Facilis TerraBlock 24D: The Beating Heart of Post at Affinity Productions
Affinity Productions, Ottawa’s largest full service digital media, video production and post production studio, delivers extensive creative content and technical services for clients in film, broadcast, commercials, corporate video and government – from concept and script through to production, motion graphics, post production and distribution.
David Zimmerly, Affinity’s Post Supervisor and Editor, is recognized among his colleagues and clients as a jack-of-all-trades. On any given day he’s supervising staff, providing workflow consulting for client projects, upgrading and maintaining the facility’s core editing technology, and more. Initially frustrated with the complex logistics of managing bulky SCSI drives, in 2004 he and a colleague scouted the NAB show floor for a shared storage system that would help his team manage resources more efficiently between Affinity’s multiple edit suites. After watching a demo of TerraBlock and weighing alternate options, David oversaw the purchase of Affinity’s first TerraBlock 24D in July 2004. Over the last eight years he’s transitioned from 6 terabytes to 48 terabytes of storage through 3 generations of TerraBlock – just purchasing his third TerraBlock in May 2012.
“TerraBlock is the beating heart of our post department; it’s absolutely critical to what we do. We don’t just see it as storage, but as a facility manager,” Zimmerly explained. “Before TerraBlock, moving drives from one room to another was risky and cumbersome. Every time we moved a pair of striped drives, we’d do it on a wing and a prayer – never knowing if they would properly fire up again. With TerraBlock we can safely and efficiently move projects around – creating a level playing field for all of our workstations, so we can work smarter and faster. It also makes facility
bookings much easier so we’re better able to accommodate last-minute changes and avoid booking conflicts.”
Zimmerly and his team have a simple, but effective strategy for managing TerraBlock resources. Editors are assigned one or more volumes from a large pool of various-sized drives, which are all tracked in a custom Microsoft Excel grid. “We can cross-reference at a glance the volume name, project name, client, assigned editor and status notes against every active volume. This provides a great complement to the TerraBlock Manager’s crucial volume, system and user access information,” David said. “If we encounter any issues, TerraBlock allows us to quickly and easily check volumes and the system status from any room on-site. I don't have to wonder about which room the volumes are in, and I don’t have to uproot anyone, which is invaluable.”
Editing across eight suites and workstations equipped with Avid Symphony, Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere, Affinity takes an agnostic approach to any post projects that enter its doors. “We don’t want to be known as an exclusively Avid, FCP or whatever shop. We want the flexibility to use any combination of tools for the job, and TerraBlock enables that,” Zimmerly explained. “It’s a common backbone for all of our systems, which makes my life as post supervisor much easier.”
“The system is easy to maintain and so intuitive that it hardly takes any time to teach new users. We also appreciate that Facilis listens to its customers’ needs – keeping pace with the industry’s ever-growing bandwidth and capacity requirements,” he added. “TerraBlock 5.5 is a perfect example; it gives us new options for incremental drive chassis expansion as a cost-effective alternative to another complete server. This will be key, especially as we migrate beyond HD to 2K and 4K.”
Zimmerly concluded, “At the time of our first TerraBlock purchase, it was the perfect fit for our facility, and even with all the changes in platforms and formats throughout the years, it remains so today.”
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