2015/05/12 Formula E races around the world with GB Labs and Tools on Air
2015/04/08 Driving The Storage Game
2015/02/20 Transmitting Love… Live
2014/11/18 EditCompany Centralizes FCPX around Space
2014/10/03 Sunset and Vine invest to capture the Volvo Ocean Race
2014/08/04 BBC Archives' new centralized tape system accelerates programme archiving

Formula E races around the world with GB Labs and Tools on Air

A special project undertaken by GB Labs.

Aurora Media approached GB Labs having won the Formula E inaugural season broadcast contract. The requirement was for a mobile storage platform to centralise video ingest, as well providing an editing and broadcasting facility. The solution would have to be robust and portable, as it would be following the season’s races across four continents.

What was more, the editors would need to edit the coverage as it was imported to enable them to push out the race highlights quickly. As the organisers of Formula E were determined to satisfy television and social media audiences, this meant they would need to produce an engaging highlight show and then broadcast live after the race, whilst still on location.

Existing solutions on the market lacked the portability and level of functionality the crew required. Critically, none could accommodate the customer’s budget requirement. GB Labs took up the challenge with a combination of its new Midi Space 3RU, and industry leading ingest and playout technology from Tools on Air.

The result was a bespoke video editing and broadcast solution housed in a single flight case. This would serve four Adobe Premiere edit suites and allow the editors to immediately work on the footage during capture, thanks to the HD chase editing capabilities of the ingest solution and the simultaneous read/write performance of the Midi Space 3RU.

The single flight case met our post production, media management and live playout needs. Thankfully, it is light enough to be transported with ease and has the power to support multiple simultaneous media editors in the field. We were pleased GB Labs were able to supply us with a unique solution that met both our needs and budget.
Mike Scott – Formula E Series Producer

Easy transport to each venue and reliable operation during a broadcast were all-important. Equally, a reliable internal power source was essential, particularly when working in different worldwide locations, often in ill-equipped ad hoc studios. Consequently, back-up batteries were included! The system has now been in operation throughout the 2014/2015 whole season of races. It has operated without a glitch, delivering live and near-live programming to audiences across the globe.

What’s in the box?

GB Labs Midi Space provides 32TB high-speed shared storage, at a fraction of the cost of competing platforms. It is at the heart of the rack and integrates with a variety of third party solutions, including Mac Mini Servers running Tools on Air and Mac Pro editing workstations.

Midi Space 3RU is a shared storage system optimized for media environments. Designed to be easily scaled and expanded, its NAS architecture allows users to attach to the storage using standard Ethernet connectivity and supports multiple OS workgroups. It has the sustained speed to support multiple online editors, graphics designers, sound engineers and playout operators.

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Driving The Storage Game

http://gblabs.co.uk/site_media/uploads/pdf_download.png  Drive Thru Adopts HyperSpace

While broadcasters continue to argue over the transition to UltraHD, for full service facilities, the debate is already settled: 4K is here to stay. Producing content for big screen presentation and theatrical release demands workflows and systems capable of handling a mass of high resolution formats, compressed and raw. While this is technologically feasible, there’s a catch, as Bob George, Flame/VFX Artist & Owner of Drive Thru Editorial facilities explains:

“The commercial reality is that what we can charge our customers isn’t increasing, so we have to invest wisely and only use equipment that is efficient, affordable and scalable to our future needs.”

Drive Thru specializes in producing commercials for local Minneapolis-based clients alongside national advertisers including Honda, Union Pacific and Subaru. Their work is highly dynamic, with its Flame, Flare, Flame Assist and DaVinci Resolve artists delivering truly compelling advertising campaigns.

When it came to selecting central storage for the company’s content production and file sharing, George could not afford low performing technology. So while fast, locally connected drives may have provided the data throughput for 4K editing, he sees them as fundamentally flawed in terms of shared working, enterprise-wide asset management and data security. 

“Each of these issues on their own are serious concerns for production houses; combined they spell huge inefficiency and unacceptable risk.” He continues.
As an organization that offers editing, grading, VFX, graphics and animation services, George was determined to future-proof the workgroup. Yet relying on

SAN topologies was an alternative he was keen to avoid, as he explains:

“We are a mixed-OS facility, with Windows, Linux and Mac workstations running on the network. That’s not easy to manage with a SAN. Nor would it give us the flexibility to add freelancers’ laptops to the workgroup without re-configuring each system.”

The research pointed to fast network attached storage as the most likely alternative. Although its Ethernet connectivity would make installing workstations straightforward, the team was concerned that 1Gb and 10Gb network speeds could be insufficient for its needs. 

“If the Autodesk Flame guys are working on a 30 second spot in high resolution, we had to have faster performance than most storage solutions can offer. We’re looking to the future where we may be handling 4K as standard and that’s a lot of data traffic to handle.” He continues.

4K DPX at Full Speed
As a pioneer in 40Gb Ethernet, GB Labs was able to create a storage network that delivered the data throughput, file sharing, scalability and versatility that Drive Thru needed. The new system they installed was based around the Space tier 1 storage unit, with the native capacity increased to 96TB thanks to the addition of two EX expansion modules. 

Space is undeniably fast in its original configuration but we really bought into the product because of its scalable performance. We used an additional RAID controller to double the performance of the unit and were the first to invest in their new HyperSpace SSD accelerator. This has delivered incredible simultaneous read/write speeds.” George remarks.

HyperSpace is an intelligent acceleration unit for Space. This SSD-based accelerator addresses the I/O performance gap between HDD systems and the ultimate performance of the Space SSD range. Ben Pearce, VP Sales and Marketing notes:

“By intelligently lowering latency and increasing IOPS performance, the user experience is up to 4x faster with HyperSpace. The system delivers exceptional performance, using two unique technologies - IDA2 (Inflight Data Acceleration) and the DRAM-based Chaos Cache. Working as a single volume, HyperSpace’s SSDs and Space’s HDDs offer highly cost-effective performance with expandable capacities.”

“The effect is dramatic!”

“The effect is dramatic,” George assesses. “We can now run multiple projects concurrently, with editors, animators and the graphics team all working directly off the storage. Even when we’re handling 4K DPX streams, there’s no system slowdown, everything is in real-time.”

This level of performance was achieved without the facility having to move entirely to SSD technology which would have been significantly more expensive. As the workgroup grows to include new team members, Drive Thru has the option of adding further HyperSpace modules for even greater levels of performance. Indeed, George already foresees this prospect: as the organization moves to increase its remote file transfer capabilities using their Aspera system, the team will need to deliver yet more concurrent streams.

Transmitting Love… Live

LoveLive loves Space
The Transmitter project forms an important part of the work of the LoveLive team. The video crew needed to upgrade its post production infrastructure to cope with the massive influx of media files and video clips that have to be turned round fast to share with the eager online audience.
“At any one time, the team is working on anything from five to 20 projects.” Remarks Kevin Molloy Head of TV. “Our existing editing workflow badly needed updating to cope with the increased workload and to safeguard our content. One thing we were clear about was that sticking with directly connected storage was creatively very limiting and security-wise was an accident waiting to happen.”
Initially, the team looked at SAN options, but were quickly put off by the cost of licences and lack of scalability. Next up for consideration was an Ethernet-based NAS system, as Molloy explains:

“On paper it’s very attractive. It makes sense to share files over a LAN and we assumed that transferring data to and from archive would be a simpler process. But we didn’t realise quite how true this would turn out to be.”
LoveLive turned to GB Labs’ Space, a scalable and easily expanded NAS storage system which delivers very high concurrent stream counts. Unlike generic NAS devices, it is optimized for media ecosystems and can sustain its performance even with multiple users attached, simultaneously reading and writing 4K, HD and proxy video clips and high bitrate audio files.
The ability to support any format has been essential. LoveLive uses a variety of cameras from DSLRs and ENG camcorders, up-to large sensor 3K and 4K cameras. Mac Pro workstations connect to the tier one storage, running Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, and Avid ProTools. A key advantage for users is that Space integrates easily with third party systems. For LoveLive this means that their EVS multi-channel recorder can capture directly to the system, with editors cutting content even as HD files are still growing. Molloy contends:
“As you can imagine, there’s a lot of file and project management involved, so Space’s common sense approach to data management is very welcome. We purchased a GB Labs LTO Space four-tape central back up system and the archiving and restoring of projects is fast and very straightforward. Transmitter is growing so quickly that we’re not sure what the next stage will be from a technical standpoint – we’re interested in their nearline offering as well as their super-fast SSD online platform. Time will tell what we do next.” 
Much of the LoveLive’s work involves filming in the field with multiple cameras. This posed a particular issue, namely, how to turn around content fast when the crew is in a remote location, such as at the Leeds and Latitude festivals. To address the problem, LoveLive again turned to GB Labs, and its portable Midi Space RAID storage system. Based around the same principle as the rack-mounted Space, the desktop version is light enough to be used in a temporary studio or OB van, giving fast, sustained performance to multiple concurrent users. The improved productivity is matched only by the enhanced security offered by Midi Space: data saved to the drive of a laptop is highly vulnerable compared with the protective environment of a RAID system.
Molloy concludes: “With our huge workload and painfully short turnaround times, we push Space and Midi Space very hard. But we’ve never lost any data, even when we suffered a hard drive failure. And even with a disk out of action, the editors were still able to do their job – it’s a very impressive system.”

EditCompany Centralizes FCPX around Space

Before investing in Midi LTO, Dutch production specialist EditCompany faced interminable issues...
“In terms of storage, we had Avid Unity followed by Apple Xsan – it worked great but was costly, needed a lot of infrastructure and we had so many support issues.” Recalls company director Maarten Butter. 

The GB Labs alternative initially appealed to the company because of its ease of use and reliability. As a small company that offers a complete production and post production service, EditCompany cannot afford down-time. 

“Ethernet connectivity was a key feature for us. Attaching clients using standard cabling and networking kit was very attractive. In terms of performance, we were looking for sustained speed over everything else: unexpected system slowdowns are very distracting for editors and harm the creative process. The GB Labs system is fast, but it’s the reliability that’s most crucial.” Notes Butter.

Keen to use central storage to take advantage of intelligent workflows, the team selected the GB Labs desktop system, Midi LTO. Midi LTO is a hybrid system, comprising a fast 24TB RAID and an integrated and shared LTO drive system for project backup and file archive. It incorporates GB Labs’ powerful archiving software that makes tape storage fast, safe and efficient. Users connect over standard Ethernet, with the system supporting multiple workstations and mixed OS environments. All GB Labs storage systems enable editors to run their software of choice, in this instance Apple Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Creative Suite.

“The move from FCP 7 to Final Cut Pro X was a bit of a backward step in terms of workflow until Apple launched the library model in version 10.1. Now we just point each workstation to Midi LTO where all the assets are instantly available. It’s become a very effective workflow.” Says Butter.

EditCompany typically edits ProRes files but recently trialed their 2.5K Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera, shooting RAW in a crowd funding project for a Dutch movie house. Completing the initial grade in DaVinci Resolve, the clips were transcoded into proxies, edited in FCP X then returned to Resolve for conforming and the final grade.

“Midi LTO’s ability to work with multiple formats, codecs and resolutions is crucial.” Concludes Butter. “We had a few initial teething problems with the system and LTO backups but since the arrival of Core OS 3, the system has run very smoothly. The new OS has also made administration and updates much easier to manage, making the user experience very impressive.”

Sunset and Vine invest to capture the Volvo Ocean Race

Mini Space takes to the seas
How does Space work in Final Cut Pro X environments? Click here!

GB Labs storage has been selected by Sunset and Vine to produce HD content in the field for this year’s Volvo Ocean Race. The competition is one of the most extreme challenges on the planet, with teams enduring hurricane conditions while fighting through 40,000 nautical miles. 

For the 2014-2015 race series, Sunset and Vine has invested in a portable shared storage from GB Labs. Mini Space replaces the production company’s existing rack-based systems yet still scores high in terms of capacity, security and speed. Supplied by British reseller Broadcast & Production Services (U.K.) Ltd, the storage is lightweight and rugged, ideal to travel with the crew from location to location.

Space Mini is used in the field to safely archive the rushes and for online location editing. The system is equipped with standard Ethernet networking connectivity enabling multiple technicians and editors to access the content and work collaboratively on projects.

With 7 competing teams, 39 half hour TV programmes and weekly video updates, the 8TB RAID storage now forms a key part of the operation in terms of file storage and location editing. Duncan Beattie, Global Product Manager with GB Labs, said:

“The Volvo Ocean Race makes for awe-inspiring television. The TV production crew needs a robust and fast storage system to create programming from locations around the world. Space Mini gives them the speed, reliability and versatility they need and we are delighted to be playing a role in this phenomenal competition.”


BBC Archives' new centralized tape system accelerates programme archiving

Have I Got News for You?
BBC Archives has integrated its first central LTO pool and an Ethernet-attached storage system into its network to manage and accelerate its quality control process. Using LTO Space 4-drive devices from GB Labs that work in tandem with Space storage arrays, the archiving team can now manage the whole quality control project centrally and co-ordinate processes via a web portal.
Central Archiving

BBC R&D wanted a solution that would centralize transfer and copying procedures, rather than leave the process to individual operators’ workstations on a programme by programme basis. The result is a more efficient workflow that has speeded up the process, reduced the strain on client PCs, minimized the time the tapes spend outside the vault and given management greater control over the exercise. Working with the archives team and GB Labs, the BBC was able to configure a system that integrates with the existing fault tracking, QC and database systems.

The reason for the project being given priority was the impending obsolescence of the D3 format tapes that the content was originally recorded on. Facing the prospect of holding years of programmes on unusable tapes, the archives team needed to transfer the content to modern media, quickly, safely and accurately.

Quality Control

Ben Pearce, Sales and Marketing Director of GB Labs, comments: “BBC's archive tapes need to stand the test of time so the broadcaster stipulated that the LTO drives should be able to sustain the maximum writing speed in order to avoid any wear from tape shuttling. And to ensure that as many as 20 quality control operators can concurrently access any of the uncompressed files over its network, they had to be sure that our shared storage solution could handle this high level of data traffic. With the Space and LTO Space integration, the transfer and quality checking process has been significantly speeded up while data security has been improved.”

With tape handling reduced, copying times lowered and the speed of fault tracking increased, BBC Archives are now working their way through the backlog of material awaiting quality control. The BBC has learnt a lot of lessons about resilience and redundancy over the decades; with GB Labs, it has now mastered a much improved method of fast and safe content archiving.

Preserved for Ever

News archives, comedy shows, dramas and documentaries are now secured for future audiences. Whether it is released on disk, broadcast as TV repeats, made available via an online platform or simply pored over by social historians, years of D3 archive have been preserved for posterity..
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Errors and omissions excepted. Technical and product specifications subject to change without notice. Email space@gblabs.com for further information.