1989 was a big year in the post production world as it heralded the launch of the AVID 1 Media Composer and Adobe Photoshop. A few months later as the clock ticked over into 1990 with a staff of just three people (it's over 30 people strong today) one of the foundations of Australia's post production and broadcast industries was formed – Digistor.
Digistor's founder and still the company's MD is Andrew Mooney. Mooney is clearly the best man to take us on a 30 year journey of some of Digistor's main highlights, of which there are many.
Back To The Beginning
By starting at the beginning, he explained, "Digistor was formed on the cusp of revolutionary change from linear to non-linear editing with dramatic growth in storage and the use of computers for video and film. We identified the industry's requirements and became the only company dedicated to the support of the emerging non-linear editing market. Much of the early activity was around hard disk drive rental and technical support for early adopters of non-linear editing (NLE) systems and in those early days Lightworks and Media Composer were the dominant systems."
Five years of hard work later and in 1995 Digistor became heavily involved in Avid system rentals both for feature film work and post production. Also that year Media 100 was introduced as the first on-line non-linear editor allowing video production to be completed to delivery quality solely on a Mac – or a Macintosh personal computer as it was then known. Correspondingly,1995 also saw Digistor manage increases in demand for storage and new storage systems being introduced.
"The structure of the industry changed allowing us to supply many more independent production companies with their own systems. We continued to expand and in 1998 we opened our first Sydney office, a modest space in Hume Street, Crows Nest as in those days Crows Next was the hub of post production in Sydney".
1999 saw Final Cut Pro (FCP) released at NAB and the initial uptake and use of the new software was slow as Mooney explained, "FCP was seen as more of a consumer editing tool. Once Pinnacle released their uncompressed Cinewave card, FCP systems became more popular as they were then able to edit uncompressed video at a significantly lower price point than Avid systems."
1999 also saw Digistor design, develop and introduce the Windows PC-based Olympic Transition Device (OTD) system following an enquiry from the Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organisation (SOBO) which related to a requirement for a disk based playback system for the 2000 Olympics.
Mooney added, "This disk based transition device was a totally new concept for live sports and the 2000 Sydney Olympics was the first time such a device was used - in fact there were 30 OTDs used at the Sydney games. It then became commonplace after the 2000 Games and Digistor's OTD became the defacto standard for this application which was also later used at the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake City, the 2004 Games in Athens and 2008 Games in Beijing."
In 2001 Grass Valley Group (GVG) ceased manufacture of the disk expansion units for their Profile disk recorders, the defacto playout servers used by broadcasters globally. There was, however, still strong demand for disk expansion options despite GVG no longer offering their own expansion units, so Digistor stepped in.
Mooney added, "We designed and built a Raid expansion system called Prostor and started to sell it globally. Our first customer was a broadcaster in Brazil. GVG became aware of this, liked what they saw and offered to exclusively sell Prostor globally to their clients. These things never happen quickly and after over 12 moths of intensive testing by GVG, fine tuning legal contracts, EMI/EFI testing and certification locally and lots more hoops that had to be jumped through, we received our first order from GVG and Prostor was a great success from that point on."
Shared storage was also introduced in 2001 and FibreJet volume locking SANs were being deployed enabling small creative teams to work collaboratively off FC connected shared storage using FibreJet. It was also the year Digistor first trod the boards, of sorts, helping with the post on the award-winning Moulin Rouge movie.
"2002 saw more sporting achievements by Digistor as their OTDs were in use at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and at the FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan. There was also more highly acclaimed movie work as Digistor took care of the post on the amazing Matrix movie".
The 2004 Athens Olympics saw Digistor's OTDs taken to a new level and to the point where the company provided on-site engineers for the duration of Games to look after the systems. That same year OTD was renamed Replay Transition Device (RTD) to more accurately describe its application for replay transition in general, not just for Olympic Games.
In 2005 Digistor continued to grow and expand, this time purchasing Adimex who in turn became an exclusive distributor of leading media production hardware and software tools and selling these to dealers. Digistor then became the exclusive solutions reseller, providing complete turn-key solutions and high-level technical services.
The next few years saw more accolades and expansion. In 2007 Digistor was awarded Apple Reseller of the Year despite being up against much larger players in the advertising, corporate and government markets. After helping Baz Luhrmann's Australia movie complete its ground-breaking post in 2008 the company then launched their digital signage operation with Dynamic Visual Systems in 2009.
2010 saw yet another acquisition as Digistor purchased Brisbane-based Autodesk distributor Digital By Design (DBD).
Mooney explained, "The purchase of DBD enabled us to expand operations in the supply and support of solutions around Autodesk's Media and Entertainment and Creative Finishing product lines. It also led us into our biggest-ever SMPTE show in 2013 where Digistor had five separate stands on the show floor including our own Digistor stand and then one each for AJA, NewTek, Adimex, and Aspera."
Rebranding Marking Continued Growth
25 years of success and growth led Digistor to a major company re-brand in 2015, something Mooney says allowed the company to address the market moving away from product-based sales to consultative, services-based solutions. It was a critical point in Digistor's history.
Mooney explained, "We released new branding, new market positioning and a new website incorporating a modern e-commerce platform. We better communicated our strengths to potential and existing customers while offering a fast and effective transactional purchasing experience to those that needed it. The commercial environment we had operated in for 25 years had changed dramatically and we evolved to address these changes in 2015."
"There's more, so much more but in short, over the last few years Digistor has continued to grow, educate and critically innovate. From 2016 to today amongst other accolades and awards the company has received an Autodesk Platinum Club Award, been appointed an Avid Elite Solutions Partner and an Avid Learning Partner Professional."
Today Digistor provides solutions for the creation, management, storage and distribution of all types of digital assets for organisations from single studios to collaborative, networked enterprises operating across a room or across the globe.
It's fair to say Digistor has been one of the cornerstones and foundations of many industries over the last 30 years including broadcast, post production, VFX, storage and digital media.
In answering why this is Andrew Mooney concluded, "We've always had a very simple philosophy at Digistor which is to empower our customers, enable their dreams and help bring those dreams to life via smart technology and services. It starts with us designing a solution, then building and installing it. We also enable our clients with all necessary training. Finally, we fully support the solution and our clients throughout the whole process."
After three decades of continued success, it's hard to argue against a philosophy that stands as true today as it did thirty years ago.