ATLANTA – DigitalGlue (www.digitalglue.com), which provides equipment, integration, and software development for the production and distribution of digital video as well as designs and implements solutions for complete turnkey content creation, post production and distribution, earlier this year introduced innovative new high-end storage solutions with the launch of creative.space, an entirely new concept in media storage. The platform is offered as an On-Premise Managed Storage (OPMS) service and features high-speed, high-capacity, 24/7 monitoring, technical support and next-day repairs for an all-inclusive, affordable, fixed monthly rate.
DigitalGlue’s creative.space targets collaborative workflows by optimizing the latest, most advanced hardware and software for efficiency and increased productivity via its On-Premise Managed Storage service. OPMS removes storage as a bottleneck, helping creatives achieve uninterrupted creative flow.
“Creative.space is the first on-premise managed storage offering engineered specifically for the media and entertainment industry,” explains Tim Anderson, DigitalGlue CEO/CTO. “It was designed with a simple mission in mind: minimize the time it takes to turn vision into reality in an affordable way. We believe that when creatives are given the tools they need to succeed, they are more productive and generate more value for their agencies and clients.”
Here, DigitalGlue’s Nick Anderson, product manager, speaks with Post about the new storage solution.
What led DigitalGlue to the launch of creative.space?
“Over the last decade, our clients' have pushed us to dive deep into file-based media workflows. We were always forced to stay on the bleeding edge of technology to meet the performance demanded by emerging formats like 4K, 8K, HDR, OpenEXR, 3D and more. Our main value-add was integrating various systems together to make a seamless and coherent workflow. After spending so much time trying to fit the existing products on the market to the customers we kept running into, we realized that the market wasn't listening to what the production community was asking for: An affordable storage that enables them to work with the formats their clients are demanding in real-time. So, we spent the last few years breaking down the elements required to deliver video from the drive to the client and applied that expertise to optimizing the most cutting-edge hardware on the market.”
What need in the industry did you feel wasn’t being met properly?
“Apart from my work as product manager for creative.space, I am a colorist and post production supervisor. This industry has been lacking a platform that is focused more on the day-to-day experience that post production professionals actually live through. For us, it starts with the storage. By delivering an enterprise-solution at a lower price point, we hope to bring the benefits of seamless realtime performance to more artists than was possible before. Spending less time dealing with all the technical hassles that arise when moving projects and media between systems mean more long days at the office and less time at home. Even more, it means more time invested in the creative quality of the final content instead of being at the mercy of constant bottlenecks. As a post production professional myself, I wasn't satisfied with the idea that I would have to compromise the quality of the media I do my work with in order to achieve the real-time performance required to effectively make creative decisions. Our goal with everything we do is to minimize the time it takes to turn vision into reality.”
Creative.space provides On-Premise Managed Storage (OPMS) as a service. For those who don’t necessarily understand, can you explain what that means?
“This new service-based model for providing on-premise storage arose from what we saw as a misalignment in the industry between the way storage is sold and the interests of the production community. When you purchase storage, you still are required to purchase an annual support contract in order to even request software updates and basic support. This does not include the cost of someone actually installing them. We have found a way to structure our offering so that it is equivalent in price to just paying the annual support contract of our competitors. We understand that artists aren't always technical and so our service-model is designed with a proactive support policy. We securely monitor your system health without having access to your precious data and are reaching out to you in the event something happens rather than you having to wait on hold. So, ultimately, you are getting on-premise storage that is better, faster and cheaper than other storage on the market with a technology partner that can provide you with advice and solutions as needed for a simple monthly payment.”
Since DigitalGlue launched creative.space earlier this year, it has released a number of systems extending the solution. //Breathless was introduced in May. What can you tell us about it?
“Yes, we have designed an entire product line-up that is designed for specific production tiers but is also easily scalable to meet any workflow need. //Breathless is really all about breaking through the ceiling on how far we can scale. With each 4TB and soon 16TB NVMe SSD card, we can almost deliver the performance of an entire spinning disk system. This is parallel access storage that scales to accommodate any size team working with high-bandwidth formats, like 4K OpenEXR. It is actually the cheapest SSD system per-gig currently available.”
What are some of its key/outstanding features?
“What really makes this system unique is the Next-Generation Small Form Factor (NGSFF). We have finally bypassed the limitations SAS puts on SSD throughput with a PCIe connector. This is basically the NVMe card connected straight into the motherboard without any buffer. These cards are small and without the unnecessary typically required to fit SSDs into a storage server, we can fit 36 of these cards into a single rack unit. When 16TB becomes available, that will be over half a petabyte in a 1 RU form factor that delivers 10 million IOPS of performance. This system is ready for 100-plus Gbe workflows.”
//Breathless specifically benefits the visual effects community?
“So many of the issues that arise in VFX workflows are caused in the interchange of assets both rendered and unrendered. When artists can't seamlessly communicate their work, the bottlenecks easily stack up. We designed //Breathless as the answer to the issues that arose when VFX teams needed to scale at the highest quality level (4K 16-bit half-float OpenEXR). In addition, our software-defined RAIDing allows users to move drives between systems. This provides VFX teams to use sneaker-net to share assets and save on cloud transfer costs. As we continue our Early Adopter program, we hope to work with VFX companies to build out tools to help share media easily and securely point-to-point to finally bring the benefits of the cloud back down to earth and back into a secure and controlled environment.”
Do you think that studios working within the visual effects community have a greater need for the proper storage solutions?
“There are no proxies in VFX. You have to work in the highest quality to provide the data needed for truly immersive content. Human vision has its limits: 4K, 12-bit, 21 stops of dynamic range, etc. The industry has been moving towards this plateau and we hope to help artists work together at this level seamlessly. Artists work best when they are given the room to reach a creative flow state. To achieve this, many studios have settled with working in lower resolutions or lower quality video formats. We have solutions that will accommodate these workflows more affordable, but our goal is to help studios expand their capabilities to provide their customers with pristine quality that is future proof for long-term remastering.”
Do you agree that sometimes the importance of storage can be a bit underestimated?
“This has always been a problem. At the end of the day, all you end up with is the digital assets and those have to live on storage. Realtime performance is crucial to meeting client expectations and reaching creative flow. The biggest issue has been that the costs of not having collaborative storage are typically accrued as unexpected time delays. Every time an asset has to be moved or copied is another possible chance for human or computer error. I will be the first to say that direct-attached storage drives have their purpose and they aren't going away any time soon, but the benefits of everyone on your team being able to seamlessly collaborate without delay or chance for error allows everyone to work more effectively. We want to provide a seamless experience across all storage, not just our own hardware and this is a big part of why we have opened up our Early Adopter program at this stage, to give customers a chance to be involved in our software development process and ensure that we deliver our vision for a decentralized media ecosystem in an intuitive way that any artist can take advantage of without any specialized training.”
What can post houses and visual effects studios expect to see next or down the road from creative.space?
“The last few years have been spent reaching a storage benchmark that is the foundation of our [creative.space] platform. Now we are moving on to building software tools that are simple and yet powerful. We focus on the day-to-day experience of artists and want our software to make that experience easier. Too often, the software adds unnecessary complexity to workflows. During our Early Adopter program, we are hoping to get feedback from artists working in the industry on how we can make their lives easier and healthier. We are not looking to simply provide a storage solution, we hope to build a better life for creatives in our industry and that includes looking at daily habits. We have already started this with our partnership with Studio 8 furniture, which allows us to provide affordable sit-stand desks that keep artists moving throughout the day. This is just the beginning for creative.space and we are excited to continue moving forward in our mission to minimize the time it takes to turn vision into reality.”