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December 2014
Issue: March 1. 2014

Special Report: ABC's 'Mistresses' to employ cloud-based workflow

By: Marc Loftus
LOS ANGELES — DigitalFilm Tree provided consulting and post services for the first season of ABC’s Mistresses, starring Alyssa Milano, Yunjin Kim, Jes Macallan and Rochelle Aytes. Produced by ABC for the network, the show is a provocative drama about the scandalous lives of a sexy and sassy group of girlfriends, each on her own path to self discovery. 

At press time, DigitalFilm Tree was helping the show gear up for production of the second season. Post caught up with CEO Ramy Katrib, who was very excited about the cloud-based workflow the show will be implementing for Season 2. 

DigitalFilm Tree has been specializing in creating workflows using desktop technologies and digital files since 1999. Early on, the business collaborated with the producers of the TV series Scrubs, as well as on the features Cold Mountain and Napoleon Dynamite. Today, file-based workflows are the norm, notes Katrib, who sees the cloud as the next step in the evolution of post workflows.



For Season 1 of Mistresses, DigitalFilm Tree built three Avid-based edit stations and three assistant editor stations at ABC. The company also set up a color room with Blackmagic Design’s Da Vinci Resolve, as well as an online room, facilities for titling, and a dailies room. All of the systems were connected to a 76TB SAN. The show’s 13 episodes were shot with two Arri Alexas, mostly on a stage, though occasional location shoots also took place. DigitalFilm Tree, says Katrib, would create the DNxHD36 files for editorial. 

For Season 2, Mistresses will employ a cloud-based workflow. “For us, it was an evolutionary process,” he explains. “It’s cool to have mini post house where you want it, and there are benefits for the DPs and for approving color and titles,” he says of Season 1’s workflow. “[But] cloud-based is more profound. How you connect people is a game changer.”

OpenStack — a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources — he feels, can greatly enhance workflows. “This season, all files — camera negatives, etc. — will be on one OpenStack cloud storage. A local SAN can never be OpenStack block storage. It’s a self-healing storage, and is also replicated to use at any other locations.” In addition to redundancy, OpenStack offers remote access to outside vendors, such as VFX facilities, as well as to ABC’s own promotions department.

For Season 1, assets were archived to LTFS. This included all camera negatives, online archives, and corrected masters. But the cost of cloud storage has come down, and no longer are studios compelled to free up storage space as they have in the past.  “The brilliance is we can scale just like big boy cloud providers,” he notes. “In addition to self healing [features], cost has come down. These are two factors why studios are not compelled to delete [material] as quickly as possible. Cloud storage does not represent the cost challenges it did just two years ago.”