Creative beyond measure and renowned for enthusiastic, personable services, Soho-based Absolute Post is an independent post production company providing full-service hi-end VFX, grading, finishing, editing, sound and motion design.
With studios in both London and New York, Absolute Post’s transatlantic, innovative services are used on a multitude of TV commercials, music videos, films and digital media. As one of Soho’s key emergent post-production facilities, they were facing growing demands for more creative space and network speed; recently they turned to their cloud service provider ERA and in turn, ERA’s partner Pixit Media, to help move them to the next level.
Absolute’s Chief Engineer, Tom Spenceley, explains: “As our business grows and image resolutions increase so too do our bandwidth, capacity and density requirements. It’s fundamental that we had the capability necessary to effectively meet the demands of a growing studio.”
In order to address these volume, power and connectivity requirements, Absolute Post decided to move all production IT infrastructure – including workstations, rendering and networking – to ERA’s secure datacentre that sits 40km west of the London studio itself. The entire relocated service now acts as a remote control centre for Absolute Post, freeing up a significant amount of space within the Soho facility to support continued expansion.
Alongside the transfer, Pixit Media was able to replace a dated legacy Fibre Channel SAN with PixStor, an integrated storage solution providing 297Tb of usable storage space. Appearing as local storage with realtime, general and nearline pools for different users, the installation moved the entire storage infrastructure to a remote DC private cloud-based model.
“Refreshing the rest of the infrastructure alongside the move to PixStor meant we virtually had an entirely new facility; everything other than a handful of Macs and blade servers was installed fresh at the data centre,” continues Spenceley. “We needed to meticulously plan the installation of our new network, migration and placement of data and deployment of PCoIP and PixStor caching technology to make the switch possible over a single weekend.”
Shifting to this outsourced model and incorporating PixStor has provided multiple benefits for Absolute Post. The principle cost benefits include a reduction in the requirement for central London real estate, and a decrease in hardware support from the IT team, meaning increasing input into creative solutions for clients. Furthermore, all hardware and software purchased can now be classed as a service rather than a capital asset, meaning that spending is moved to OPEX, meaning predictable costs.
As well as high, predictable performance and straightforward volume expansion which enables ever-changing demands in resource-intensive technologies such as CGI and rendering to be addressed, there are additional benefits within the ability to cache.
“The Pixit Media team integrated caching into the solution from the off, and this cache node (gateway) provides consistent performance back at the studio for those systems we still host locally. We can now do clever things with our metadata that we couldn’t do with the previous system. Additionally, data is backed up and archived using IBM TSM software that tightly integrates with the Pixit Media file system,” says Spenceley.
“A challenge we consistently face within a growing team is the organisation of data. All users now seamlessly connect to the same central storage pool helping to eliminate unnecessary duplication and movement of data. The installation of PixStor also guarantees sustained performance regardless of filesystem utilisation, allowing us to take on large workloads without any issues.”
Pixit Media supplies an open platform that eliminates vendor lock-in. “Commodity hardware is a huge benefit as it means we can get the parts anywhere,” continues Spenceley. “The policy-based placement and migration is also a real key benefit. Previously we’d need additional licenses, but we don’t need to worry about whether we have bought another feature with the PixStor solution as it provides tiering as a basic part of the system, something that our dated system couldn’t manage without a huge expense.”
“As is so often the way with these systems, it is very difficult to get hold of concise documentation. However, Pixit Media provide us with great technical support that’s very comprehensive and responsive. They’re hands-on and there with you straight away getting their fingers mucky. We also enjoyed the tenacity of the team during installation, which is reflective of their real care, attention and level of detail in each project.”
Spenceley concludes: “First rate service comes as standard when working with the Pixit Media team. It’s early days, but we know already that there are so many more features that we shall benefit from here at Absolute Post.”