Psycho Films Case Study

 

" After a lot of discussion and consideration, Psycho Films landed two SimplyNAS storage solutions and a phalanx of enterprise-class Seagate hard drives. A quick examination of this hardware and its relation to the film studio’s production needs will illuminate how creative professionals and other small businesses might address similar storage challenges”.

Tyler Sobel-Mason, Psycho Films Vice President of Production

 

THE COMPANY

Psycho Films is an LA-based production and management company creating artful, provocative content for the film & television, music video, and commercial spheres.

 https://www.psychofilms.org/

 

THE CHALLENGE

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Psycho Films, a film and video production company founded by a handful of former University of Southern California classmates, set out to make high-energy, creative entertainment for the newest generation — for millennials by millennials. (Need proof? Witness the company’s social media-friendly mission statement: #MakeDopeShit.) Only a few years into the game, Psycho Films boasts a growing track record of impressive creative projects. Their cinematic sensibilities attracted interest from across the hip-hop world and spawned collaborations with headliners Schoolboy Q and Hit-Boy as well as Grammy-winning Puff Daddy and Kendrick Lamar.

As with most fledgling companies, Psycho Films faced a series of growth hurtles. As the number, complexity, and technical demands of its jobs grew, the technologies used to manage those jobs needed to scale accordingly. The company made the best use of its available resources, but by 2015, matters had reached a crossroads.

“The grow-as-you-go strategy we implemented in the early stages of our expansion had reached its inevitable limit,” recalls Psycho Films Vice President of Production Tyler Sobel-Mason. “We would buy two external 4TB drives, one at a time, and we would only buy them because we had literally no more space available. I would be like, ‘OK, we have to buy a drive today or we’re in trouble.’ There was barely enough free space on anything to organize and move stuff around efficiently. Part of a project would be on one drive, another part on another, and it was hard to readily assess what was backed up and what wasn’t.”

The company’s so-called asset management system boiled down to assigning an intern to physically label each drive and list its respective files. Whenever anyone needed a file, he would have to pore over all of the individually labeled drives, which proved to be less than fool-proof and not noticeably inefficient.

#GetDopeStorage

After a lot of discussion and consideration, Psycho Films landed two SimplyNAS storage solutions and a phalanx of enterprise-class Seagate hard drives. A quick examination of this hardware and its relation to the film studio’s production needs will illuminate how creative professionals and other small businesses might address similar storage challenges.

 

 

THE SOLUTION

After a lot of discussion and consideration, Psycho Films landed two SimplyNAS storage solutions and a phalanx of enterprise-class Seagate hard drives. A quick examination of this hardware and its relation to the film studio’s production needs will illuminate how creative professionals and other small businesses might address similar storage challenges.

 

Part 1: The Editing System

SimplyNAS U300-P10-C316 (E3)

This storage server now fuels the bulk of Psycho Films’ internal storage activities. Powered by a quad-core Xeon E3 processor and 16GB of memory, this iSCSI-ready storage area network (SAN) system has the power and capability to accommodate video production at any file size. QSAN U300-P10-C316 (E3) has a few unique NAS features for the TV/video industry, such as the ability to filter processing power and RAM when the unit has an active video file open. The server can also utilize SSD cache — still a rare feature in today’s NAS market. Out of the U300’s 16 drive bays, up to six SSDs can be used for caching. Specifically, four can be dedicated to read operations (important for pulling up and working on centralized files) and two can be dedicated to writing (also important when staff upload up to 2TB of daily footage). Moreover, the U300 sports seven 1 gigabit Ethernet ports, which can be aggregated for massive uplink bandwidth and/or segregated according to application. For instance, Psycho Films could separate IP access for editing stations and file transfers so that the total load remains balanced and managed for optimal network performance. The U300 can be configured to back up resting data automatically to a second system, alleviating the need for tedious manual copying.

 

Part 2: The Archival System

SimplyNAS U210

 

Psycho Films has a short-term and a long-term plan for the QSAN TrioNAS U210. With 12 drive bays (including SSD caching support), a dual-core Intel i3 processor, and 16GB of RAM, the system could function as a full-blown editing server in its own right. With six gigabit Ethernet ports, it certainly has the connectivity for the task. SimplyNAS recommended partitioning the U210’s storage into two volumes: one for archiving (the box’s primary job at Psycho Films) and one for data.

 

Upon initial installation, the Psycho Films team made the U210 into a centralized storage repository for all of those scattered USB drives filling office cabinets. Like the U300, the U210 has its storage configured in RAID 5, so redundancy and added protection are already baked in. The older USB drives can now serve as off-site backup copies for extra safety. Soon, Psycho Films will automate the backing up of fresh data on the U300 to the U210, adding yet another layer of protection to customer files.

 

Part 3: Qty. 21 x Seagate 6TB Enterprise NAS HDD

 

All of the processor and memory horsepower in the world won’t matter if an application and its workers are bottlenecked by poor storage performance. Many companies — particularly smaller ones like Psycho Films — stock their storage solutions with consumer-grade desktop hard drives. After all, these offer the highest capacity at the lowest price. However, desktop drives are not built to withstand consistently high-volume workloads around the clock without sacrificing performance and drive longevity, nor do they feature the added robustness needed to keep drive performance up in the vibration-prone environment of a 16-bay NAS server. Wanting to invest in a long ROI path and knowing that it will only rely more and more on storage performance as business grows, Psycho Films opted to upgrade into 21 Seagate Enterprise NAS HDDs — 16 for the U300 and five initial drives for the U210.

 

THE RESULT

 

One of the reasons that Psycho Films opted for SimplyNAS boxes was the total solution’s ease of management. Anyone versed in 4K multi-stream editing is bound to have some technical smarts, but no one on staff would count themselves as anything more than impromptu IT help. These are visual creatives, not network engineers, and that means that sometimes solutions get implemented first and fully planned later.

 

As mentioned, the U210 immediately became the target for all of Psycho Films’ prior assorted drives while the U300 immediately started service as a home for all of the company’s new content. Since new work carries higher priority than archived work, Psycho Films filled the U300 with 80TB of usable capacity while the U210 received less than 20TB. Clearly, there’s a mismatch here. Even if the U300’s storage were only half-full, it wouldn’t fit within the U210’s resources. And so, for now, the Psycho Films team backs up its archival system to its production system, which is exactly backwards from how it plans to do it as soon as it frees up some cash for more drives and enough capacity to reverse the backup flow. For the moment, the team is simply happy that they have redundancy, higher performance, and the flexibility to alter strategies whenever they please.

 

That higher performance and centralized storage functionality began to pay off almost immediately after deployment. The Psycho Films team was split, with some working state-side on a Puff Daddy project while others were returning from shooting a television pilot across the world in Dubai. The company was stretched thin and faced with brutal turn-around deadlines. Normally, all production workflow in the company flowed through a single workstation in the company’s Los Angeles office, and if the company had different people editing different projects, they would need to jockey for a turn on the system, much like scheduling hours on an old time-share mainframe. It was possible to move a project from system to system, but this would entail a lengthy migration of files with external USB drives. With so much data to move, it was like siphoning off a 55-gallon drum through a drinking straw.

 

“For the first time,” recalls Tyler Sobel-Mason, “we had three people really working on one project all at the same time. At one point, we had to swap computers real quick to accommodate something. And that’s when it really hit us, seeing how quick and easy things should have been all along. It took, like, 30 seconds to open up a project on the other computer and swap over what we were doing. No file re-linking, and it all ran perfectly. Before the new SimplyNAS and Seagate gear, having to put everything on an external drive and re-link it all would have taken an hour. It’s crazy how big of a difference this makes.”

 

Since those first days with its new NAS setup, Psycho Films has been able to triple its project output speed, and that’s only a beginning. Company owners plan to scale operations as quickly as possible from today’s three editing stations up to ten. The firm’s crew anticipates that being able to turn over more jobs more quickly will only enhance its reputation and further a virtuous cycle of growth.

 

Additionally, the new NAS arrangement helps to create a better staff experience apart from hands-on editing and output. By having centralized storage, Psycho Films has at last been able to create a sensible, permanent order and hierarchy for its data files. Interns know where to find any given item. Cameramen can now jump on the company LAN and drop their footage exactly where editors know to find it. Everybody is on the same page, and the organizational delays and stress that so often brought out the psycho in Psycho Films are now all but gone

 

CONTINUED IMPROVEMENT

 

In their few years of operating Psycho Films, the company owners have learned to anticipate the triumphs and growing pains that come from mixing creativity with discipline. Their new SimplyNAS/Seagate storage solutions are one of many steps the video production house is now taking with scalability clearly in mind. No company should ever have its success limited by poor storage resources.

 

Of course, the same can be said of networking. It didn't take long for Psycho Films to start adding concurrent project editors before it ran into the limits of its small network switch. Just as consumer-class hard drives can cause problems in a production environment, so can consumer-class connectivity. At the top of Psycho Films' shopping list now sits a bigger, better switch able to accommodate more users making full use of their storage assets. Moreover, bigger Internet pipes will relieve some of the pressure of having to overnight drives filled with project files to clients, and taking advantage of the SimplyNAS solutions' virtualization capabilities (allowing clients to log into virtual machines as if they were on a LAN) will allow customers to stream videos directly without the need for risking security with third-party streaming hosts.

 

“This new storage technology is making such a huge difference for us,” says Joe Weil, President of Psycho Films. “We do lots of quick turn-around jobs, but we would lose so much time in so many ways. Like, we'd lose one to two days at the end of each production if we had to convert lower-res proxy files back into something like 4K. The power and performance of this gear from SimplyNAS and Seagate has massively impacted our business. Our stuff is safe. It's where we need it, and everyone can use it whenever and however they want. I didn't realize how much our operations were jammed up until the blockage was fixed.”

Recommended Model/s:

  • QSAN U300-P10-C316 (E3) – Editing Systems
  • QSAN U120 – Archival Systems
  • Seagate 6TB Enterprise HDD drives

 

Recommended Features:

  • Good speed, storage capabilities, and scalability
  • User-friendly interface
  • Flexible RAID options

 

 

 

 

Recommended Models

-        TVS-871T-i5-16G: Quad -core Intel Core i5-4590S 3.0GHz

-        6 x 5TB Seagate Enterprise 7200rpm drives using RAID 5

 

Recommended Features

-        Thunderbolt 2 Turbo vNAS with DAS/NAS/iSCSI SAN Triple Solution

-        4K video playback, transcoding and no-the-fly editing

-        Scalable up to 56 hard drives

-        Tiered storage with SSD caching

-        Backup & Disaster recovery solutions

-        Storage Management

-        File Storage & Sharing

-        Cross-device file synchronization

-        CloudBackup Station

 

 

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