2013 HPA Retreat: Rendering in the Cloud & Episodic Post

Posted By Tom Coughlin on February 22, 2013 08:08 am | Permalink
By Tom Coughlin
Coughlin Associates

The annual Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) Retreat is a relaxed event where media and entertainment techies can meet for informed but informal interactions on the latest developments in the field.  Hardware and software, digital storage, DAM and networking-all had a airing in the interesting sessions and the open demo room (this year's demo room was open almost all the time during the event-a good move). 

Todd Prives from Zync described the uses for cloud-based rendering.  The company's goal is to replicate the feel of a local render farm without the ingrained costs of buying and maintaining such infrastructure.  Basically rendering is being offered as a service with a pay as you go model.  This appears to be particularly attractive to small and medium size media houses where rendering requirements are not constant and thus it would be difficult to justify the investment in a dedicated render farm.  

The biggest issue for on-line services, such as cloud-based rendering, is bandwidth for electronic uploading of files into the cloud.  Shipping physical storage media such as hard disk drives or LTO tapes may still be the fastest and cost effective way to bring content to a cloud-based render farm.  Because of its security certifications Zync is using Amazon Web Services for their cloud rendering.

Mike Romey from Zoic Studios gave an informative presentation on Episodic post production (the largest single part of their business and about 50% of their overall business).  Episodics that Zoic Studios have handled included CSI, Falling Skys, TrueBlood and Once Upon a time.

He gave the following statistics for a typical Episodic production:
• 2-3 weeks to deliver an episode
• 230 average shots per episode
• 2,800 average versions per episode
• 3,000 average notes per episode
• 80,000 average 3D rendered frames per edisode
• 120,000 average 2D rendered frames per episode
• 700,000 average frames of on-set tracking data acquired per episode

All this can result in a TV Episodic in the 1-5 GB range with a whole season of finished work taking about 60 TB, in HD.  Obviously the storage requirements to manage this content can be daunting.  Zoic has used Isilon storage for much of their working content library.

Whether in the cloud or in a local data center, media and entertainment storage demand is increasing.  As the size of these objects increases the bandwidth as well as capacity demand increases.  Managing these assets is another big subject and will have to be considered in another blog.

T. M. Coughlin, the founder of Coughlin Associates has over 30 years of magnetic recording engineering and engineering management experience at companies developing flexible tapes and floppy disc storage as well as rigid disks at such companies as Polaroid, Seagate Technology, Maxtor, Micropolis, Nashua Computer Products, Ampex and SyQuest. You can reach Tom at tom@tomcoughlin.com.