By John Brandon Print this article Print

The Hollywood behemoth makes the transition from conventional to digital moviemaking. But as CTO Art Hair explains, it’s no magic carpet ride.

After being captured to digital, data is moved to a raw repository: a storage area network in a data center. This repository creates the “digital intermediate” that post-production artists use to create effects. (It is the same process studios perform when digitizing film.)

A shift occurs in the workflow here: High data-transfer rates are not as important as what Hair calls “survivability.” Where on-set capture requires a high degree of reliability (movie directors often capture to multiple storage drives for redundancy), digital intermediates are held in storage for many months or even years. If they were lost, a director would have to recreate an entire movie set, actors included.

In the repository, the workflow takes yet another shift: The intermediates must be available for use in collaborative efforts involving effects supervisors, digital artists, film and sound editors, and archivists. And the switching fabric has to support the collaboration. This requires fiber-optic networks, secure access and massive redundancy.

One movie can become several hundred terabytes of raw data, which increases exponentially with each edit. A single Hollywood movie typically totals about 200 hours of raw footage.

“There’s no silver bullet to establish an end-to-end file-based solution,” says Hair. “It involves multiple solutions with their own requirement sets that feed into this overall workflow. If I trace back all the decisions that brought us to this point, they were evolutionary decisions that made things better one step at a time.”

This article was originally published on 2008-06-26
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