Modern VideoFilm Adds Harmonic MediaGrid Systems
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Modern VideoFilm post production facility has found a rock solid way to handle high volume preparation of movies and TVs for delivery to a wide variety of platforms, from Web portals and satellite to cable and over-the-air. "Harmonic's Media Grid™ was the only solution we found that could cost effectively support multiple high-bandwidth streams at speeds high enough not to impact clients' loading of projects," says Modern VideoFilm Senior Engineer Bill Womack. "With easy scaling, agility in handling an enormous volume of content and the capacity to work more efficiently, we're better equipped to fulfill existing contracts and to take on new clients and projects."

Modern VideoFilm Senior Engineer Bill Womack
Womack notes that his company has had experience with a wide variety of shared storage systems including the Harmonic MediaGrid. "The decision to buy Harmonic's big 400 TB version was based on the performance we'd seen, comparing it with other options," he says.

Harmonic Senior Director of Product Line Management, Media Storage Ravi Parthasarathy points out another reason why MediaGrid fits Modern VideoFilm's specific needs. "They can expand it on the fly," he says. "They don't have to take the storage system down. If they want to add more capacity and performance, they can do that within a few minutes. It's easy to manage."

The Harmonic MediaGrid installation at Modern VideoFilm's Burbank location serves as an incoming/outgoing cache for content that is delivered to and distributed from the facility via Signiant software over a fiber network.

The content is uploaded at the rate of 10 TB per day and then moved to a second Media Grid for editing, transcoding and quality control. According to Womack, the MediaGrid system and Signiant software combination allows Modern VideoFilm to create and deliver more than 300 programs/features every day.

The Burbank facility is not the only new Modern VideoFilm installation of MediaGrid. The company also has a facility in Scottsdale, Arizona where two additional MediaGrid systems are being used. "It's automated file fulfillment," says Womack, explaining how the Scottsdale facility receives and archives episodic content from Warner Bros.' digital library and then transcodes programs as necessary for delivery. "It's a load sharing and back-up site. If you're a TV station and order, for example Batman Begins for air, the system will make a file and stage it for delivery and the station will download it into their server." For the rare TV station or international group that can't accept a file, the system will make a file and deliver to another Modern VideoFilm facility that will transfer it to tape.

Harmonic's Parthasarathy points out the advantages of an Ethernet-based network storage system. "Over the last three or four years, Ethernet has become very mature and high speed," he says. "Customers who want high performance but not complexity or cost are turning to these systems and, over time, using it for different applications."

Harmonic Senior Director of Product Line Management, Media Storage Ravi Parthasarathy.
The current MediaGrid system enjoys the benefits of greatly increased performance, with reduced cost and increased simplicity. "From a single system, we can do up to 400 megabytes per second with a single node," says Parthasarathy. "Plus we have a modular architecture by which the customer can add tens of terabytes with every box and keep scaling to extremely large sizes, all in extremely small increments. And we built a veneer in software that allows the administrator to manage all those boxes as if they were a single system."

Womack reports that cost effectiveness per terabyte is only one part of the equation that makes the Harmonic MediaGrid a good solution. "Reliability is required," he says. "The performance - speed of access, speed of data in/data out - is very important. The server is part of a system whereby the digital library exists in a mezzanine file format, used as a source file for a transcode operation attached directly to storage. We don't want to localize the file in the transcoder because it wastes time. Other systems just couldn't keep up. Transcoders will abort if they don't get the data in time."

Instead, the process of retrieving programming from the digital archive, transcoding it and delivering it is a smooth, simple operation. "Its like Burger King," he jokes. "You order it, you can have it your way, and then you pick it up at the window."

Archiving and storage are often the Achilles heel for operations that deal in large amounts of content. Modern VideoFilm's successful deployment of the Harmonic MediaGrid system is a great example of the manufacturer meeting an important need and the client seeing an opportunity and a solution. We will, no doubt, see many similar stories in the future.