RED Studios Hollywood boasts a long history of riding the cutting edge in commercial video. Today, under the growing umbrella of camera pioneer RED Digital Cinema, RED Studios Hollywood keeps advancing video production in every way possible. Whether that means finding new ways to apply RED camera technology or improving the workflow between those cameras and final video consumption, every step involves the integration of storage.
RED's post production team at RED Studios Hollywood manages to stay deceptively small. The group is composed of about half a dozen editors working almost exclusively within Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer and Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, with the bulk of its content arriving in 4K+ R3D RAW file formats, according to RED's Dan Duran. For an idea of how much data is flying around at RED Studios Hollywood on top of Duran’s team — at any given time, the studio has four or five shows in active production on the lot. Each of those shows generates roughly 12TB of raw data every two to three weeks. Edits, transcoding and other operations only add to the load.
In assessing their storage strategy, Duran and his colleagues often felt like they were standing in front of an information firehose. The demands of growth and a packed work schedule often left the team turning to immediately available fixes rather than more strategic, longer-term solutions. So they turned to G-Technology’s NAS solution. “At RED, our MO has always been to push the limits of technology and see what storage solutions we could build ourselves to best suit our workflows,” says Duran. “It feels like we can take a break from that now that we have these G-RACK 12 systems, as they cater to our demands perfectly.”
Full disclosure — the former NAS solutions at RED Studios Hollywood weren’t bad. In fact, Duran notes that his team never suffered a data loss. That’s not to say that drives never failed, but RAID redundancy always did its job and pulled files back from the abyss. In fact, in our interview, most of Duran’s examples of previous storage issues boiled down to file organization or minor staff issues that could be addressed with workarounds.
So why did RED make the investment to switch from its existing DIY options to a G-RACK 12? Two primary factors — time and reliability. The studio knew that these two and other important factors of its storage workflow could be improved upon, and simply being “fine” wasn’t good enough for a company intent on expansion and setting an industrywide example.
The G-RACK 12 offers a long list of features, including a 2U form factor, 12-bay drive capacity, dual Intel Xeon E5 processors, and up to 120TB of HGST Enterprise-class storage. If a user should happen to outgrow this storage, the optional G-RACK 12 expansion units simply plug in via 12Gbps mini-SAS, enabling an additional 120TB of storage. Duran and his team elected to start with a dozen 6TB drives configured in RAID 6 for double drive failure resiliency. After formatting, this setup provided roughly 60TB in a single, high-speed workspace built from HGST disk drives designed specifically for demanding, multi-user environments.
The storage server ships with four active 10Gbps copper Ethernet ports. SFP+ fiber network interfaces can be added and easily aggregated through the G-Technology NAS OS web-based administration tool for the type of massive network throughput needed in 4K+ production operations like RED Studios Hollywood. Such a wide networking pipe for rich, high definition files can yield tremendous time savings.
“We’ve had events where 4K material had to be tested internally on a laptop, and we didn’t have time to transfer to an external hard drive,” says Duran. “Being able to easily create a user on the G-RACK, connect directly to a laptop, and have the speed to playback 4K would have been a life saver.”
Duran was also relieved to find that so few of his group’s hours now needed to be consumed with things from component procurement, to deployment, to configuration. The G-RACK 12 practically arrived ready to run. From lifting the appliance out of its box to transferring the first files, total setup time at RED Studios Hollywood clocked in at less than one hour. And that time-saving advantage in setting up the unit only echoed later with additional time-savings coming with ease of maintenance.
“It’s a lot of work to take care of a self-built storage product,” notes Duran. “You never know what could happen to it. I love that the G-RACK 12 was ready to go, very intuitive and just as easy on upkeep. We created accounts on it for the effects team in no time and just went to the races. With a DIY solution, you have to verify everything, keep updating the drivers and firmware, and all that stuff — it’s very time-consuming.”
Ultimately, all of the valuable hours saved can’t hold a candle to the blazing urgency of data loss. One failed drive, or even a scratched platter, is all it takes to wreck a critical project and sacrifice a professional reputation. This is why RED Studios Hollywood runs its G-RACK 12 in RAID 6, which can accommodate two drive failures, rather than the more conventional RAID 5.
“With all the shooting that happens on our cameras all day, with millions of dollars spent on actors, nothing trumps reliability,” says Duran. “Cameras can go down, actors can get sick, but if you lose footage, that's a major deal. That's the biggest issue on set.” RED Studios Hollywood also regularly takes G-SPEED Studio XL units into the field for ingesting camera footage on the fly.
The Gold Standard of RED Storage
Given a field full of NAS solution options, why did RED Studios Hollywood select G-Technology? “Because the G-RACK 12 is the only one that doesn't look like a toaster!” he laughed. “Seriously though, we get a fair number of producers and other important clients walking through our facilities. We like being able to show them how we get their work done, and the G-RACK is not only an impressive performer, but it also looks impressively stylish sitting in the middle of your IT operation. This is a business where looks also matter.”
Duran points to many other G-RACK 12 advantages he anticipates enjoying in the future, including its mini-SAS-based Expansion Chassis, the ability to have even new hires instantly grasp G-Technology’s intuitive NAS operating system, and bringing editing groups into closer collaboration via the G-RACK 12’s substantial bandwidth. Most of all, he loves having a storage solution that makes sense for, and is in sync with, his company’s overarching message.
“If you’re using RED, then you obviously want the best, and that includes your post work solutions. The G-RACK 12 reflects our commitment to representing the best technologies possible. It just doesn’t make sense to rely on anything less.”