Fox turns to Open Storage for scoring stage
Morgan Littlewood
Issue: January/February 2021

Fox turns to Open Storage for scoring stage

The Newman Scoring Stage on the Fox Studio premises in Los Angeles is one of the oldest large-scale scoring facilities in Los Angeles - and the world. Built in the early 20th century, it is named after the Newman family, including Alfred and Lionel Newman, who were head of Twentieth Century Fox's music department in the early part of the last century. The famous and historic facility resumed its rightful place as a leader with its reopening in 1997. The magnificently appointed control room features a state-of-the-art scoring console and top-quality systems to accommodate all possible scoring requirements.

The Newman Scoring Stage has been the host to a large number of well-known media and entertainment projects, including Lion King, MIB International, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Toy Story 4, West Side Story, Family Guy, The Mandalorian and many others. As one of the most sought-after venues for best-in-class film scores, the location is in constant demand by the industry's top producers.

Among the products assigned to the Newman Scoring Stage are the AMS-Neve 88RS recording console with 96 channels; Neve remote microphone preamps; an extensive collection of modern outboard equipment from Avalon, Grace, Millennia, dBx and SSL; a Meyer Sound 7.1 monitor system with soffit-mounted Bluehorns for left-center-right and HMS-12s for 4-channel surrounds; Quad Meyer X-400 subwoofers; a collection of microphones from Neumann, Sennheiser, Schoeps, Royer, and AKG; and a digital recording environment with two TrueNAS M40 Open Storage systems at its foundation, used to store and preserve the scores.

The TrueNAS M40 products were selected for this environment in part because they allowed for digitized audio to be stored and edited directly on the systems. Fox purchased both TrueNAS M40 systems with a High-Availability (HA) implementation featuring two storage controllers per chassis with an active/standby configuration that ensures the systems are accessible 24 hours a day. The TrueNAS M40 systems are connected to a 40Gbs network using Cisco network switches. Client machines attach to the storage through a 10Gb Base-T copper (Sonnet) network to connect streams from Pro Tools using both Mac Pro workstations and new Mac Pro towers. The TrueNAS storage environment has been set up and partitioned into two pools for both high-speed production (using flash drives) and long-term storage (using spinning disk). The storage systems also have a one Gbs connect for third-party access, including backups and client downloads.

Open Storage was preferred over traditional proprietary systems for its flexibility, performance characteristics, value and connectivity with respect to 40Gbs networking compatibility and the ability to seamlessly interconnect to other environments as required. While Fox noted that the price per TB was great, TrueNAS stood up against or beat other proprietary storage systems. One disadvantage of comparable products considered was Fiber Channel (FC) connectivity, instead of native ethernet network, which would limit operational efficiency and flexibility.

The enterprise storage appliances deployed deliver a range of features that are well suited for scoring and the volume of data moving to the systems. For high-speed ingestion, editing and sharing, these systems offer a caching engine and fast interconnects from one to 100GbE to provide maximum bandwidth and simple integration with existing environments. Configurable as all-flash or hybrid disk/flash designs for use in a wide range of editing environments, including Windows, macOS, and even Linux clusters and rendering farms, the multi-purpose systems are well-suited for this varied media & entertainment environment.

Open Storage is widely deployed in M&E editing environments like the Fox Newman Scoring Stage, serving as the storage for audio applications, VFX and more. Professional audio editing workflows begin with recording, move through post production, and finally go to broadcast. The process can take anywhere from months for a major motion picture to hours or even minutes for some productions. Professionals in these environments require multi-stream performance, flexibility in sharing files across departments, and assurance that data is safely and reliably stored and accessible when required.

Major studios and post production houses have already turned to Open Storage for their Pro Tools editing to eliminate complicated consolidation and content archiving processes on dozens of direct-attached storage systems, making it possible to better focus on production. With TrueNAS systems deployed by Fox, the scalable ZFS filesystem used to handle drive and dataset management uncaps performance with a two-tier caching system: ARC in memory, and SLOG & L2ARC in flash. ZFS defends data integrity with copy-on-write and checksums to protect against bit rot and other file corruption. The filesystem is essentially limitless in scale and supported appliances have no limitation to LUN or dataset sizes, allowing studios to easily scale from terabytes to petabytes. 

"While the AMS-Neve 88RS console is at the core of the studio recording environment, the Open Storage we have in place is equally critical to our mission of scoring the media and entertainment projects we produce," explains Erin Rettig, supervising engineer, sound scoring, Fox. "With TrueNAS, the rich, voluminous tone of the recording hall is captured in our work and made available to our post production audio experts, making these systems critical for our workloads."

For audio studios like Fox's Newman Scoring Stage working to score TV shows or films, Open Storage provides advantages that position the technology to be well suited for audio post. Studios with workstations and rendering farms running a broad range of computing environments will find they provide comprehensive connectivity to support the workgroups necessary for post production. At Fox, engineers are able to access virtually every computing environment and even sync with major cloud vendors, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud if needed. 

Morgan Littlewood (pictured) is SVP, TrueNAS Product Management, at iXsystems, Inc. ( in San Jose, CA. Prior to joining iXsystems, he held executive posts with Cisco and Violin Memory in support of enterprise storage and networking.