By Jason Danielson, Solutions Marketing Manager, NetApp Media & Entertainment
With the Golden Globes and Academy Awards presentations upon us, it’s easy to see how much technology has transformed the film industry in the last 40 years. High-end storage arrays and data management solutions, such as the NetApp® E-Series and EF-Series systems, play a starring role in how current and future films are being produced and distributed.
Although computer-generated imagery (CGI), stereoscopic 3D, 4K resolution, and high-frame-rate (HFR) production have changed what we see on the screen, technology today is also transforming where, when, and how we experience films. As a result, studios, distributors, and production houses are overhauling their IT infrastructure to manage today`s data-heavy films.
The average production capacity per film is only going to increase. Whereas previously the increased use of CGI and stereoscopic 3D resulted in the average amount of data per film doubling to two petabytes, 4K technology will almost quadruple to eight petabytes the average amount of data per film. Studios, distributors, and production houses need to transform their IT infrastructures to create, manage, and move their content.
Although technology has greatly impacted what we see on the screen, it has equally transformed the distribution channel for the film industry. Like the bus in the movie Speed, the trend is not slowing down.
Before five years ago, the traditional process for releasing a film was a theatrical release followed by a VHS or DVD release six to nine months later. With the advent of streaming services, rampant piracy, the need to cater to foreign audiences, the heightened risk of data security breaches, and big blockbuster films exploding with more than two petabytes, the film industry has had to drastically rethink how it distributes a film.
Studios now need to be able to distribute multiple versions of a film simultaneously and securely without thieves getting to the film first. This means that each studio’s IT infrastructure needs to be able to both securely store and globally distribute that studio’s films and its entire digitized and remastered back catalogues, all in a variety of formats and easily and efficiently.
For streaming services or specialized distributors, the need to format and deliver content quickly is paramount. With the advent of tablets and entertainment systems such as PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U, the average consumer wants content anytime, anywhere, and in a particular format. For distributors, this means converting and transcoding their offerings.
However, transcoding is a very time-intensive process, requiring very high I/O and throughput. The average blockbuster may take hours and often dozens of computers to transcode, and with 3D, 4K, or HFR releases, the transcode time and the load on the media storage system will only increase. By moving to an all-flash array that delivers ultralow latency, such as the NetApp EF550 and EF560 flash arrays, transcode times can be shrunk to a fifth or a tenth of what they were. When you need to transcode every release to dozens of new web and mobile platforms, this is a significant increase in speed.
Although CGI technology changed how we can tell stories, storage and data management will help change how and where movies are experienced. Whether you’re watching the latest sci-fi movie from the comforts of your home or going out to the cinema, innovations in data and storage management are helping the film industry boldly go where no film has gone before.