The name Laika/house may be new, but the entertainment and media company has known its way around the industry for 30 years. Company decision makers also know that when it comes to technology, a proven track record and reliability is key to success, which is why it continues to grow its systems with storage solutions from Avid Technology.
“The bottom line is that our older Avid Unity product has never failed us,” says Trevor Cable, video engineer at Portland, Ore.-based Laika/house. He also says that product competition is thin.
Created as a new entertainment and media venture in 2005, Laika was formerly known as Vinton Studios, a producer of computer-generated animation, stop motion animation, and cel animation.
Largely a creator of commercials, a newer venture for Laika is the creation of an independent feature animation studio. The company currently has two feature films in process. With 200 employees, Laika operates out of two buildings in the Portland area and will soon take occupancy of a third.
Growing with Technology
With the expansion of Laika into feature films, the IT department needed to increase system capacity. “Each feature film is running 5.4 terabytes of storage,” says Cable.
According to Cable, editors and assistant editors work in a shared environment editing footage, whether they’re doing commercial work or feature films. For example, the commercial department will have two editing systems attached to a single Avid Unity storage system. The editors along with the director, animator and producer discuss footage and cuts. A crew in another edit room is working on another project. All editing machines access media off of the same Unity hard drives.
“For commercial work we do dailies, recommend changes, may make cuts or redo a shot,” says Cable. Later in the day, new footage may be put on the company’s Linux-based network, which editors import into a new cut on the Unity.
“Only editors can access the Unity storage systems,” says Cable.
Prior to using Avid’s Unity storage, the company used another shared system that was slower with a smaller hard drive, according to Cable. “Avid was the first nonlinear editing system that allowed shared storage on a hard drive,” he says. Nonlinear editing means footage is digitized and doesn’t use tape or film. The benefit, says Cable is immediate access to any footage.
The company purchased its first Unity storage product in 1999 and recently upgraded it from 280GB to 1.5TB. In October 2005, the company purchased a second Unity product with 5.4TB and will have a third Unity unit with 5.4TB up and running within soon. Each of the two newer Unity purchases were made for the entertainment department, one for each feature film that crews are working on.
In short, Laika has a 1.5 TB 2Gbps Fibre Channel Avid Unity MediaNetwork for commercial work that connects two Media Composer Meridien systems; a 5.4 TB 2Gbps Fibre Channel Avid Unity MediaNetwork for feature films that connects two Media Composer Adrenaline systems; and, a 5.4 TB 4Gbps Fibre Channel Avid Unity MediaNetwork that is also for feature films that will connect two Media Composer Adrenaline systems.
A long-term partner of Laika, Seattle-based VAR Key Code Media, helps the company with purchases as well as installations. Because Cable knew he wanted to continue using Avid’s editing solutions, he was pretty much tied into buying storage from the same vendor.
“The company makes a closed system,” he says.
That was okay with Laika because Avid products are among the most highly rated in the entertainment/production/editing industry. “There was one other editing product we were aware of, but it’s much lower end, cheaper and just not up to the standards we need,” he says.
Laika will allot three days for the installation of its new system. Key Code helps with cables, other equipment, such as audio mixing board, client monitors and speakers, as well as the Avid equipment. “We take three days in case there are any unforeseen issues while we break in the equipment,” says Cable.
While Laika made the decision to purchase two Unity MediaNetworks for its film work, Cable explains that they could have enabled editors to work off of a single, larger system.
“We chose two systems because we weren’t sure were our editing facility would be and we also believe we get better redundancy having a second system,” he says.
As the systems are currently configured, there’s a certain level of redundancy built in to the unit. For example, each Unity has 28 hard drives plus a spare hard drive in case there’s a failure. “The system fails over and we just pull out the bad drive,” he says.
All data is copied twice on the drives and the system has the capability to put the media back on the drive in case of a failure.
Finally, Cable notes that system management is easy and flexible, particularly the ability to configure virtual drives and workspaces. “In the past, if a hard drive was full, we’d have to replace it with a bigger drive,” says Cable.
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