Running Man Case Study
Running Man is a boutique post-production company in New York City which offers everything from offline to finishing, mastering and delivery to networks at the highest standard. The company is completely owner-operator owned and has attracted a wide range of top tier clientele including Netflix, HBO, TBS, Comedy Central, FX, Showtime, MTV, Facebook and many more.
With so many vendors in the storage market, the Running Man team looked at many different storage options before eventually choosing Facilis. They had a storage system that was “kind of working”, but it was only volume level sharing and not exactly confidence inspiring. “There’s quite a range of products on the market, from big companies doing very large installations to people trying to put things together with a simple NAS device,” says Troy Thompson, executive producer and supervising colorist at Running Man. “We took our time and made sure our next investment was in the right direction for the company. Facilis offered a fairly large volume of storage at a price point we couldn't reach with competing systems, and with no compromise in performance. Plus, the flexibility of the system is second to none. So, we’re very happy with our choice.” Running Man invested in their latest Facilis system with the help of Bob Spencer and Cliff Allen at VTG, a NY area reseller which specializes in shared storage, archive and asset Management solutions. The latest system includes a Facilis HUB One server that aggregates their existing high-capacity storage servers and efficiently offloads the shared file system processing.
Speeds and Feeds
The core of the Running Man facility is made up of four finishing suites where both HD and 4K masters are completed. “We strive to do everything at a very high technical level and consider ourselves a competitor on par with any facility in NYC or anyone doing finishing anywhere,” says Thompson. “Facilis has been a huge part of our success. It’s the backbone of both our offline and online environments and it provides us with the ability to project-share across multiple edit rooms during the offline stage. As a project moves to finishing, we've connected those suites with 32Gb Fibre Channel for maximum performance.” The finishing rooms can either work in isolation or the team can deploy all the rooms to finish a project. If there are resource constraints and turnaround time is pressuring the team, it’s easy to quickly change configurations. “We are actually doing that right now with a couple of shows where the project touches at least four different people through the finishing stage. We couldn't turn around the job in time if we didn't have that ability to deploy any project assets in any room,” says Thompson.
For offline, Running Man supports both Avid and Adobe workflows, with Avid seeing the lion’s share of the work. However, they are seeing a fairly even field as to what editors are using for their tools. “We have always been an Avid shop, since we started in the mid-90s. For finishing, we went with Nucoda from Digital Vision. As a smaller company, Digital Vision is doing a lot of great things. All of the finishing rooms are Nucoda systems and everything works very well with them. We work with either 10bit, 16 bit or 32-bit EXR files and our Facilis system plays back all of it flawlessly,” say Thompson.
Formats and Performance
For resolutions and formats, Running Man sees a bit of everything with Pro Res HQ being one of the standard choices. Even when their deliverables call for IMF, DCP or DPX¬¬—Pro Res HQ is frequently part of the request as well. “We deliver over 100 episodes annually of 4K IMF which are all derived from uncompressed DPX outputs coming off the Facilis,” says Thompson. “We also play and review all our DPX timelines directly from the Facilis volumes. In the mastering stage, we output either a DPX or an EXR sequence from our color grading systems and we pull that into a mastering system that wraps it into whatever format is required. The Facilis system gives us great flexibility as it allows us to move over to another room if a particular system is tied up and pick up the work immediately since everything is tied to the same storage backbone.”
The offline network is tied together with 10Gig Ethernet and the finishing suites are connected directly to the Facilis HUB One server via 32 Gb Fiber Channel. Those suites also share a 1Gig Ethernet connection to the Facilis system. “This allows us to keep the color systems a bit isolated from the rest of the space, but also enables the finishing rooms to have access to the offline storage in order to get any additional assets that might be required for finishing.”
Administration, Maintenance and Security
“I designed and engineered all of Running Man myself,” says Thompson. “That’s part of what was so attractive about Facilis. It isn't intimidating in terms of the install or even maintenance. So, for the most part, we’ve been able to actually handle all that ourselves.”
Troy has a lot of good things to say about the Facilis Web Console for administering and managing the system. “It's fantastic. Using the web interface to control things has been a game-changer for us. Deploying software updates from the web interface has made upgrades much easier because there's never a perfect time to do that kind of work. Hopefully, you're working, hopefully the rooms are busy. You don't want to go in and change a lot of variables. We used to try scheduling such things in the off hours or come in early in the morning, but now the upgrading and deploying process has gotten so much faster and easier, it’s something that we can schedule during lunch. We no longer have to go into every room to deal with permissions or any other management tasks, it’s all done from a central computer.”
Running Man is very focused on security for their clients and it’s a top priority to make sure client assets are protected. It was a big part of the team’s initial requirements when vetting storage options. “We are constantly refining our procedures with regards to managing permissions and making sure people aren’t given permissions for volumes they shouldn’t have access to,” says Thompson. “We wanted to make sure we could deploy something that gave us a level of confidence to not only monitor what was going on and who had permission to what, but to make sure, as much as possible, that things were being re-credentialed so that we could ensure the security of the content. Facilis makes that easy, and overall we feel confident our storage system is evolving on track with the growth of our business.”
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