Field Report: MatrixStore at Halo Post

The addition of Object Matrix nearline storage at Halo Post enabled the staff to become more efficient and create new revenue streams.

Based in London’s Soho, Halo Post Production provides film and TV producers with a full range of post-production facilities from online, dubbing and grade to remote editing, workflow and technical services.

Recent credits include the comedies Toast of London (C4), The Delivery Man (ITV) and Murder in Successville (BBC3), factual productions Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough (BBC1) and This is Tottenham (BBC2), and feature films The Danish Girl, Suffragette and Ronaldo.

Success can create challenges

Back in 2014, following significant growth, Halo found itself becoming more successful. However, as each department expanded to cope with additional workloads, the network and storage requirements were increasing without the systems in place to meet that demand. Disparate storage systems meant the company’s architecture had become fragmented. When projects moved from department to department, the media would need to be copied backwards and forwards. This was time consuming and expensive. Something had to change.

"It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to share large data sets efficiently across Halo,” explains technical director Daniel Napier. “This could delay the start of small jobs, not always allowing us to maximise spare capacity in the schedule efficiently.

We needed to eliminate these technology islands and create an integrated network where media was available for all from one central location.”

Napier’s first task was to upgrade the internal network. The second was to look at the storage that was attached to it.

The solution

Napier previously added a 56 Gigabit production backbone and multiple 10 GigE networks to the facility. He then added ISIS storage from Avid. The remaining task was to address the need for nearline storage because the legacy system had simply been outgrown.

Available production storage was a bigger issue. Larger codecs, the increased data that comes with UHD formats and ever swelling shooting ratios all combined to demand a faster and larger near line storage solution.

The storage needed to be:

  • Scalable and upgradable to allow for further growth, and that flexibility needed to be cost effective;
  • Simple to use, particularly for non-technical staff, with a clean user interface that was easy to manage;
  • More than just storage, offering tools for other tasks;
  • Secure, with the ability to control access;
  • Able to provide an acceptable price-performance ratio;
  • Capable of generating new streams of revenue for the facility.

Halo decided to invest in a 256 TB MatrixStore from Object Matrix

"There are lots of people offering affordable storage out there. You can buy a petabyte of storage for £60k but, at that price, it is slow because it doesn't have the bandwidth. MatrixStore provides multiple nodes, which are separate and load balanced. With 20 GigE links to your network, it provides great performance and it's also good value for money."
Daniel Napier. Technical Director, Halo Post Production studios.

“Dumb storage is not where things are going,” says Napier. “You need creative tools that allow you to become more efficient and can help you generate new streams of revenue. The LTO option was particularly interesting because back-ups had been difficult to manage in the past. With the XenData plug-in this process is now centrally located, is easy for the end-user and we have developed this into a much more efficient service for our clients. At the same time, the DropSpot asset manager feature gives us the ability to handle large amounts of media and find it easily.”

Halo Post Productions has a long list of credits. Shown here is a title slide of the program, Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough, which aired on BBC1.

Halo Post Productions has a long list of credits. Shown here is a title slide of the program, Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough, which aired on BBC1.

The workflow

The MatrixStore was installed in February 2015 and is being used daily across all departments as a central repository for all incoming media.

As soon as footage arrives it is copied onto a MatrixStore vault where a native copy is stored. For the offline editing process, the media is then transcoded at high speed. Footage can be backed-up to LTO tapes where required.

From that point, the MatrixStore is used for work-in-progress, to park ISIS projects, as a portal for moving assets from one suite to another suite, and as a more affordable place to keep media for short durations.

The future

Napier is quick to praise MatrixStore, and Object Matrix, and is already looking to the future with Disaster Recovery a continuing area of focus. "Object Matrix has some unique disaster recovery mirroring tools and, in the future, we might use them for other storage in the facility too.”

Halo may also look at dovetailing the MatrixStore with a future MAM system to automate the creation of deliverables and there is a good chance that the size and scope of the current system will be increased to more than a petabyte to aid natural growth and those disaster recovery-based services.

The consultation, design process, implementation and support services for the Halo project were provided by UK-based Altered Images Ltd.

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