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NZ film post-production house upgrades capacity as data usage spikes

Adam Bender | April 12, 2013
3D at 48 frames per second--a technique used in The Hobbit--uses 4TB per hour.

Park Road has done post-production work for major Hollywood films including <I>The Hobbit</I> and <I>District 9</I>.
Park Road has done post-production work for major Hollywood films including The Hobbit and District 9.

Modern filmmaking techniques that consume data by the petabyte have forced post-production studios to upgrade capacity to handle the load, according to Park Road Post Production head of technology, Phil Oatley.

Based in Wellington, NZ, Park Road provides post-production services for film features, "from digital and film rushes, stereoscopic alignment, digital intermediate, foley and sound mixing through to the final completion of all film and digital deliverables for distribution," Oatley said.

Park Road has worked on several big Hollywood films including last year'sThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as well as District 9 and The Last Samurai.

"We faced a very unique challenge on one particular project, and we realised that we would need to dramatically increase our throughput and capacity to meet the potential demand," Oatley said. "Each shoot day would see us process an average of six to 12 terabytes of new material, and on a really busy day this could reach 20 terabytes. All new material needed to be processed and delivered to the client within 12 hours, which created a significant data management challenge for us to overcome."

The total amount of post-production data that must be stored depends on camera resolution, acquisition and digital intermediate format choices and the amount of material shot during production, Oatley said.

"Digital cinema camera technology is constantly driving up the amount of data generated," he said. "With digital cinema camera sensors recording at high frame rates and at resolutions upwards of 5K, the storage capacity and bandwidth challenges are immense."

In addition, a "growing trend" toward 3D and an "emerging trend" towards high frame rate (HFR) 3D is increasing the amount of data used by a single film, he said.

"Films are commonly post-produced using a 2K or 4K digital intermediate format," he said. "A 2K film might require as much as 0.5 TB per hour of material, and with 3D doubles this to 1TB per hour."

HFR 3D - a new technique that was used in The Hobbit and runs at 48 frames per second - "doubles this again to 4TB per hour," Oatley said. "Modern 3D HFR feature films can easily generate more than 10TB per day during shooting, and literally petabytes of data across an entire feature."

Placing an even greater strain on capacity, Park Road typically works on multiple projects at the same time, he said.

After one project put a particularly high demand on Park Road's systems, the post-production house decided it was time to upgrade, Oatley said.

 

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