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Feature - Lights, camera, action: FilmGrid

Lights, camera, action: FilmGrid

Image courtesy FilmGrid

Film-making is a very labor-intensive craft, relying upon the work of many people.

This is especially true of the part known as "post-postproduction" - traditionally, that portion of the process when all the raw film has been shot and is "in the can." During this phase, all the editing, natural sound, music, background painting, voiceovers, montages, special effects, and everything else take place.

Because so much of post-production is manual, and because so many hands are involved - and because post-production often involves widely scattered individuals and companies - it can often be very difficult to maintain an up-to-date picture of the status of a film production, leading to inefficiencies, unwanted duplication of effort, and complications. In addition, couriers sometime lose hard disks containing footage with terabytes of information, and security can often be difficult to maintain.

However, like an old-time "Perils of Pauline" silent movie, a rescuer may be in sight: FilmGrid.

Jointly produced by Joe Dunton and Co (JDC) and the Edinburgh supercomputing center (known as EPCC), this grid-based computing systems allows for the secure, all-digital, computerized transmission and storage of these "digital assets."

The bottom line: lead time can be cut to near zero, with the recipient able to start work on the data almost immediately after the transfer is initiated.

And, most importantly, they know where the film is and its status, during every step of the way. Management can see at a glance the current status of a production, have a clearly accountable log-in system to verify what work has been done and what has still to be completed, and access it all from any geographic location.

The Storyboard Manager in action. Image courtesy FilmGrid

How it's done

FilmGrid uses a distributed architecture in which each site in a production is associated with a server holding assets required by that site. The FilmGrid client provides users with a view of the digital assets across all sites in the production. The client consists of the following tools:

*The Asset Manager, a data transfer tool for moving assets securely, reliably and efficiently.

*The Storyboard Manager, which provides a high-level visual overview of the production.

*The Scene Manager, a digital asset management system designed to reduce the scope for confusion in the current manual process. This provides detailed information on the scenes and shots in a film, including what work has been done to them and by who.

The business impact of FilmGrid includes better workflows, thus improving cost and time, along with greater efficiency, improved security, better communication, and better monitoring.

One timely advantage for FilmGrid is that the onset of purely-digital films - as opposed to the well-established film/photochemical route - has prompted much discussion on workflow methods. In the absence of competition, FilmGrid is well positioned to exploit such opportunities.

The initial phase of developing a usable, proof-of-concept of FilmGrid was well-received in trade conferences and fairs; EPCC and JDC are now planning to exploit FilmGrid commercially.

-Dan Drollette, iSGTW. Adapted from BEinGRID's "Eighteen Successful Case Studies Using Grid."

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