,” “multi-path” and “magic quadrant.”

In the enterprise storage world these would be important, but they don’t force vendors to take responsibility for prioritizing the interactions between the creative applications and the storage, and the usability and sustainability of a solution in the long term. The performance necessary to smoothly deliver a 4K program master, on time and on budget, might not even be considered. I see these types of specifications and I know that there will be a rude awakening when the quotes are distributed, usually leading to some modifications of the spec.

Based On A Product
The most limiting way to design a spec is by copying the feature list of a single product to create your requirements. I should mention that I have helped our customers to do this on some occasions, so I’m guilty here. When a customer really knows the market, and wants to avoid being bid an inferior product, this can be justified. However, you have better completed your research beforehand because there may be something out there that could change your opinion, and you don’t want to find out about it after you’re locked into the status quo. If you choose to do this but want to stay on the lookout for another option, simply prioritize the features list by what’s most important to you.

If you really like something about your storage, prioritize that and see if another vendor has something similar. When I respond to these bid specs, I always provide details on our solution and how we can achieve better results than the one that is obviously being requested. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but at least now they’re educated.

The primary frustration with specifications that miss the mark is the waste of money and time. Enterprise storage features come with enterprise storage complexity and enterprise storage price tags. This requires training or reliance upon the IT staff to manage, or in some cases completely control the network for you. Cost savings in the infrastructure can be repurposed to revenue-generating workstations and artists can be employed instead of full-time techs. There’s a reason that scrappy, grassroots facilities produce faster growth and larger facilities tend to stagnate. They focus on generating content, invest only where needed and scale the storage as the bigger jobs and larger formats arrive.

Stick with a company that makes the process easy and ensures that you’ll never be without a support person that knows your daily grind.


James McKenna is VP of marketing and sales at shared storage company Facilis.

Designed for large file sizes, Facilis TerraBlock 7 ships

Facilis, makers of shared storage solutions for collaborative media production networks, is now shipping TerraBlock Version 7. The new Facilis Hub Server, a performance aggregator that can be added to new and existing TerraBlock systems, is also available now. Version 7 includes a new browser-based, mobile-compatible Web Console that delivers enhanced workflow and administration from any connected location.

With ever-increasing media file sizes and 4K, HDR and VR workflows continually putting pressure on facility infrastructure, the Facilis Hub Server is aimed at future-proofing customers’ current storage while offering new systems that can handle these types of files. The Facilis Hub Server uses a new architecture to optimize drive sets and increase the bandwidth available from standard TerraBlock storage systems. New customers will get customized Hub Server Stacks with enhanced system redundancy and data resiliency, plus near-linear scalability of bandwidth when expanding the network.

According to James McKenna, VP of marketing/pre-sales at Facilis, “The Facilis Hub Server gives current and new customers a way to take advantage of advanced bandwidth aggregation capabilities, without rendering their existing hardware obsolete.”

The company describes the Web Console as a modernized browser-based and mobile-compatible interface designed to increase the efficiency of administrative tasks and improve the end-user experience.

Easy client setup, upgraded remote volume management and a more integrated user database are among the additional improvements. The Web Console also supports Remote Volume Push to remotely mount volumes onto any client workstations.

Asset Tracking
As the number of files and storage continue to increase, organizations are realizing they need some type of asset tracking system to aid them in moving and finding files in their workflow. Many hesitate to invest in traditional MAM systems due to complexity, cost, and potential workflow impact.

McKenna describes the FastTracker asset tracking software as the “right balance for many customers. Many administrators tell us they are hesitant to invest in traditional asset management systems because they worry it will change the way their editors work. Our FastTracker is included with every TerraBlock system. It’s simple but comprehensive, and doesn’t require users to overhaul their workflow.”

V7 is available immediately for eligible TerraBlock servers.

Check out our interview with McKenna during NAB:

Grading & Compositing Storage: Northern Lights

Speed is key for artist Chris Hengeveld.

By Beth Marchant

For Flame artist Chris Hengeveld of Northern Lights in New York City, high-performance file-level storage and a Fibre Channel connection mean it’s never been easier for him to download original source footage and share reference files with editorial on another floor. But Hengeveld still does 80 percent of his work the old-fashioned way: off hand-delivered drives that come in with raw footage from production.

Chris Hengeveld

The bicoastal editorial and finishing facility Northern Lights — parent company to motion graphics house Mr. Wonderful, the audio facility SuperExploder and production boutique Bodega — has an enviably symbiotic relationship with its various divisions. “We’re a small company but can go where we need to go,” says colorist/compositor Hengeveld. “We also help each other out. I do a lot of compositing, and Mr. Wonderful might be able to help me out or an assistant editor here might help me with After Effects work. There’s a lot of spillover between the companies, and I think that’s why we stay busy.”

Hengeveld, who has been with Northern Lights for nine years, uses Flame Premium, Autodesk’s visual effects finishing bundle of Flame and Flare with grading software Lustre. “It lets me do everything from final color work, VFX and compositing to plain-old finishing to get it out of the box and onto the air,” he says. With Northern Lights’ TV-centric work now including a growing cache of Web content, Hengeveld must often grade and finish in parallel. “No matter how you send it out, chances are what you’ve done is going to make it to the Web in some way. We make sure that what we make look good on TV also looks good on the Web. It’s often just two different outputs. What looks good on broadcast you often have to goose a bit to get it to look good on the Web. Also, the audio specs are slightly different.”

Hengeveld provided compositing and color on this spot for Speedo.

Editorial workflows typically begin on the floor above Hengeveld in Avid, “and an increasing number, as time goes by, in Adobe Premiere,” he says. Editors are connected to media through a TerraBlock shared storage system from Facilis. “Each room works off a partition from the TerraBlock, though typically with files transcoded from the original footage,” he says. “There’s very little that gets translated from them to me, in terms of clip-based material. But we do have an Aurora RAID from Rorke (now Scale Logic) off which we run a HyperFS SAN — a very high-performance, file-level storage area network — that connects to all the rooms and lets us share material very easily.”

The Avids in editorial at Northern Lights are connected by Gigabit Ethernet, but Hengeveld’s room is connected by Fibre. “I get very fast downloading of whatever I need. That system includes Mr. Wonderful, too, so we can share what we need to, when we need to. But I don’t really share much of the Avid work except for reference files.” For that, he goes back to raw camera footage. “I’d say bout 80 percent of the time, I’m pulling that raw shoot material off of G-Technology drives. It’s still sneaker-net on getting those source drives, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” he says. “I sometimes get 6TB of footage in for certain jobs and you’re not going to copy that all to a centrally located storage, especially when you’ll end up using about a hundredth of that material.”

The source drives are typically dupes from the production company, which more often than not is sister company Bodega. “These drives are not made for permanent storage,” he says. “These are transitional drives. But if you’re storing stuff that you want to access in five to six years, it’s really got to go to LTO or some other system.” It’s another reason he’s so committed to Flame and Lustre, he says. Both archive every project locally with its complete media, which can be then be easily dropped onto an LTO for safe long-term storage.

Time or money constraints can shift this basic workflow for Hengeveld, who sometimes receives a piece of a project from an editor that has been stripped of its color correction. “In that case, instead of loading in the raw material, I would load in the 15- or 30-second clip that they’ve created and work off of that. The downside with that is if the clip was shot with an adjustable format camera like a Red or Arri RAW, I lose that control. But at least, if they shoot it in Log-C, I still have the ability to have material that has a lot of latitude to work with. It’s not desirable, but for better stuff I almost always go back to the original source material and do a conform. But you sometimes are forced to make concessions, depending on how much time or budget the client has.”

A recent spot for IZod, with color by Hengeveld.

Those same constraints, paired with advances in technology, also mean far fewer in-person client meetings. “So much of this stuff is being evaluated on their computer after I’ve done a grade or composite on it,” he says. “I guess they feel more trust with the companies they’re working with. And let’s be honest: when you get into these very detailed composites, it can be like watching paint dry. Yet, many times when I’m grading,  I love having a client here because I think the sum of two is always greater than one. I enjoy the interaction. I learn something and I get to know my client better, too. I find out more about their subjectivity and what they like. There’s a lot to be said for it.”

Hengeveld also knows that his clients can often be more efficient at their own offices, especially when handling multiple projects at once, influencing their preferences for virtual meetings. “That’s the reality. There’s good and bad about that trade off. But sometimes, nothing beats an in-person session.”

Our main image is from NBC’s Rokerthon.

Learning about LTO and Premiere workflows

By Chelsea Taylor

In late March, I attended a workflow event by Facilis Technology and StorageDNA in New York City. I didn’t know much going in other than it would be about collaborative workflows and shared storage for Adobe Premiere. While this event was likely set up to sell some systems, I did end up learning some worthwhile information about archiving and backup.

Full disclosure: going into this event I knew very little about LTO archiving. Previously I had been archiving all of my projects by throwing a hard drive into the corner of my edit. Well, not really but close! It seems that a lot of companies out there don’t put too much importance on archiving until after it becomes a problem (“All of our edits are crashing and we don’t know why!”).

At my last editing job where we edited short form content on Avid, our media manager would consolidate projects in Avid, create a FileMaker database that cataloged footage, manually add metadata, then put the archived files onto different G-Tech G-RAID drives (which of course could die after a couple of years). In short, it wasn’t the best way to archive and backup media, especially when an editor wanted to find something. They would have to walk over to the computer where the database was, figure out how to use the UI, search for the project (If it had the right metadata), find the physical drive, plug the drive into their machine, go through different files/folders until they found what they were looking for, copy the however many large files to the SAN, and then start working. Suffice to say I had a lot to learn about archiving and was very excited to attend this event.

I arrived at the event about 30 minutes early, which turned out to be a good thing because I was immediately greeted by some of the experts and presenters from Facilis and StorageDNA. Not fully realizing who I was talking to, I started asking tons of questions about their products. What does StorageDNA do? How can it integrate with Premiere? Why is LTO tape archiving better? Who adds the metadata? How fast can you access the backup? And before I knew it, I was in a heated discussion with Jeff Krueger, worldwide VP of sales at StorageDNA, and Doug Hynes, director of product and solution marketing at StorageDNA, about their products and the importance of archiving. Fully inspired to archive and with tons more questions, our conversation got cut short as the event was about to begin.

While the Facilis offerings look cool (I want all of them!), I wasn’t at the event to buy things — I wanted to hear about the workflow and integration with Adobe Premiere (which is a language I better understand). As someone who would be actually using these products and not in charge of buying them, I didn’t care about the tech specs or new features. “Secure sharing with permissions. Low-level media management. Block-level virtualized storage pools.” It was hardware spec after hardware spec (which you can check out on their website). As the presenter spoke of the new features and specifications of their new models, I just kept thinking about what Jeff Krueger had told me right before the event about archiving, which I will share with you here.

StorageDNA presented on a product line called DNAevolution, which is an archive engine built on LTO tapes. Each model provides different levels of LTO automation, LTO drives and server hardware. As an editor, I was more concerned with the workflow.

The StorageDNA Workflow for Premiere
1. Card contents are ingested onto the SAN.
2. The high-res files are written to LTO/ LTFS through DNAevolution and become permanent camera master files.
3. Low-res proxies are created and ingested onto the SAN for use in editorial. DNAevolution is pointed to the proxies, indexes them and links to the high-res clips on LTO.
4. Once the files are written to and verified on LTO, you can delete the high-res files from your spinning disk storage.
5. The editor works with the low-res proxies in Premiere Pro.
6. When complete, the editor exports an EDL that DNAevolution parses and locates the high-res files on LTO from the database.
7. DNAevolution restores high-res files to the finishing station or SAN storage.
8. The editor can relink the media and distribute in high-res/4K.

The StorageDNA Archive Workflow
1. In the DNAevolution Archive Console, select your Premiere Pro project file.
2. DNAevolution scans the project, and generates a list of files to be archived. It then writes all associated media files and the project itself to LTO tape(s).
3. Once the files are written to and verified on LTO, you can delete the high-res files from your spinning disk storage.

Why I Was impressed
All of your media is immediately backed up, ensuring it is in a safe place and not taking up your local or shared storage. You can delete the high-res files from your SAN storage immediately and work with proxies, onlining later down the line. The problem I’ve had with SAN storage is that it fills up very quickly with large files, eventually slowing down your systems and leading to playback problems. Why have all of your RAW unused media just sitting there eating up your valuable space when you can free it up immediately?

DNAevolution works easily with Adobe’s Premiere, Prelude and Media Encoder. It uses the Adobe CC toolset to automate the process of creating LTO/LTFS camera masters while creating previews via Media Encoder.

DNAevolution archives all media from your Premiere projects with a single click and notifies you if files are missing. It also checks your files for existing camera and clip metadata. Meaning if you add all of that in at the start it will make archiving much easier.

You have direct access to files on LTO tape, enabling third-party applications access to media directly on LTO, such as transcoding, partial restore and playout. DNAevolution’s Archive Asset Management toolset allows you to browse/search archived content and provides proxy playback. It even has a drag and drop functionality with Premiere where you literally drop a file straight from the archive into your Premiere timeline, with little rendering, and start editing.

I have never tested an LTO archive workflow and am curious what other people’s experiences have been like. Feel free to leave your thoughts on LTO vs. Cloud vs. Disk in the comments below.

Chelsea Taylor is a freelance editor who has worked on a wide range of content: from viral videos and sizzles to web series and short films. She also works as an assistant editor on feature films and documentaries. Check out her site a at StillRenderingProductions.com.

Facilis offers new shared storage, asset tracking products

Last month at the NAB Show, Facilis launched new shared storage offerings for both high-end and budget-conscious facilities, together with a tracking product that combines search, management and access to project assets in a single interface.

Facilis’ TerraBlock 24D/HA Hybrid Array includes a drive group of eight high-performance SSDs together with a larger drive group of  traditional 4TB SATA drives for 72TB of combined capacity. Performance derived from the SSD group can power multi-stream uncompressed 4K workloads, while the 16-drive group enables collaboration for compressed HD editorial and content creation workflows.

The new TerraBlock 8D is an eight-drive, 16TB turnkey content creation system, a 2U rack mountable server that combines the Facilis Shared File System with virtual volume workflow and performance. The 8D includes Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and can be upgraded to support Fibre Channel and 10GigE connections.

The Facilis FastTracker is an application for cataloging, searching and viewing many media types within Facilis TerraBlock shared storage, including QuickTime, MP4, and MXF codecs as well as DPX and TARGA image sequences.

In addition, Facilis demonstrated version 6.5 of the TerraBlock software with new scalability features for volumes and workgroups.

NAB: We are a lucky bunch of nerds

By William Rogers

I bolted awake at 5am this morning, Las Vegas time.

I’m still ticking on New York City’s clock, and I don’t think that I’ll be changing that any time this week. I’ve also completely refrained from gambling, drinking (besides a sip of wine at a Monday night dinner with OWC) and any other activities that would cause me to think about keeping what happened here, here.

Between running laps around the South Lower hall of the convention center, I had to stop and take my brain away from my calendar app to reflect on a thought that kept popping up in my head; I really, really love the people here at NAB.

I’m not necessarily talking about the cornerstone vendors and the keynote speakers, but more about the passionate people that are standing behind something that they truly pour their heart and soul into. After the vendor representatives and I would get past the product demos and the required reading, we’d get into a more human conversation and still keep it relative to our body of work.

I like that. I can’t stand fluff and disingenuousness. I can’t stand purposeless self-promotion. What I love is when I ask the right question, and I see people stand a few inches taller because they’re not slumping into their required schpiel.

We filmmakers work in an incredible field. It doesn’t matter what role we’re in, whether it be the grip throwing up the Kinos for an interview, or the online editor who meticulously scrutinizes the footage for the conform.

We’re a lucky bunch of nerds.

My Tuesday

LaCieLaCie showed off a bunch of new stuff. They’re pushing out two new Rugged drives, one spinning disk capable of RAID 0/1, and another with SSD and Thunderbolt tailored for speedy field transfers. I also got an extensive look at the 8big Rack Thunderbolt 2, which is a multi-multi Terabyte storage solution equipped with Thunderbolt 2, enterprise class drives, and 1330 MB/s speed for 4K editing.

I stopped by Small Tree, who provides Ethernet-based server solutions for in-house editing as well as mobile server storage. Small Tree provided their Titanium Z-5 shared storage system for Digiboyz Inc., who used Small Tree’s capabilities on Netflix’s Trailer Park Boys.

SwitchTelestream had a multitude of post-production software solutions on display, but I was directed to check out Switch. Switch is a media player with an elegant UI, but is meant for QC inspection, transcoding and file modifications. For post houses that need to view and modify a vast array of file types including transport streams, Switch is DPP/AMWA-certified software that provides a reliable alternative to open source software.

Facilis was debuting their own venture into the SSD world with Terrablock 24D/HA. The Hybrid Array has 8 onboard SSD drives for ultra-high performance partitions, alongside traditional SATA drives. The combination allows for space scalability inherent to spinning disk drives, while taking advantage of the speed of SSD drives.izotope

I made my way over to Izotope, who specializes in audio finishing plug-ins based on advance audio analyzing. Their software RX4, which plugs into DAWs as well as NLEs, was demonstrating several nifty ways to rescue seemingly lost audio—my favorite was a preset that was able to detect and eliminate GSM cell phone interference on their visual audio spectrum analysis.

For those not in the know, on-site media storage will eventually be a thing of the past, even for large HD(+) media workflows. Aframe Aframewas going to give me a demo of the usability of their online UI, but we got sidetracked discussing their future integration with Adobe Anywhere. Keep an eye out, because within the next few years, public customers will be able to upload all of their video assets to the cloud and live edit with no media stored on local discs.

CTRL+Console showed off their iPad app, which is used to control NLEs and other post software, like Adobe Lightroom. Meant as a keyboard replacement, you can turn your tablet (currently limited to iPad) into a touchscreen console without learning keyboard hotkeys.

Cinegy was kind enough to escort me to a breakout room for snacks and chilly water over a conversation about the post industry. Cinegy provides software technology for digital video processing, asset management, compression and playback in broadcast environments. This year, they were rolling out Version 10 of their software featuring 4K IP-based broadcast solutions Cinegy Multiviewer and Cinegy Route, as well as Cinegy Air PRO, Cinegy Type and a variety of other solutions.

I met up with T2 Computing, who designs and implements IT solutions for post-production facilities and media companies. T2 recently teamed up with Tekserve to overhaul their invoicing and PO management system.

I’d say it was a successful Tuesday. I tried to get into my hotel pool later that evening, but my efforts to aquatically relax were thwarted by a Las Vegas sandstorm. Instead, I kicked my feet up to read a few more chapters from my Kindle, which was exactly what I needed.

Will is an editor, artist and all around creative professional working as a Post Production Coordinator for DB Productions in NYC.

Facilis launches TerraBlock 6.0 with advanced user, volume management

Facilis is now shipping TerraBlock 6.0, the latest iteration of its production-proven shared storage solution, which features several improvements designed to augment usability, collaboration and performance – including Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)/Active Directory synchronization, volume size reduction on the fly, a sleek new customizable Graphical User Interface (GUI), support for Adobe Anywhere for video and more.

TerraBlock 6.0 is available today free of charge to customers holding a current support contract.

TerraBlock is Facilis’ multi-platform, high-capacity shared storage solution that delivers highly collaborative workflows in post and content creation environments. The high-performance solution supports 8/16Gbps Fibre Channel and 1/10Gbps Ethernet through the Facilis Shared File System and is compatible with most all industry-standard creative applications.

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS:
– Support for LDAP/Active Directory: Synchronize user groups to TerraBlock and seamlessly manage permissions and user accounts through group access.
– Customizable GUI: An updated interface with enhanced functionality enables flexible layouts and limits on information provided to normal users.
– Volume Reduction: Shrink Multi-user Write and NTFS-formatted Single-user Write volumes to free up space in the pool of storage for volume creation and expansion.
– Support for Adobe Anywhere for video: TerraBlock is now compatible with Adobe Anywhere for video – empowering virtual teams to collaborate efficiently across projects stored on TerraBlock.
– Qualifications for Popular Industry Applications: Including Avid® Media Composer® 7, Avid® Pro Tools 11, Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 10, Adobe® Creative Cloud and Maxon Cinema 4D R15.
– Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks Support
– Advanced Apple Final Cut Pro X Interoperability: Multi-user Write volumes are qualified as SAN locations for libraries within Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.1.

SyncBlock 2.0, a complementary archiving and backup solution to TerraBlock, is slated to be available in the coming months and will feature improved archive management, tiered storage automation and support for LTO-6.

Saatchi & Saatchi LA, recently upgraded its TerraBlock with V.6.0 software, a new 64-bit operating system and the Facilis Shared File System for Multi-user Write volumes. Editor Jonathan Hensley shared, “It’s no overstatement to say that the improvements in 6.0 have greatly improved our workflow. The update was rock-solid right out of the box, and Facilis was there every step of the way to ensure a smooth transition.”