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Pacific Title Picks SGI InfiniteStorage Solutions4Gb/second fibre channel interface speeds Pacific Title's digital film scanning (April 15, 2005)
To meet explosive data storage growth and performance demands caused by the increase in 2K film data and the rollout of 4K digital cinema masters?and to keep that data always available in real-time for producers and artists?Pacific Title & Art Studio turned to Silicon Graphics to further expand its existing heterogeneous SGI InfiniteStorage storage area network (SAN) infrastructure.
One of the most venerable and respected film optical houses in Hollywood since 1919, Pacific Title & Art Studio began its migration to digital operations in the late Eighties. Today, Pacific Title is experiencing massive data growth in a number of areas, including scanning 35 mm negatives into digital format, creating visual effects, performing film restoration and archiving?all in the digital domain. As the amount of data grows, so do the studio's storage performance requirements. In addition to meeting its own post-production storage demands, Pacific Title needed to prepare for the industry's roll out of 4K resolution digital film masters: 4K is four times the resolution of 2K and the end product takes up to four times as much memory and storage. Scanning a movie at 4K requires four times the performance as 2K.
To meet current storage requirements and ensure scalability for future needs, Pacific Title installed the SGI InfiniteStorage TP9700 Fibre Channel array from SGI and Engenio Information Technologies this month. Since implementing the industry's very first storage array equipped with Engenio's 4Gb/s (gigabits-per-second) Fibre Channel interface?which is only available from SGI?Pacific Title's SAN infrastructure is seeing performance results that are one and a half to two times faster. In addition, the SGI InfiniteStorage TP9700 provides 1.6Gb/s of sustained throughput to meet the scanning demands of 4K film, which requires 1.3Gb/s.
"Pacific Title now has a system that keeps our data readily available and easily meets our growing storage capacity requirements," said Andy Tran, chief technical officer, Pacific Title & Art Studio. "Today, the studio stores 200TB of data, but we generate an additional 2-8TB of data each day. With the modular architecture of the SGI InfiniteStorage arrays, we can easily expand our storage and server capacity because you always need more storage."
Tran added, "You also need speed and sustained performance to scan 35mm film negatives for digital intermediate, especially with the move to 4K. The addition of SGI TP9700 4Gb/s technology to our SAN allows us to access data without bottlenecks, enabling the studio to deliver 2005 projects such as the Fantastic Four, Elektra and War of the Worlds ahead of schedule, avoid overtime costs which occur when producers and artists cannot access data, and meet the future demands of the film industry?which, by the way, do not stop at 4K."
With the cutting-edge 4Gb/s SGI TP9700 installation, Pacific Title adds a new level of robust performance to its heterogeneous SAN infrastructure, which is already scanning film at 6K resolution for long-term digital master archiving. The existing SAN incorporates two SGI TP9500 storage arrays and a SGI Origin 300 server. SGI InfiniteStorage CXFS shared filesystem links the various SGI visual workstations, 30 Macintosh render nodes, 50 Linux render nodes, the SGI Onyx 3200 and five 8-processor SGI Origin 350 servers. The SGI InfiniteStorage solution and SGI CXFS shared filesystem is the only storage area network (SAN) environment in the world that enables high-speed sharing of media assets between IRIX, Mac X, Windows, and Linux OS-based systems without copying files. Pacific Title also purchased the SGI CXFS environment to support digital scanning and recording on two very high-speed?2K to 6K resolution?Northlight film scanners, manufactured by FilmLight in the UK.
"The files generated by the Northlight scanner range from 12MB per 35 mm frame at 2K up to 150MB per frame at 6K resolution, but there's nothing out there that can support that environment except SGI. We've put the film scanner interface onto a Silicon Graphics workstation with CXFS to sustain the data rate, which no one else could do," continued Tran. "Without CXFS, our scanners were performing at maybe one-third of the speed they're capable of. With CXFS, it can now run them at full speed, without interruption. For instance, without CXFS, scanning one frame at 2K required about 13 seconds, but now, with CXFS, we can scan 2.5 frames per second at 2K. At 4K resolution, it used to take 30 seconds to scan one frame. Now we can do 4K at four-plus seconds per frame. The CXFS API can push the data fast enough so that we no longer have any bottlenecks that bog down the data flow. Additionally, with CXFS, our Linux cluster can run at full computational speed as well, rendering it out. We chose CXFS because it is simply the only file system that can handle the speed and the throughput we need."
Another key reason for scanning at 6K is restoration for film preservation and long-term archive. As Tran notes, "We do color separation, basically taking it out to RGB and gray scale for long-term archiving. Right now, people are still archiving film, which lasts 20 to 100 years, but film does tend to fade. If you scan at 2K or 4K, and that's your original master, you will lose resolution some years down the road. We're planning way into the future. We looked for technology than can do long, long term digital archive scans, and that's the reason we are researching 6K scans, that's the reason we are the only company in Los Angeles to have two Northlight scanners, and that's the reason why we continue to expand our capabilities with SGI InfiniteStorage with CXFS."
"At Pacific Title, the SGI InfiniteStorage TP9700 system with 4Gb/s Fibre Channel interface is doing for Hollywood facilities precisely what it was designed to do: deliver robust, high-performance, sustained speeds required for 4K digital film scanning and beyond," said Louise Ledeen, director of production, SGI. "As the migration to a file-based networked architecture becomes the norm in post-production, we are seeing a groundswell of interest and support of SGI InfiniteStorage SAN with CXFS shared filesystem at high-volume Hollywood labs and studios because SGI is the only company to offer a SAN wherein a digital lab or effects studio does not have to waste time copying files for different operating systems. And now, only SGI can offer the Engenio 4Gb/s interface on our TP9700, which will make 4K resolution the norm and set the digital standard of motion picture visual excellence."
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