Once it became common practice to shoot more of Hollywood's biggest productions digitally instead of on film, the film industry was forever changed. Instead of warehouses and storage rooms being filled from wall to wall with old film reels, there is now a new, cost-effective way to store it all. One of the fastest growing forms of storage in Hollywood is the use of the cloud.
DigitalFilm Tree, a post-production and visual effects firm, also known as DFT, is responsible for producing the programming for some of America's most popular television stations like ABC, TBS and TNT. The day came for DFT to fully embrace use of the cloud because it was honestly just the best option available.
Guillaume Aubichon, chief technology officer of DFT, spoke to Business Cloud News about the transition to using more cloud based storage.
"The first and the most pressing pain point in the entertainment industry right now is storage – inexpensive, commodity storage that is also Internet ready," said Aubichon. "With 4K becoming more prominent we have some projects that generate about 12 TB of content a day. The others are cost and flexibility."
Introduction of 4K resolution
Most animated films are expected to be seen at a rate of 24 frames per second (fps) with a 2K resolution. Advancements in technology have made it so that films are being released with a 4K resolution and 48 fps. While the advancement of technology in the film industry is an amazing accomplishment that allows filmmakers to do a lot more with their resources, it also comes with some new problems. The amount of time that it currently takes to make a more detailed film has progressively changed, as well as the amount of memory it takes to store and send things for editing and approval. For example, during production for 2013's Despicable Me 2, peak memory use was a whopping total of 628 TB. To obtain that amount of memory, you'd have to completely fill over 4,200 160 GB mp3 players.
Understandably, this use of memory could come at a very high cost if the film company was depending on its own servers that each need appropriate space and maintenance. And given the trends of film technology, it would only get more expensive in the future as the need for memory rose.
The economics just do not support it," said Bruno Mahe, technical head at studio Illumination Mac Guff, to BBC News. "You cannot just make your render farm 2.5 times bigger. You need to be much smarter than that."
Fortunately for Mahe, cloud storage is now a legitimate, cost effective way to store and share data.
The cloud saving Hollywood
Aubichon has noticed the transition from physical storage techniques to the use of the servers and remote hosting locations that have become known as the cloud. Sending audio or video to a contractor that's also working on a project can now happen instantly.
"Any TV show or film production and post-production process involves multiple vendors," said Aubichon. "For instance, on both Mistresses and Perception there was an outside visual effects facility involved as well. So instead of having to take the shots, pull it off an LTO tape, put it on a drive, and send it over to the visual effects company, they can send us a request and we can send them an authorized link that connects back to our Swift object storage, which allows them to pull whatever file we authorize. So there's a tremendous amount of efficiency gained."
Hollywood on the go
The benefits of cloud storage in the film industry doesn't stop once they hit the big screen and become box office successes. One of the latest phenomena to take over the world is streaming. One of the companies at the forefront of this new wave is Netflix, which allows subscribers to stream television shows and movies from their computers, smart phones, tablets, video game consoles and pretty much anything with access to Wi-Fi and a screen.
Streaming services are actually one of the biggest users of the cloud, which puts Netflix at the top of the list. Keeping up with the growing industry means that they'll also need to maintain the delivery of their services. To do so, Netflix has revamped its cloud storage use so that it can store more data while taking up 80 percent less room on the server floor.
"Over the past 7 years, Netflix streaming has expanded from thousands of members watching occasionally to millions of members watching over two billion hours every month," said the company. "Each time a member starts to watch a movie or TV episode, a 'view' is created in our data systems and a collection of events describing that view is gathered. Given that viewing is what members spend most of their time doing on Netflix, having a robust and scalable architecture to manage and process this data is critical to the success of our business."