Evolving the Next Generation of Production with DigitalFilm Tree and Rackspace

On March 2nd, 2015 by Guillaume Aubuchon

With Rackspace::Solve rapidly approaching, it’s my pleasure to share an update from all of us at DigitalFilm Tree, and what we like to call the Camera to Cloud Initiative — where we are looking to save Hollywood by eliminating physical transportation of media in the entertainment industry.

While production today remains a highly physical process, we’re seeing buy-in from important players to overcome these technological hurdles — Disney being our major advocate. Our objective, with Rackspace powering the process, is to push camera material right to the cloud and then manipulate it all in the cloud — editorials, dailies, and more — from viewer approval all the way to final distribution.

It’s more of a cultural shift at this point than it is digital. What it really comes down to is how efficient we can be as an industry. At DigitalFilm Tree, we’re on the forefront of this shift:

  • Our Critique software is an application we developed for collaboration between television and film writers, producers and directors. It allows them to stream video and dailies, make cuts, share notes and edit in real time. Critique makes the collaborative process more efficient, helping people go from camera to finished content faster than ever before without sacrificing control.
  • All of our software and dailies are hosted on Rackspace infrastructure. That includes a deal we’re discussing right now with a huge media name and one the industry’s best-known players in family, comedy and music programming.
  • We use computer resources for grander visual, color editing and more. Then we offer review and approval in a mobile layer that we also provide on our Rackspace infrastructure.
  • Have I mentioned we’re also a major proponent of OpenStack®? That’s a large reason why we have such a deep Rackspace partnership. OpenStack allows us to maintain the same footprint with respect to the square footage of our facility and in terms of personnel on staff, all while expanding our business.
  • Obviously, we also use regular hosting services. We use Rackspace Private Cloud for consulting studios on OpenStack implementations, and we use cloud files to stream and deliver material videos.

The idea behind Cloud to Camera is simple: Let’s evolve the next generation of cinema and broadcast production. Let’s push content into the cloud, and never move it.

Alas, converting everybody to the cloud is not as easy as it sounds. The problem is transport and bandwidth. We’re not so much putting out shows as we are putting out a huge files – ones that are using 36 terabytes a day. The challenges sound like this: “Okay, well, are your visual effects going to interconnect into that?” Or, “Is your post-printing facility going to have the same bandwidth?”

Cloud workflow has solved this for us.

We’ve been Rackspace customers for nearly six years now. And as we’ve grown, we have grown with Rackspace. It’s a huge part of our current infrastructure: Managed Cloud, Hybrid Cloud and hosting services, right down to Exchange.

We use almost every technology that Rackspace currently offers as an extension of our in-house IT team. We use Managed Cloud and we also use Managed DevOps so I don’t need to hire more people. We use MailGun to send out all of our e-mail. We use ObjectRocket for hosted Mongo, which does all of our metadata indexing and full-text query search. Rackspace is the most integrated and well-rounded plate of services available that really allows me to facilitate my workflow.

Transparency and trust is another important factor in this business, and Rackspace is such a strong promoter of these qualities that it may just be the only player in the game that we’ve gotten key customers to trust. A big reason is Rackspace is not in the content-delivery space like some of its competitors. Studios have major concerns about licensing content to other studios, for obvious reasons.

We recently went through an extensive security questionnaire with HBO, and the level of transparency Rackspace provided enabled us to move forward in that relationship. I was able to go through the Rackspace infrastructure, be transparent about what Rackspace does in terms of security, and make HBO comfortable with our service.

At DigitalFilm Tree, we want to help move our industry from camera to finished content, faster than ever before, without anybody having to make compromises or lose control.

Here’s a little compilation of everything we’ve done working with Rackspace over the past year-and-a-half. Enjoy!