Why digital production needs PAYG storage options
Medialease managing director Paul Robson details why there is a real need for easy-to-hire, pay-as-you-go storage options when it comes to digital production.
Hold the front page. Breaking news. 2011 is the year that film finally died. Sort of.
If, like me, you’ve heard the proclamation about the death of film just about every year since you came into the media industry, you’re probably quite skeptical about that statement.
However, there genuinely is evidence that 2011 could be the beginning of the end for celluloid as we know it. The first indication is that the quality of digital acquisition has officially got ‘better’ ‘than film.
With cameras like the Red One hugely popular and the Arri Alexa doing great business, Sony’s F65 finally tipped the balance in the favour of the zeros and ones.
The new 8k sensor digital cinema camera is the first new image capture system that matches the Academy IIF-ACES Specification. That gobbledygook essentially means that it has better colour and dynamic range than film.
The second indicator is that Aaton, Arri and Panavision have all ceased production of film cameras in order to concentrate on high quality digital shooters.
Put those two things together and the future looks pretty bleak for film.
It may not be dead but I would say its status has certainly changed. Instead of being the go-to option for quality, film is now simply one of a number of creative tools available to those that can afford it.
Now, while the digital trend and the changing status of film, is tremendous news for certain equipment manufacturers, this shift does have implications for the rest of the production workflow.
On location, when using digital cameras, you need additional ‘data wranglers’ or DITs (Digital Image Technicians) to look after the memory cards, to ensure that footage is in the right format and to maintain a consistent file naming convention.
In post-production the impact is bigger still. 100% digital production requires masses of shared storage which, although more agile than standalone workstations and local storage, is not cheap. And it’s not something that can be easily charged for.
The way forward
I have a solution. It’s not wholly original. But it’s one that might aid the post community. Producers hire their kit and only opt to buy it when it makes sense. Post houses should be able to likewise, freely hiring extra storage when they need it and only investing when the time is right.
A huge SAN with masses of storage is great when that VFX heavy movie or drama is being post-produced. But when it’s sat doing nothing except sucking up power and money during the quiet periods, it seems like a daft investment.
As an alternative, buying a basic SAN and being able to rent extra capacity on top when you need it (and send it back when you don’t) would be hugely beneficial. And the cost could potentially be passed on to the producer on a project-by-project basis.
I know these types of deals are available. But they need to be more commonplace. And, although I’m not 100% sold on it, there is an argument that a cloud based system could be part of the answer. We need to get over some data protection issues and the fact that you need a local back up to be totally secure.
But the ability to scale up and down will be invaluable if post-production is to avoid being drowned by the data influx of the digital revolution.
This article first appeared in the November/December issue of InBroadcast