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The New Technology of Filmmaking

Although filmmaking and distribution are still overwhelmingly analog, sequential, guild-based processes, any discussion of the film industry's future must include the increasing impact of digital technology.

Recently the network proved extremely efficient for The Mill, a London-based effects house whose visual effects have appeared in many films and commercials, including Babe: Pig in the City, Enemy of the State, and complex "Pullback" series of spots for Lincoln Cars. For the film Gladiator, shots or shots in progress were sent from Mill Film in London to the Los Angeles Mill Film office almost nightly.

Said Roy Trosh, technical director at The Mill in London, "Changes are sent on the WAM!NET network from our London office to our L.A. office literally overnight. Our L.A. office can review changes with the client while our editors are sleeping in London. Our editors can arrive back at work in London - eight hours ahead of Los Angeles - with the changes on their desktops."

Scott Gray, a graphics supervisor GTN in Detroit, a video facility that does major national automotive commercials, said "WAN!NET gave us an ability to expand our business and provide more timely solutions for our clients, because they can review material at tape quality much faster, even though they're right in Detroit."

Because there is no hardware to buy, and clients pay only for the digital transmission services that they use, WAM!NET is like a digital transmission utility. But WAM!NET's network provides more than just high-speed transmission, it allows clients to take advantage of central, off-premises file storage and extremely powerful digital media management software called WAM!BASE.

This solution enables facilities of all sizes to collaborate seamlessly on a large project without having to worry about which facility or workstation contains the latest files. WAM!BASE data can even be integrated into the digital asset management software the client uses internally.

As the effects industry grows and becomes increasingly international, a scalable, flexible, multi-purpose digital media transport and storage platform with built-in digital asset management, such as WAM!NET, can become a significant strategic asset.

Challenge: Rendering Digital Files

Still, there is more challenge faced by the visual effects industry: the need for ever increasing amounts of rendering power. As effects software becomes more capable, and effects become more complex, more processing power is required for rendering. It's not uncommon for companies such as Pixar, the creators of Toy Story, to have hundreds of computers networked together in order to render complex sequences in a reasonable amount of time.

This kind of processing power is cost prohibitive for smaller visual design companies. But even for large well-financed facilities, it's difficult to stay current with the fastest gear. That's why WAM!NET has created the Render On Demand Service, or ROD!, which is integrated with the company's other wide area network services.

ROD! is a high-powered SGI-based rendering farm to which our network customers transmit their files for rendering. ROD! will take four hours to render 100 frames when the typical rendering time for 100 frames on a facility's local network is 16 and a half days. Best of all, instead of having to invest in extensive processing power for rendering, digital film companies pay only for the rendering they need.

Said Norm Stangl, president and CEO of film and commercial visual effects company Spin Productions in Toronto, "WAM!NET" gives us the render power to manage the work-load of a much larger organization. It's the right service for a company looking to increase its scope."

And that's really the value of the wide area media network that WAM!NET offers: The ability to use a sophisticated network and associated services without having to invest in hardware or additional staff. WAM!NET's file transfer, high-quality video review, sophisticated digital asset management, and rendering on-demand, provide a suite of services that address the most pressing challenges faced by today's most creative entertainment professionals.

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