FATS Digital Streamlines Archiving with Cinedeck
Digistor delivers flexible, multi-purpose production server solution
The rich history of a nation’s broadcast video and film projects can only be unlocked through skilled preparation and digital archiving however cost can be a barrier to bringing old media to new audiences.
“There is a big push to digitise archive material because it is ageing and deteriorating rapidly, especially early generation broadcast videotapes which can arrive here looking like a roll of sticky tape,” explained Mike Solomons, Technical Operations Manager for leading Australian company FATS Digital.
“And while content of cultural significance and popular programming is often prioritised there are many film and videotape collections that remain untouched because of the cost factor. Our job is to make restoration and digital archiving more affordable and the more efficient we can make our workflows, the more cost effectively we can offer our services. In this case we wanted to build a dedicated ingest facility rather than tying up other multi-purpose workstation suites just for ingest which isn’t the best use of our facilities.”
Cinedeck server solution
In response FATS Digital selected a Cinedeck production server through local technology solutions provider Digistor. The server also delivers improved economies of scale for film and video transfers by allowing more material to be digitally archived more quickly.
FATS Digital offers a complete range of media services including video file encoding/transcoding and transfer, blank media sales, digital cinema services, DVD & Blu-ray authoring, media duplication and replication, graphic design and packaging. The company also undertakes the restoration of film and video using scientific dehydrating ovens and cleaning equipment before playback and conversion.
"Support from Cinedeck through Digistor has been excellent and the few times we have had quereis they were addressed essentially immediately."
Mike Solomons, Technical Operations Manager
“Our aim was to find a multi-port device to sit at the centre of a suite that could take signals from any of our playback devices and convert them into any format. All our clients have different requirements and we need to be able to effectively deliver files in any format without having to spend extra time transcoding.”
After 12 months of researching products and providers Solomons followed up on a Cinedeck webinar to request sample files for evaluation.
“We needed to evaluate Cinedeck files for compliance so we asked for material in many formats such as ProRes, DNx XDCAM and JPEG 2000,” said Solomons. “We were specifically concerned about Apple ProRes files as not all ProRes files are created equally when output from a Windows platform. Some Windows platforms create Prores files that technically differ from those created in a Mac environment. However the ProRes coming out of the Cinedeck systems behaved exactly like a file coming from a Mac-based solution.”
Codec confidence & operational flexibility
“What tipped the scales in the end was Cinedeck’s ability to directly capture to any codec and wrapper desired. It could directly ingest to JPEG 2000, ProRes, IMX, XDCAM or DNx formats while making a proxy file at the same time - simultaneously from four channels. And each of those channels could be doing something different. It offered full flexibility so it was not just doing just one type of work - it could be doing HD JPEG 2000 on one channel and SD NTSC ProRes on another channel at the same time. Which is fantastic.
“Cinedeck also provided the flexibility to source audio and timecode. Timecode could be sourced from RS422, SDI, LTC and VITC which is very helpful as some archive tapes are not in particularly good condition or recorded with a non-standard timecode arrangement. It’s the same with audio which we can embed from SDI, AES or analogue sources. All that flexibility also comes with RS422 machine control on all four ports simultaneously to enable us to set the in- and out-points on the ingests.”
FATS Digital worked with Digistor to order a fully optioned Cinedeck ZX 40 four channel rack mounted server, the first such configuration to be installed in Australia. They have also allowed for expansion to add further servers in the future.
The ZX is available as a modular build of Cinedeck software tool sets and hardware configurations to deliver cost effective, custom-built configurations to meet specific ingest, playback and transcoding needs for 4K, UHDTV-1, 2K, HD and SD. It also features the unique patent-pending ability to insert edit deep into any compressed flat file wrapper.
Dedicated digital archiving
At FATS Digital the Cinedeck is principally used for digital archiving in a dedicated suite with four operators covering 14 hour shifts over five days. The rack mounted system utilises a quad split on the output of the four channels feeding a 40” ultra HD monitor for full time video and audio monitoring. The finished file is then spot checked before backup and distribution.
“The Cinedeck is very flexible and we make settings decisions based on each task to ensure there are no mistakes. We don’t use presets as every project is different - even in same project there are variables,” said Solomons.
“While it is powerful we didn’t need a lot of training to use the Cinedeck as we understand these systems so it was more about simply learning a bit of theory and the interface which is based around a touch screen. In the end I wrote a detailed internal workflow instruction manual that was concise and included screen shots.”
Keeping multiple client projects on track using one system has not caused problems for FATS Digital and Solomons keenly acknowledges the advantages of dealing with a small, tightly focused company in Cinedeck.
“Support from Cinedeck through Digistor has been excellent and the few times we have had quereis they were addressed essentially immediately. At one stage we put in a 3rd party GPU acceleration card to enable GPU-based proxy files and when this caused a problem the Cinedeck engineers wrote updated code overnight in support. They are also open to suggested modifications and are very forward in their help. We have equipment from the largest manufacturers in this industry and they can be far more difficult to deal with when we need to get support solutions. We don’t mind dealing with a smaller company because we can get a better response so we feel buoyed by their personal service.”
Cinedeck decision proves fruitful
“Essentially we made our decision to invest in Cinedeck’s system based on the full suite of codecs and wrappers it could produce and the flexibility of the way it captures video and audio while providing full machine control. It is a proven full, turn-key device and we are currently making changes to our setup to allow for expansion into another unit.
"We are introducing the product into workflow applications including on-set camera shoots and multi-cam live events, telecine transfer, archiving and content migration and other post production applications such as transcoding or rewrapping. It's a pipeline Swiss army knife."
Olivier Jean, Digistor Sales Consultant
“Currently we are in the midst of five large projects encompassing digitising broadcast libraries, sporting archives, 16mm and 35mm film archives. We are delivering the content within South East Asia and worldwide for re-broadcast, publicity, publication and monetisation,” said Solomons
Digistor forecasts Cinedeck
Digistor provides technology solutions for end-to-end digital media workflows including all hardware, software and services to ensure smooth roll-out and on-going operation. As a Cinedeck authorised integrator, Digistor is able to provide solutions with an extremely flexible ingest and archive component.
“I think we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of the range of solutions enabled by Cinedeck,” explained Digistor Sales Consultant, Olivier Jean. “We are introducing the product into workflow applications including on-set camera shoots and multi-cam live events, telecine transfer, archiving and content migration and other post production applications such as transcoding or rewrapping. It’s a pipeline Swiss army knife.”