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Transitioning to Tapeless

We talk to Systems Design, an Egyptian systems integrator that has made tapeless workflows their mission

Systems Design, a Broadcast system integrator based in Cairo, has been at the forefront of the switch to tapeless workflows for major broadcasters in Egypt and beyond. Ahmed Gamal Saleh, managing director of the company, describes his mission as follows:

“Our aim is to make changes in technology or workflow as trouble-free as possible for our clients. Schedules cannot be disrupted and the training of their staff must be comprehensive and designed to make the switch uncomplicated and straightforward.”

Numerous channels throughout the Middle East and North Africa have benefitted from this complete approach since the company was founded in 1994, and although Systems Design mainly works on builds and upgrades that involve studios, playout centres, OB units and edit suites, they have always uniquely placed the emphasis on post-sales support. According to Saleh:

“Our work doesn’t end when the initial job has been completed. We have a team of engineers whose work is to provide support 24/7 for our clients, wherever they are located.”

Tapeless workflow

George founded The Product Factory in 2003 after editing everything from reality shows to trailers. Shortly afterwards he made contact with the person who would later become the head of a major animation TV and film studio. “Those projects had to all be delivered in HD and were all animated and at that time I had done neither,” states George. He worked closely with AJA Video Systems and went HD in 2004 while teaching himself and his then skeleton crew, the art of animation post production. Today, around 85% of The Product Factory’s business is based on animated productions. The company’s major clients include Marvel, Disney, Nickelodeon, Film Roman/Starz and many others.

“We are not involved with shooting the films and gathering footage like many other post companies,” explains George. “We use storyboards that have been supplied by the client. We edit them together and then add music and dialog to create animatics of each film or tv episode. This content is then sent overseas – often to India, Korea or China - for the animation work. Then it comes back to us for final edit, visual effects, finishing and mastering to HDCam SR.”

The complexity of these projects is often more then meets the eye as anyone who is a fan of the Marvel line up can tell you. “The devil is in the details and our fans are always looking at the details” says George.

To cope with the work undertaken by The Product Factory, the 4200 square foot facility is equipped with six Mac-based edit suites using a mixture of Final Cut Pro 7 and Avid Symphony 7. Adobe Creative Suite is also employed in the visual effects and title designs. Centralizing the content is a 160TB EditShare Energy solution.

Storage is Essential

“A good shared storage system is a necessity if we are to maintain an efficient workflow,” states George. “So when we were having so many problems with our initial system, I turned to a good friend, Kenny Martin of DVSERVE, for some advice.”

Texas-based Systems Integrator DVSERVE immediately saw that EditShare would solve George’s problems. Not only was the equipment fast, secure, and stable, the support was on hand and totally reliable.

The two EditShare shared storage servers at The Product Factory are part of an Extreme Scalable Architecture (ESA) group – providing one pool of storage. “EditShare offered the 4 S’s we needed: Security, Support, Stability and Speed. All are essential for our clients and our business.”

EditShare ESA is an architecture that allows customers to increase their storage to hundreds of terabytes and beyond. With ESA, additional "expansion servers" can simply be plugged into the existing EditShare network. The first EditShare is configured as a "super server" that can then manage an unlimited number of "expansion servers". Administrators manage all storage through a single unified GUI, with users unaware that there are multiple servers on the network.

EditShare ESA is designed to give customers the ability to keep up with their storage requirements, and at the same time, provide increased bandwidth, allowing a greater number of users to work from centralized storage.

Workflow That Really Works

“The beauty of the EditShare system is that several editors can work on the same project at the same time. For example, if there are any retakes on the animation, the producer and director can review the material, while in another edit bay, work can continue on other segments of the same program.”

This project sharing capability creates an effective and highly efficient workflow – and George continues to enthuse about the EditShare experience. “The system works with a remarkably high level of reliability. However, when we have needed to contact EditShare with a technical enquiry, there has always been someone there to answer our questions – and to stay on the phone until we have a satisfactory resolution of the query. That’s the marvelous level of service you expect from a truly professional organization.”