By Mel Lambert
“We have developed a two-tier solution that expedites QC on one end, while enhancing and simplifying asset management and delivery on the other,” describes Michael Meis, chief technology officer at Media Toaster, a recently opened multi-room post facility in Burbank. The studio has developed an innovative business model using proprietary technologies — including QiFile and MonsterFile — to speed up media review, approval, archival and delivery processes.
Meis was joined earlier this year by long-time collaborator Michael DeFusco, who is director of post production. The two met while working at Crest Digital for several years; later DeFusco moved on to Post Logic and then Sony Pictures, where he again worked with Meis.
The standard QC (quality control) model is to send a printed report to the client, who then has to either search through a DVD or individual clips in order to make a decision about their material. “The QiFile is a way of enhancing the critical QC process by embedding an entire quality-control report — complete with suggested changes — into a relatively small HD file,” DeFusco explains. “This, in turn, enables the client to make informed decisions in a timely manner. Turnaround times are further improved by setting up a secured, easy-to-use virtual desktop where clients can play and download the QiFile [or other media] directly from our production server to [the client’s] computer or mobile device; the client can then work as efficiently as if they were accessing the file from within our facility.”
“We QC content from a variety of sources, is destined for delivery via a number of outlets and formats,” adds Meis. “Since we only have between 24 and 48 hours to perform our critical quality-control services, this proprietary process has noticeably increased our efficiency and throughput.”
By way of an example, Meis and DeFusco cite ongoing projects with Starz Entertainment. “Our embedded QC reports accompany the media files throughout the process and can be accessed by our operators and remote clients,” says DeFusco. The facility currently handles QC and media delivery for Starz’ Black Sails, Ash vs Evil Dead and other offerings.
What makes the process unique, the collaborators say, is that most archival and delivery workflows are limited by the number of available tracks, but, says DeFusco, “MonsterFile has the capacity to hold an unlimited number of audio and video tracks. Also, repurposing is typically done through various departments and by different operators. With our processes, many tasks — including transcodes, conversions, captions, pitch-correction, audio compliance and final delivery to anywhere in the world — can be quickly completed by one operator who never needs to leave his workstation,” reports Meis. “All of which saves our clients time and money.
“Media Toaster uses industry-standard Aspera technology file-transfers and MPAA-sanctioned firewalls to ensure high-speed access across multiple data networks. “We use high-speed Fibre Channel interconnects and a 10GbE intranet,” explains Meis. “Aspera’s software solution lets us move data at maximum speed, regardless of file size, transfer distance or network conditions.”
The facility operates a total of six post/QC suites, with a staff of close to a dozen operators and support staff. Apple Final Cut Pro X is used exclusively for picture editing, with extra support from Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid Media Composer. Staff call on industry-standard Avid Pro Tools for audio deliveries. The in-house server infrastructure uses about 0.5 Petabyte of Promise Technology raw storage, with dual-band fiber-optic wiring and 10 Gbit Ethernet speeds to move data around the facility.
Media Toaster offers a range of services “from new content creation, minor picture and sound tweaks, all the way up to complete overhaul or digital distribution, including 4k/UHD and DCP creation,” says Meis. Other services include picture and sound editorial, color grading, voiceover, music scoring, ADR and Foley.
Video and broadcast material are only a part of Media Toaster’s offerings. For independent film productions, the company provides all the post services for modest-budget motion pictures. For Aristar Entertainment and Incendiary Features’ Dead Awake, directed by Phillip Guzman and written by Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination), co-executive producer/producer Galen Walker opted to use the Media Toaster for a variety of key post functions. Peter Devaney was the picture editor for this one, while Jussi Tegelman was sound supervisor.