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South Park Studios deploys Atempo's Time Navigator to support its unique production process

South Park Studios is the creator of the Emmyaward winning South Park animated comedy series. Launched in 1997, South Park remains the highest rated series on Comedy Central.

The Challenge
As the creators of South Park wrapped up Season Nine, it became apparent that it was time to overhaul their storage hardware and software. The studio had struggled for years with the old hardware and software and finally decided to switch vendors. Keith Nesson, e-mail, Internet and electronic information officer for the show, said, ?We wouldnt even know about the crash until discovering that the tape library robot had stopped running.

J. J. Franzen, South Parks technology supervisor, said, ?We were looking for something with more functionality and less cantankerousness. The tipping point came when South Parks aging DLT 7000 tape library proved insufficient to archive the shows huge library of scene files which holds every scene file from every episode ever produced. South Park searched for a solution that could interface with its new LTO 2 tape library and its three Apple Xserve RAIDs configured into a storage area network (SAN) using Apple Xsan.


South Parks production process is unique among animators. South Park produces all of its content in-house, where over 30 artists work, making frequent changes right up until the deadline. Similar shows often begin to produce episodes a full six to nine months in advance of the show airing; by contrast, South Park shows are typically produced within six days of air time, though the record has been a two-and-ahalf day turnaround. Previously, South Park was only backing up data once a day. This meant that in the event of a disaster a full days work would be lost, destroying the tight production schedule that leads up to the weekly broadcast of South Park.

Characteristics of South Park Studios Environment

  • Apple Mac OS X
  • LTO 2 tape library
  • Apple Xsan

The Solution
South Park chose Atempos Time Navigator for its ?out-of-the-box Apple support, extensive platform and application support, ability to perform incremental backups that support South Parks tight production schedule and rapid-fire show changes, right up to broadcast time. Prior to Time Navigator, a full backup wasnt performed until the entire episode was completely finished. This job would take as long as two weeks to run. With Time Navigator, the South Park team runs daily incremental backups, allowing them to complete the backup in less than 6 hours after each episode is finished.

Results
South Park typically renders almost an entire episodes worth of shots in the last 24 hours before air time. For example, for a recent episode comprised of 330 shots, South Park rendered over 95% of the episode in the last 24 hours before the episode aired.

The studio also appreciated Atempos pricing structure, which charges for licenses according to number of drives in a library rather than by the number of cartridges. Nesson said, ?The pricing structure allows the studio to add more tape cartridges without a software licensing bump, a godsend since the show expects data to explode as each episode continues to increase in scale and complexity, as well as exploring future technologies such as HDTV.


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Related Keywords:backup software, Time navigator backup solution, archive

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