Today’s content creation environment can be summed up in one word: more. More content, more demand for efficiencies, more high-resolution files, and more need for faster turnaround, amid static or even shrinking budgets. It all adds up to more pressure and a daunting challenge for the media and entertainment industry.
New workflow complexities, formats and content distribution channels coupled with higher resolutions make implementing a suitable data storage infrastructure infinitely more challenging than it once was, and far from a one-size-fits-all proposition. Storage solutions must solve business challenges, provide greater agility, and scale to meet tomorrow’s needs.
To get there, it’s essential that storage vendors work alongside customers as partners to design solutions to meet individual workflows and production demands. Deep analysis of requirements, strengths and weaknesses must inform storage choices that perform in an atmosphere where capital budgets and human resource allocations are on the decline and productivity and creativity must rise.
A higher bar
The creative bar for content has been raised, resulting in new challenges downstream. Media services like Netflix, networks such as HBO, and broadcasters worldwide are not only offering more content, but that content is of premium quality, often featuring stunning visual effects and animation. That content is also often in higher resolutions like 4K, and 8k coming soon.
Broadcasters, creative agencies and users must rise to the challenge, boosting creativity and productivity without sacrificing workflow efficiency. Rapidly changing viewing habits means content must also be played out and delivered seamlessly to digital platforms in the same high quality that viewers expect on their home TVs or set top boxes.
Searchable, transparent, scalable
High performance and low latency remain as vital as ever for maintaining an increasingly dynamic and demanding media creation ecosystem. At the same time, rising resolutions and exponentially greater content output require more storage and larger footprints in the face of tightening budgets. A smart storage approach can answer these challenges, combining different tiers—primary, cloud-based and nearline—to deliver the right solution. When architected correctly, multi-tier shared storage and data management allow broadcasters and content creators continual access to content and applications, cost effectively and with zero downtime.
Today’s storage must do more in other ways too. The immediate nature of news and live events means that storage must accommodate simultaneous multiple ingest and real-time editing to quickly play out content. Frame-accurate shared access to media files and fast file sharing over high-speed IP and fibre networks enable effective collaboration among geographically dispersed teams. And high-res content must be delivered without any dropped frames. No content creator today has the time or opportunity to duplicate tasks (imagine trying to do this during a live event like a football match).
Scalable storage is essential for ensuring solution longevity. The best solutions accommodate growth. Systems can scale infinitely by transparently adding layers so there’s never a need for a forklift upgrade. In a single environment it’s possible to capture all workflow elements simply by adding storage or storage tiers with little impact and no downtime.
The media and entertainment technical ecosystem requires that clients, network protocols, operating systems and end-user applications all integrate seamlessly. It’s simply the world we now inhabit. Effective storage must integrate transparently with a wide array of third-party solutions, including media asset management, nonlinear editing, visual effects and colour-correction systems. Solutions must be vendor agnostic to function properly and partners must have clear visibility to draw from an ever-deeper content pool.
Bridging the expertise gap
Technology enables creativity. Perhaps the greatest challenge today is understanding the breadth of today’s interconnected and fast-changing technology ecosystem, which will only become more complex. Even the most technical user can’t be an expert on everything. It’s up to technology providers to bridge the gap between IT and creative, educating on how products support the overall infrastructure.
AI and beyond
The creative professional sits at the top of a virtual stack. Storage is the base layer that provides the foundation needed for all above it to function. And it will only get more complex. Storage solutions must take next-generation technologies, including AI and machine learning, into account. Without the right storage infrastructure, solutions higher up are likely to fail.
In this environment, two-way communication is critical. Storage providers must understand where customers are going, from both a business and technical perspective. We must listen closely to users’ needs and build solutions based on those requirements that will perform into the future. Requirements unique to a specific customer or workflow now might become commonplace in the future. Closer partnerships are the only way to address the constant change that is the new normal of the M&E industry.
Anniek Snauwaert, Director, Sales Media and Entertainment, EMEA, Quantum
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