Workflow First Design – The Joys of a ‘Clean Sheet of Paper’

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EFD International, based in Mexico City, had become a leading name in providing production and equipment services for television, film, and commercial production worldwide – and now wanted to launch a post-production venture, called EFD Digital, to extend and build on their reputation by giving their customers world-class production capabilities that made no compromises on performance and reliability. 

They turned to Roy Santoyo, who has deep workflow expertise as an editor, colorist, and VFX artist to design their ideal facility and workflow to make sure the new venture would be a success. The task of making sure the new service could support the performance and scalability needs of a growing post-production facility would be challenging in normal times – and in a time of workflow disruption and a global pandemic, could have been completely overwhelming. 

Instead, Roy Santoyo sat down with a trusted advisor at Seal Digital and came to a sudden realization – that by deeply thinking about, then following the workflow that he needed instead of preconceived notions of what the facility was ‘supposed to be’ – the supporting infrastructure fell into place easily. Each decision about what he did and did not want in his workflow led to the next, and so on until he arrived at his ideal system.  

Ultimately, the system he arrived at for EFD Digital not only meets the high-performance needs of their users and creative teams, but leverages the unique capabilities of StorNext 7 software and its software subscription-based model and platform flexibility, so that it can also evolve quickly in different directions as the company’s needs grow – for even more performance, more scalability in large or small amounts, yet for all of that, is also highly economical and efficient. 

Here’s how they did it. 

Without an existing facility or demands, Roy and the team at Seal Digital could truly start with a clean sheet of paper and make decisions based on the ideal workflow he wanted to ‘live with.’ Here are the sort of questions and steps he worked through that could guide your decisions as well: 

>Should they build an enormous system all at once? Budget was available to do that if needed, and if it made sense. 

On reflection, it made more sense to build the system for the first wave of business growth – but only if that same system could grow seamlessly to take on more size or performance without impacting the initial buildout. Many systems require a ‘forklift upgrade’ to add on more capability – meaning having to schedule possibly extended downtime, or worse, re-silvering storage for a new configuration. 

>Should they build around a specific type of storage and hope that it could scale to fit the entire workflow? 

There are a lot of storage platforms and systems to choose from after all, each offering a different mix of performance, scalability, or economics. Instead of rushing in and focusing on only a single part of the workflow as is commonly done, Roy and the team decided to build not just an island of storage, but choose a platform that let him fit storage characteristics to each part of the workflow with its different demands, as part of a true, end-to-end workflow. 

The number of storage environments that can accommodate an end-to-end workflow and combine different types of storage in a single platform is Quantum’s StorNext 7 shared file system. For example, to feed the high-performance needs of ever higher resolutions and uncompressed formats like EXR and DPX, they wanted the generational difference in speed that NVMe flash storage provided. Yet in other parts of the workflow, they needed the sheer performance and capacity combined, in which a large number of storage systems with spinning disks provide in a SAN shared storage environment. In still others, they needed to effortlessly scale to his first petabyte of archive storage quickly, and be ready to scale to a second and third petabyte on short notice. For this, EFD chose Quantum Scalar tape libraries.  

When put altogether, they could seamlessly compose storage from different storage types into volumes for his groups of users, segment them in any way he likes, and move content effortlessly between them from work in process, to archive, and back in a single namespace. 

>Would EFD have to change the tools he wanted to work with? Or could the storage and workflow environment make his preferred workflow solutions, like editors and asset management, actually work better? 

Rather than use a bundled solution with storage, the team selected ELEMENTS for critical project and asset management to keep all of the production teams on track, and found that it leveraged the shared storage seen by all users collaborating on the same projects in easily understandable files, folders, volumes format that looked the same on every client system, and for all workflow solutions the team used. 

>Would they have to choose between a system good for remote users or onsite users? 

In fact, the team wanted to try to get the best of onsite and remote systems in a single system if at all possible. They found that they could get the highest levels of performance and lowest latencies for creatives onsite, yet also remote sharing and collaboration with both StorNext and the media library for offsite users, or creatives in remote locations or delivery – all part of a single, well-orchestrated workflow. 

Content Production Just Got Easier 

And with that – EFD Digital had arrived at a ‘clean sheet of paper design’ that fit all of their performance requirements, at each step of the workflow, and is poised and ready to scale in any direction needed. 

Their new system, built around StorNext 7’s subscription-based software model, and their ideal mix of NVMe, disk and tape storage, lets them promise more projects to more clients faster, and gives the growing company a competitive edge in their fast-evolving industry. 

To learn more about this workflow and EFD Digital, click here. 

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