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Media Distributors Exposes New Archival Production Values for Reality Show Pilot 'Group' Using Archive Station

On-Site Back-Up and Archive Performed Using 8 Sony EX-3 Cameras; Constellation VCM ? Workflow System Used to Manage 12 TB of F (July 28, 2009)

DMN Newswire--2009-7-28--For producer David Sutcliffe, capturing an intense, week-long therapy session based on the Core Energetics method for his forthcoming reality show, 'Group,' required an equally radical form of real-time video workflow.  Sutcliffe and his D.I.T., Emile Hanton, tapped the expertise of Studio City, California-based solutions provider Media Distributors for its recently-unveiled Archive Station(tm) system, which enabled the production company to perform on-site what might have taken weeks to perform in a traditional post work flow.   

The production ? shot over a six-day period in the remote location of Laurel Springs, California ? combined Sony PMW-EX3 cameras, Pure Digital's Flip cameras for personal diary takes, and the Archive Station for a unique workflow that enabled the crew to shoot with eight cameras, ten hours a day, and include footage from 20 Flip cameras without a hitch.  The resulting hundreds of hours of footage was instantly archived and backed up to a SAN and LTO drives using the Archive Station, creating a new paradigm for reality TV production.

"We had our pre-production 'breakthrough' when we called Media Distributors.  Every other rental house we spoke with described a Frankenstein collection of components, or ignored us completely.  Media Distributors had the precise system we needed, and presented us with additional options of system configurations," said Hanton.  "The support that we received was fantastic, both during the actual shoot and afterwards." 

Introduced at NAB 2009, the Archive Station is a fully-integrated single road case system that can be used for either on-location or in-house productions.  The system was introduced simultaneously with Media Distributors' Constellation VCM(tm) , which is an integrated storage management and archive management system that enables full search, retrieve, and archival of video and project files.  Archive Station uses Constellation VCM to provide secure back-up and rapid access to archived video content.  Designed for both tapeless and tape-based workflows, Archive Station enables secure archival to either Blu-ray Disc or LTO media and provides for cloning on additional portable hard drives, for safe geographic separation of content.    

The cross platform architecture of Constellation allows Archive Station to support both Windows and Mac OS environments; capture all metadata included with video files, and maintain linking of project files from online to archive medium.  The system offers full asset management support for all archived content, and supports both Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid workflows.  Customers can use Archive Station to archive video directly from existing Firewire, USB or Serial ATA drives and can extend the system to work with additional online content on RAID, NAS, and SAN storage.  

The genesis of 'Group' was both personal as much as professional.  Sutcliffe, best known as an actor ('C.S.I.,' 'Gilmore Girls'), had undergone the Core Energetics training, inspired by Ann Bradney, four years ago, and felt that the dramatic revelations that it enabled for its practitioners would make for a powerful documentary.   

"We looked at a lot of reality shows and knew how to shoot the therapy portion of it ? that was key.  The reality part of this ? with interviews ? had to be handled very delicately," said Sutcliffe.  "Early on, the Flip cameras provided an essential element, as diary cameras, that helped reveal what people were struggling with.  This helped inform the other things that were going on.  This would inform the edit, and provide us with as much information as possible.  The more we had to draw on, the more we could tell their stories.  

Sutcliffe shot a demo with a different therapist 18 months ago to see how the cameras would affect the room.  The shoot, performed with DVX-100s, was successful, and convinced him that the Core Energetics session would be equally dramatic, using the same process.   

"The (Core Energetics) work is very dramatic.  It incorporates exercises into sessions and produces very cathartic emotions.  You get to know people through this process, and they drop into dark and disassociated places," said Sutcliffe. "I had a feeling that we could translate this experience to a wider audience.  The crew was amazed by what they saw; people reacted in a strong way to this emotional week.  The expressions on people's faces are nothing you've ever seen before.  You can't falsely generate that; I have never seen anything like that before, except perhaps in sports.  There are elements of reality t.v. to 'Group' --but there is no agenda or prize here.  We are telling a story, which is simply the exposition of individual humanity."


Nathan Adams, Senior Account Executive for Media Distributors' Technology & Solutions Group, helped design a system that used 8 Apple laptops to download content from the Flip cameras and the Sony EX-3 cameras.  The laptops were networked over Gigabit-Ethernet and fiber to a Facilis 24D SAN, where its 12 terabytes of storage shared files to multiple MacPros for instant on-set editing and file conversion.  Additional RAID storage and LTO back-up were used, including the recently-introduced 24TB Polaris Fiber RAID from Line One Media.  Additional SATA RAIDs were used for media archival and editorial once shooting was completed on 'Group,' had finished shooting, while LTO-4 functioned as Sutcliffe's long-term archival format.  

"Emile and I just clicked.  Within five minutes of talking, I knew that he would use Archive Station.  The 'Group' production literally uses every aspect of the system's technology," said Adams.  "They had a huge funnel at the front-end to capture all their cameras in real-time, then fast archival of the tapeless content and immediately into post.  Once they were done with shooting, they just returned of the Archive Station and performed their edit from direct attached Maxx Digital Evo2 HD SATA RAIDs And they knew they always had rock-solid LTO-4 tapes acting as their "vault master". 

"If John Cassavettes or Robert Altman made a reality show, this would be it.  'Group' was kind of a way of combining their two styles, in effect.  We didn't hinder people's expression or make them self-conscious.  It opened them up more; there is something about being seen that is liberating.  The cameras added to that fact; the cameras become another witness to the experience," said Sutcliffe.  "The cameras made the people open up more; open up their deepest kind of truth.  That was another great exploration; we figured out a way to shoot that was effective.  We had to do this without impeding the process; we could create the experience of being on a retreat --- the retreat would be a character on the show.  We found a beautiful place in nature, in the Laurel Springs retreat, and had the right combination of people; young and old, a cross-section of the world, essentially, or at least, in America.  People who had done therapy work before; who had never done the work before.  We had all points of view represented, and were able to capture all of it at once."  

Sutcliffe is currently in discussions with various broadcast and cable TV outlets in the U.S. regarding pick-up of what would be a groundbreaking reality series.   


1 ? Archive Station, running Constellation VCM workflow.  Maxx Digital Evo2 HD 12 Bay Expando 12TB RAID (greater than 600 MB/s Read/Write speed)

8 ? Sony PMW-EX3 cameras; chosen for image quality, solid state workflow, Gen-Lock, and HD-SDI out for wireless transmission using IDX CAM WAVE to send the full HD signal to the production's "video village." (Zacuto products were used to create shoulder mount systems to provide counter weight.  Birns and Sawyer Shoulder Supports were also used, including a custom bracket enabling V-Mount on the CAM WAVE to mount counter weight rods)

4 - Canon KH21ex5.7 IRSE 1/2" XDCAM HD Lenses ? used for the "In The Room" cameras, using the EX3's ½" adapter

4 - IDX CAM WAVEs on the "In The Room" cameras (enabled the director and director of photography to view full HD images without having the operators tethered with cable)

20 - Flip Ultra HD cameras.  One for each participant (chosen for low-cost portability and surprisingly high quality) 

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Related Keywords:David Sutcliffe, Emile Hanton, Nathan Adams, 'Group, ' Sony PMW-EX3 cameras, Pure Digital Flip cameras, Constellation VCM, SAN, NAS, Facilis, Blu-ray Disc, LTO, Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid, Core Energetics, Ann Bradney


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