Pixitmedia helps Spectrum Films scale its business
May 9, 2024

Pixitmedia helps Spectrum Films scale its business

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - With headquarters in Sydney on the Disney Studios Lot, and offices in Queensland, Spectrum Films is a full-service post production studio that caters to the Australian and international film and television industries. With 60 years in the industry, the company’s reach continues to expand through strategic alliances and strong investments in technological partners. 

But growth has brought challenges too, and manual processes that had worked at a smaller scale were slowing down the studio’s workflow. When Spectrum required higher performance from their workstations, particularly for client-facing color grade sessions and screenings, they partnered with Kalray company Pixitmedia to re-design their approach to data management. 

“We chose Pixitmedia because of their long and proven history in the media and entertainment space, and their flexible approach to building bespoke, high performing and scalable solutions,” explains Michael Messih, technical operations manager at Spectrum Films. “We know they would work with us to develop a solution that would help our team continue to deliver great work for our clients without storage or throughput challenges.” 

Initially, Spectrum employed local NVMe cache and DAS for their Mac, Linux and Windows finishing workstations, which played a crucial role in client screenings. However, the increasing demand for realtime playback of uncompressed 4K files across the 4K finishing suites and DI theatres presented a data management challenge. As the business grew, the finishing department expanded with it, and the existing process of synchronizing data between local storage locations across machines became unacceptably inefficient.

Anticipating the expansion of the VFX department and envisioning cloud workflows, including burst rendering and a virtual studio, Spectrum required a scalable solution that could accommodate this growth seamlessly, without causing operational complexities.

“One big attraction of NG-Stor for us was the scalability and flexibility to fulfill our needs as our demands and use cases evolve, essentially a storage platform that would grow with us,” notes Adam Archer, head of finishing and VFX at Spectrum. “Having our DI and VFX teams being able to instantly and seamlessly share data with each other, whilst maintaining the high levels or performance required, greatly increases the efficiency in our post production pipeline. It plays an important part in allowing Spectrum Films to deliver the premium experience for our clients that we have built such a strong reputation for over 60 years.” 

To replace their siloed NVMe and DAS infrastructure, Spectrum partnered with Kalray to enhance workflow efficiencies with a software-driven storage and data management solution. The backbone of the solution was a scale-out NG-Stor solution for enterprise-shared storage. Right away, data visibility transformed from siloed and segmented to centrally visible and highly available.  

The storage architecture featured a multi-tiered solution, allowing Spectrum to strategically choose suitable storage technology for specific workflows. This approach empowered Spectrum to allocate funds precisely where they would yield the highest return on investment. The SSD tier, tailored for frame-based media, offered 110TB usable capacity, with a guaranteed performance of 18GBps read and 10GBps read/write. Additionally, a NL-SAS tier addressed general data needs, providing 985TB usable capacity, along with 4,000MB/s read and 3,300MB/s R/W performance.

This integrated solution created a storage profile tailored to the needs of both NFS/SMB clients and Spectrum’s “hero” workstations. For speedy data transfer and communication, the workstations use LC Fibre to connect to the fast and reliable Mellanox Ethernet fabric. To deliver reliable realtime playback, Pixitmedia chose a proven combination, connecting Atto ThunderLink adaptors and FastFrame network cards in the hero machines to the Mellanox fabric.

Recognizing the critical role of the central storage infrastructure that was relied upon by the entire organization, high availability was paramount. Two NG-Stor servers and Lenovo DE6000 dual controller storage units were employed to ensure maximum data availability and superior performance. Spectrum achieved rapid, reliable access to their data under any circumstances, solidifying its operational continuity.

As a result of the new configuration, Spectrum’s team of creators feel more confident delivering final products during live client meetings, because nothing stands in the way of realtime 4K playback. 

“The whole team is relieved to have this solution in place,” says Messih. “We have always prided ourselves on innovative solutions and ensuring clients have a seamless experience when working with us. Our new relationship with Pixitmedia has brought about a more collaborative, flexible and robust workflow to deliver great post production and VFX work at scale.” 

By transitioning from a manual process to a streamlined and transparent workflow, Spectrum Films positioned itself for continued growth and penetration in Australia and beyond. With assured performance and bandwidth tailored for SMB protocols and cross-OS hardware compatibility provided by Kalray, Spectrum's teams can now devote less time to manual workflow steps and focus more on delivering exceptional work to their clients.

Some of Spectrum’s most recent credits include Cannes Film Festival premieres, The New Boy & Three Thousand Years of Longing, Netflix’s latest epic Australian drama series, Boy Swallows Universe, New Line Cinema’s Mortal Kombat, and the Academy Award-nominated films The Power of The Dog and Elvis.