How the addition of nearline storage from Object Matrix helped one of London’s top post houses to work more efficiently and create new revenue streams.

Halo Studios

The Background

Based in London’s Soho, Halo Post Production provides film and TV producers with a full range of post-production facilities from online, dubbing and grade to remote editing, workflow and technical services.

Founded in 2004 by chief executive, mixer and sound designer John Rogerson as a one-room audio post facility, it has since grown into a full picture and sound company with five sites that works across factual, drama and comedy programmes as well as feature films. Hugely popular with clients, with a reputation for friendliness and technical excellence, Halo was crowned the UK’s Best Post Production House at the 2016 Broadcast Awards.

Recent credits include the comedies Toast of London (C4), The Delivery Man (ITV) and Murder in Successville (BBC3), factual productions Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough (BBC1) and This is Tottenham (BBC2), and feature films The Danish Girl, Suffragette and Ronaldo.

Recent work Halo
Recent work Halo
Recent work Halo

The Customer Challenge

Back in 2014, following significant growth, Halo found itself becoming more and more successful. However, as each department expanded to cope with additional workloads, the network and storage requirements were increasing without the systems in place to meet that demand. Disparate storage systems meant the company’s architecture had become fragmented. When projects moved from department to department, the media would need to be copied backwards and forwards. This was time consuming and was costing the company valuable time and money. Something had to change.

“It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to share large data sets efficiently across Halo,” explains technical director Daniel Napier. “This could delay the start of small jobs, not always allowing us to maximise spare capacity in the schedule efficiently. What we needed was to eliminate these islands of information and install an integrated network where media was available for all from one central location.”

His first task was to upgrade the internal network. The second was to look at the storage that was attached to it.

The Solution

Having added a 56 Gigabit Production backbone and multiple 10 Gigabit Ethernet networks to the facility, and purchased additional ISIS storage from Avid, Napier turned his attention to nearline storage.

A legacy system, that been installed when the company was much smaller, was in place but that had been outgrown “in terms of size, bandwidth and flexibility.”

Available space, says Napier, was a big issue. With larger codecs, the increased data that comes with handling UHD formats and ever swelling shooting ratios, the volume of media being delivered by clients was on the up. As a result, additional fast access storage space was required for all departments.

Ahead of choosing a nearline system for the job, Napier and his team drew up a list of priorities. The storage needed to be:

  • Scalable and upgradable to allow for further growth, and that flexibility needed to be cost effective;
  • Simple to use, particularly for non-technical staff, with a clean user interface that was easy to manage;
  • More than just storage, offering tools for other tasks;
  • Secure, with the ability to control who can and cannot access it;
  • Able to provide a great price-performance ratio;
  • Capable of generating new streams of revenue for the facility.

Having researched the available options, taken a trip to IBC to ask further questions, and then reviewed their findings, Halo decided in November 2014 to invest in a 256 TB MatrixStore from Object Matrix, supplied by reseller Altered Images.

“There are lots of people offering affordable storage out there,” says Napier. “You can buy a petabyte of storage for £60k but, at that price, it is slow because it doesn’t have the bandwidth. MatrixStore is at a good level where multiple nodes are separate and load balanced, with 20GigE links to your network, so it has a great performance and it’s also good value for money. You get fast storage with extras on top.”

These extras include disaster recovery options, with software that allows users to sync between tools, plus the ability to do LTO back-ups with an integrated library directly from MatrixStore and the DropSpot metadata logging tool.

“Dumb storage is not where things are going,” says Napier. “You need creative tools that allow you to become more efficient and can help you generate new streams of revenue.The LTO option was particularly interesting because back-ups had been difficult to manage in the past. With the XenData plug-in this process is now centrally located, is easy for the end-user and we have developed this into a much more efficient service for our clients. At the same time, DropSpot gives us the ability to handle large amounts of media and find it easily.”

The Workflow

The MatrixStore was installed in February 2015 and has, in Napier’s words, “made massive improvements to the facility. It has eliminated our islands and it has made us more efficient than ever before.”

It is being used daily across all departments as a central repository for all incoming media.

As soon as footage arrives it is copied onto a MatrixStore vault where a native copy is stored. For the offline editing process the media is then transcoded from the MatrixStore at high speed. In some cases clients can also take up the offer of a second vault, giving them extra security. Footage is then backed-up from the MatrixStore to LTO tapes where required.

From that point the MatrixStore is used for work-in-progress, to park ISIS projects, as a portal for moving assets from one suite to another suite quickly, and as a more affordable place than Tier 1 storage to keep media for short durations.

Halo Studios
Halo Studios

The Future

Napier is quick to praise MatrixStore, and Object Matrix, and is already looking to the future with Disaster Recovery a continuing area of focus. Object Matrix has some unique disaster recovery mirroring tools and, in the future, we might use them not just for mirroring MatrixStore but potentially other storage in the facility too.” 

Halo may also look at dovetailing the MatrixStore with a future MAM system to automate the creation of deliverables and there is a good chance that the size and scope of the current MatrixStore will be increased to more than a petabyte to aid natural growth and those disaster recovery-based services.

Napier also hopes to work with Object Matrix on developing the product further.

“One of the things that was key for me was working with a vendor that has an interesting roadmap of where they want the product to go,” he reveals. “Even though MatrixStore might not have all the features we are looking for today, it is important that the company is willing to work with us to develop features that will help us deliver the services our clients require, which of course is key to maximising revenue. We both see MatrixStore as more than just storage. It is a core part of a facility and it has to offer solutions and revenue streams like a suite does.”

Object Matrix sales and marketing director Nick Pearce agrees.

“From the initial engagement with Halo it was clear that the relationship would be collaborative, technical and driven towards building a platform to serve the future as well as meeting current requirements,” he says. “We pride ourselves on being a trusted storage partner to our clients. Stating that is easy but, as with Halo, our continuing focus on solving IP workflow challenges couple with our investment in the development of solutions to solve those challenges prove that Object Matrix is more than just a storage company.”

Halo Post Production Case Study

Halo Post Production

www.halopost.com/