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What Broadcast Can Learn from Hollywood


By Jason Coari, Director of Product Marketing, Quantum

For most of modern history, technology evolution has arrived in such a manner that innovation is driven by the application of technology to more and more specific use cases. In the automotive world, there was once just one type of rubber compound used for tires across all seasons and vehicles. As recently as 25 years ago in the life sciences field, 99 percent of pharmaceutical drug development was devoted to benefiting a broad array of patients. In the present day, there has been an evolution in production with specific tires created for improved safety and performance based and a large percentage of medication research budgets devoted to developing personalized medicine.

There is an agreed understanding that the more targeted a technology can be, the more effective it is. However, as these advancements are being made, we’re seeing an important resurgence of cross-discipline learning and leveraging.

Efficiency in Hollywood

This can increasingly be seen in the world of media and entertainment, especially when it comes to leveraging aspects of the creative and content production process in Hollywood. These learnings are being applied to broadcast – an industry that is facing a huge amount of pressure to produce more and more immersive content for hungry viewers around the world.

One prime aspect of content creation that is making such a cross-over is visual effects and animation. Over the past decade, a majority of Hollywood’s top grossing films have contained significant elements of both special and visual effects. There is truth that in some films, the visual effects crew can easily be larger than the live action crew, and its no coincidence that visual effects can cost up to half a movie’s budget. Hollywood has been especially incentivized to make this production process as efficient as possible.

With the increasingly common use of simple onsite studios in sports broadcasting, a significant portion of the broadcast is built on on-screen talent in front of green screens, and then producing advanced visual effects in real-time. And because broadcasting is competitive by nature, there is an arms race to deliver even more immersive experiences for audiences, which then in turn feed their own increasing expectations. In many ways, it’s a never-ending upward spiral of needing to have world-class visual effects be part of any modern broadcast.

Technology can enhance talent

Producing real-time, captivating visual effects takes more than just creative talent, it takes an improved technology platform to handle the increased performance requirements. Broadcasters are therefore leveraging what is becoming more and more common in Hollywood – a production workflow supported by flash-based storage arrays, and more specifically non-volatile memory express (NVMe) -based storage systems – to better handle support this element of production.

There are indeed benefits to using this type of technology in a broadcasting production environment. For starters, using NVMe can enable visual effects to be created remarkably faster as the rendering operations are no longer waiting to write to storage resources. A recent testing environment at an animation studio improved rendering times by a factor of 10 compared to typical storage configured with 10K SAS hard drives. Staying on the subject of performance, given the increasing number of broadcast events captured with high resolution cameras (such as next year’s Tokyo Olympics being broadcast natively in 8K), editing this footage requires the kind of performance – nearly 10GBs streaming performance at less than 16ms to not drop a frame – something few systems can deliver. Modern NVMe-based storage solutions, such as Quantum’s F2000 system, can support editing of 8K 60FPS content from a single 2U system.

Benefits of best practices

The fact is that leveraging best practices can actually go both ways. Broadcasters, especially when broadcasting a live sporting events, have always had to deal with the associated challenge that a significant percentage of their production must be done remotely. This requires simplifying networking and its associated expense, hence the strong push for most broadcasters to put all production on an all-IP infrastructure, as well as having their technology able to be deployed in places that are less environmentally controlled than a corporate data center. With an increasing amount of filming being done in exotic locations around the globe, Hollywood could very well benefit from this kind of expertise in remote production. A significant amount of operational efficiency can be gained by doing more editing locally rather than constantly sending dailies back to a shared environment for mastering. In fact, The Rebel Fleet, an interesting post-production company based out of New Zealand, is helping Hollywood do just that.

One thing is abundantly clear – whether you are a major broadcaster, a famous movie studio, or any other professional in the media industry, constantly learning and being open to new ideas is a requirement to achieving maximum levels of business agility and keeping yourself ahead of the competition. And it’s safe to say we could all benefit not just from technology developed for our own specific use case, but also from the advancements and expertise offered by our industry neighbors as well.

About Jason Coari

Jason Coari is Quantum’s Director of Product Marketing and a veteran in the technical computing and storage industry, with over 20 years’ experience working at both hardware and software organizations. He leads the company’s commercial strategy for scale-out storage solutions across all industries. Previously, he worked in a variety of global roles at SGI, most notably directing HPC product marketing strategy and leading the European and APAC marketing organizations.

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