"G'day Mate!" Sure that's easy to say in English, but how do
you say it if you're an Aussie having to deal with production challenges from
all across Australia, the Far East, England and the United States? Each region
has its own preferred video format, its own production style, and - krikey -
even its own language. That could be a bloody hard yakka!
For Cutting Edge, however, it can also be a splendid
opportunity if you're willing to give it a fair go. Having grown over the past
12 years into Australia's largest privately owned post production company -
with facilities in Brisbane, Sydney and on the Gold Coast - Cutting Edge
services offer a broad spectrum of post production needs including television
commercials, feature films and large scale reality TV shows from all around the
world. The company's credits include Hell's Kitchen, Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here!, just to mention a few.
But with all these productions throwing projects at you from
the four corners of the globe, how do you keep their digital media flowing
without running into a massive international bottleneck?
Michael Burton, managing director of Cutting Edge in
Brisbane, Australia, says in the past their solution was to deploy large shared
storage servers that could hold multiple terabytes of material. For years,
Cutting Edge had been locked into shared storage systems from one of the
dominant international providers of post production technology. That brand name
doesn't have to be mentioned here but if you know NLEs, you've heard of them.
The only problem is that their storage technology was getting too expensive for
a post house that's still reaching out to new production markets, especially
one that prides itself on being able to service the full spectrum of video
production, from established studios to up-and-coming indies - so Cutting Edge
began looking for other options.
"We wanted to find a more cost effective alternative to our
current shared storage system," Burton says, "especially one that would be an
easy to manage. We wanted the back-up protection of RAID 5 redundancy, and
something that could share material with all of our more than 40 Windows
XP-based nonlinear editing and graphics systems."
With seven of those "expensive" shared storage
systems already online, Cutting Edge was still cross-hiring others (that's
"renting" for you Yanks) to fill the demands of production Down Under. But
since Cutting Edge makes a point of servicing its own equipment to keep their
clients happy, they also wanted to make sure that whatever new technology they
adopted was reliable and easy to maintain. After all, most reality shows are
shot on location and these shared storage servers were ultimately destined to
be used far from a central repair facility. Burton knew his clients could not
afford to lose all their preciously stored footage when they were stuck in the
middle of the bush.
"They have to run off of generators with back-up power
systems always on the ready," Burton says, "because many of these reality shows
sometimes have to turn around their content in as little as six hours. So we
always need to be sure that whatever storage system we sent into the outback
would stay upright under the most demanding conditions."
A former sales representative with whom they had worked with
for many years had begun fronting a brand new storage system in the
Asia-Pacific market, and Burton knew this particular individual would only
stand up for equipment he could stand behind. The company was EditShare, and
during May of 2006, Cutting Edge agreed to a demonstration at the Broadcast
Asia convention in Singapore. Burton was so impressed he bought two EditShare
systems right off the floor.
To test out the EditShare storage's ease of user access and
operational reliability, Burton had them installed in Cutting Edge's Brisbane
and Sydney facilities as the in-house shared storage system and immediately
dedicated them to two international feature films being shot in Australia. The
results proved to be highly satisfactory.
"EditShare does have a slightly different user interface,
but we found our editors could adapt to it fairly easily," Burton says. "Most
importantly, the feeling of confidence that we could rely on their RAID 5
architecture to prevent any loss of data was crucial for relying on a new
technology. The other system had used a mirroring approach, which came at an
additional cost and suffered a huge penalty in storage space. EditShare makes
much more efficient use of its capacity."
Taking shared storage systems into the field holding up to
12 terabytes of source material serving 20 editing workstation means that
failure can spell catastrophe. All of the systems Cutting Edge provides have to
be capable of running 24 hours a day to meet the needs of ongoing reality
shows. So Burton found that having RAID 5 security would be a major advantage
of the EditShare approach.
In addition, competing systems made you purchase a new
license whenever another user was added to the workflow, which meant its costs
increased incrementally. EditShare is only limited by its bandwidth capability,
so by running it over 10 gigabit copper or fiber Ethernet, the system can
expand until its internal potential is totally utilized.
"For a new product coming into an existing market,
EditShare's centralized storage has impressed us from the moment we installed
it," Burton says. "We've got two of the 3RU EditShare rack models and they have
had a faultless run in the five months we've been working with them. We're
already looking forward to acquiring even bigger 5RU EditShare rack systems
that can service 20 users simultaneously at online resolution so that we can
offer our clients the best possible value for their money. This will give us
increased reliability even under extreme production conditions and will provide
a shared storage system that runs with increased RAID 5 confidence on our