From Cops to Cougars, Hollywood Production Shop Runs on Seagate

DigitalFilm Tree utilizes dozens of high-performance Seagate enterprise hard drives

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Ramy Katrib may be the busiest Hollywood executive most people have never heard of. But if you're in the entertainment industry and you need fast technical work on a film or TV production, chances are he's on your radar screen.

Katrib is the CEO of DigitalFilm Tree (DFT), a postproduction, creative, production, and consulting company that's worked on films like Napoleon Dynamite, Cold Mountain and Where the Wild Things Are, as well as popular TV shows such as NCIS: Los Angeles and Cougar Town.

DFT’s tech-savvy staff works with powerful computer workstations and servers as well as new generation file-based cameras. And a variety of internal and external Seagate hard drives enable DFT to store, secure and share every shot.

"Our storage infrastructure is built on Seagate drives,” says Katrib. “In addition to relying on Seagate Barracuda desktop drives, we also depend on several 15,000-RPM Cheetah drives for our mission-critical servers. We use that storage infrastructure to house all the films and TV shows we’re currently working on.”

Storage to Spare

With storage capacities of up to 3TB, Seagate's Barracuda family of drives deliver plenty of room for downloading 1080p HD video. The drives also offer low-power consumption features that reduce costs over the life of the system by up to 50 percent over those of standard desktop drives.

Seagate's high-performance Cheetah enterprise drives, meanwhile, are a great fit for DFT''s storage area network, delivering the highest field-proven reliability of any 3.5-inch drives in the world.

All TV shows that DFT works on are shot in high-definition digital video. Those files arrive each day (on HD tape, FireWire or flash-based drives), and its staff quickly copies that footage to its servers. DFT, working in conjunction with editors from the studios, then creatively adds titles, video effects, color corrections and more. DFT typically has a week or less to get the work done—because many of the shows will then be broadcast the following week.

DFT's storage infrastructure enables its staff to juggle multiple projects at the same time, helping them to cope with the intense deadline pressures their clients routinely throw at them.

“TV, relative to feature films, is way more manic,” says Katrib. “Films have a much longer production schedule. TV is ‘drop-dead,’ with a very, very narrow window.”

The bulk of DFT’s work is done on workstations that are connected to a server room that utilizes dozens of Seagate drives.

“Our drive performance is critical to everything we do,” Katrib explains. “We work those drives as hard as possible—each one contains massive file structures. NCIS: Los Angeles, for example, is one of the most visual effects-laden shows you’ll see on TV today. Seagate storage gives us the reliability, efficiency and performance we need to handle those big files and also keep our team’s workflow moving quickly.”

Seagate’s family of enterprise-class drives include the industry’s latest technology advancements, making them ideal for video-editing and post-production environments, says Henry Fabian, a marketing director at Seagate.

Reliability a Must

“Storage reliability is critical for video professionals, and drive performance is just as key in enabling efficiency,” Fabian says. “With models that feature the world’s fastest performance, the largest capacities and record reliability, Seagate enterprise-class drives can face the challenges of these demanding environments.”

One of the biggest competitive differentiators that DFT brings to the party, according to Katrib, is its team’s cohesiveness, along with its unique blend of technical skills and creative vision. Most of DFT’s 17-member staff have been with the firm for at least seven years. That cohesiveness has helped foster a unique culture.

“A lot of us grew up together in this industry,” Katrib says. “We never believed there was a difference between technical know-how and creativity. We’ve always thought of it as the same action. The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years. It’s a lot more complex, and that requires people to be hyper-technical and also problem-solve all the different creative variables that come at us every day.”

In this environment, the last thing DFT wants to worry about is its storage.

“Seagate’s infrastructure has really been the wind at our backs,” Katrib says. “Those drives are very dependable.”

In addition to Seagate desktop and enterprise drives, DFT is using a speedy portable drive from Seagate to help slash the time it takes to download large video files and shuttle them between workstations. The Seagate BlackArmor PS 110 USB 3.0 performance kit delivers data-transfer speeds up to three times faster than conventional USB 2.0 drives.

“I’d heard about Seagate’s USB 3.0 drive and I was anxious to give it a try,” says Katrib. “The throughput for USB 3.0 outperforms both the FireWire 800 and eSATA interfaces. Seagate’s USB 3.0 drive has performed exceptionally well for us in our lab testing. The speed is just amazing. I think this is going to be a great product for Seagate, once more and more people appreciate its benefits. I know our team has been impressed.”

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-By Steve Pipe

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