When Investing in Shared Storage, It Pays to Take the Long View

Top 11 Ways to Master Your Media Workflows in 2017

1. Increase collaboration and share media among creatives inside and outside the office
2. Deal with high-res 4K content efficiently across your infrastructure
3. Monetize existing content by creating a searchable library of media assets
4. Integrate low-cost storage into your overall workflow
5. Protect data through the various stages of your workflow
6. Secure and restrict proper access to your media assets
7. Establish an easy and effective creative approval process
8. Capture footage directly from camera to a shared environment
9. Archive, search and restore projects and media
10. Get your content creation team to adopt your workflow process consistently
11. Manage disparate data over a variety of workstations, storage devices, archive formats and locations

—Jess Hartmann and Nathaniel Cooper, ProMAX Systems

In today's dynamic, data-heavy production environments, nothing is more critical than how fast and efficiently you can share files with your creative team. Yet for many media creatives, even those now regularly delivering 4K+ content, the shared storage you count on daily to manage and move your media is simply not up to the task. The hard part? Deciding how and when to upgrade existing systems without impacting the already daunting work ahead. While it might be tempting to ignore the problem indefinitely, that's never advisable. (Where is that clip again? Cue obligatory wide shot of a hard drive graveyard.) Disastrous, costly gotchas lurk within outdated or inefficient shared storage pipelines that can't meet the breakneck speed and collaborative demands of high-resolution digital production.

One way to prevent those gotchas from crippling current and future projects is to step back and take a wider look at how robust your existing workflow really is. Are you managing permissions and creative review as well as you'd like? Is your archive instantly accessible to those who need it most? Can you find the precise, version-specific clip when you need it? Is everyone in your group on the same page?

According to Jess Hartmann, president and CEO of integrated workflow technology manufacturer ProMAX Systems, those are just some of the questions to ask before deciding to update a shared storage system that benefits your entire team. We spoke with Hartmann and Nathaniel Cooper, a former audio engineer and system designer who is ProMAX's VP of world wide Sales, about the challenges—and exploding opportunities—facing media creatives in shared environments today. (For a cheat sheet on getting the most out of your workflow, see their top 11 ways to optimize your pipeline, at right.)

Managing Mounds of Data

The creatives Hartmann and Cooper regularly work with are spread across the Film/TV, broadcast, post-production, education, government, worship and corporate markets. All of them are wrestling with the mounting pressures of data overload. “Media people understand storage and know it’s an essential part of any operation,” says Cooper. “Where I see people struggle is really having management over a lot of data. A single video project can easily be 5 TB. They know they will need to address this issue eventually, but they just don’t want to deal with it now. This is an industry where you have to be creative to be good. Most creative minds—though this isn’t always true—are used to operating freely without boundaries. There are often no rules at all! That fundamental outlook doesn’t always mesh well with the kind of structured, engineering-type of mindset that you need to manage thousands to millions of pieces of media and information over extended periods of time. In our experience, contemplating that long-term management of data is where creatives start getting really overwhelmed which leads to bad practices.”

Adopting an integrated, open workflow removes those pain points immediately, says Hartmann, by indexing content from any number of sources, making proxies and seamlessly managing your media for you. “We routinely hear customers say, ‘We have a mess on our hands and we don’t know where anything is, especially stuff we shot two years ago.’ Organization and efficiency in the workflow, from ingest to archive, should be your number-one priority when looking at a shared storage system,” he says. “That’s why we see the opportunity of shared storage, which in the past few years has become a commodity, as one best handled by a true workflow server that assists in the efficiency of how you create your media from your camera all the way through to the archive. It lets you get back to the work that you love."

Planning for 4K and Beyond

Optimizing that workflow for 4K doesn’t necessarily mean a facility must first overhaul its existing storage and network backbone, says Hartmann. “It’s a common misconception, but 4K is just a frame size; it’s not the description of a codec. The contradiction between those two is you can work with very large frame sizes that have a very small-format codec and not require big infrastructure changes. On the other hand, you could have a very large codec on a 1080p uncompressed file and you can’t do it on your existing system. The mystery of 4K isn’t so intimidating when you answer several important questions first: what are you shooting in, what are you editing in and are you transcoding to something that you can play in, or are you trying to edit raw camera footage?”

If you work with remote teams spread across town or across the globe, Hartmann says, your shared system should be able to easily accommodate them. “We’re really interested in what Adobe Premiere Pro’s Creative Cloud lets editors do within Premiere and think that’s the future. Say you’re on location and need to run to a Starbucks to make adjustments and edits during some downtime. You should be able to do that on a proxy remotely and then switch back over to the high-res version when you’re back in the office to access the full media for color correction.”

When it comes down to it, say Hartmann and Cooper, understanding where your workflow is right now and planning for its evolution should be as top-of-mind as paying your bills on time. “I often say to customers, ‘Shared storage is the immediate obvious need when you have a growing creative team,’” Cooper says. “You could just put in shared storage now but six months from now, if you haven’t pulled all those random RAIDs, Thunderbolt drives and external hard drives you have floating around into your workflow, you’re going to have a new problem and will need another $15,000 to fix it. And two years after that, you’ll have another new problem that will cost you double that. It just makes more sense to build out a workflow that gets ahead of those problems so you never experience them, let alone pay dearly for them down the road.”

The Fundamentals of a Robust Media Workflow

With several popular Webinars about similar topics to their credit, Hartmann and Cooper will present a series of one-hour workshops at NAB that explore these mission-critical concepts in much greater detail with show attendees. Sessions during the ProMAX Digital Salon include “How to Prep your Media in a Shared Production Environment,” “How to Edit 4K+ Without Breaking the Budget,” and “How to Create a Workflow your Team Will Actually Use,” and will look at a wide range of issues, from the best way to backup raw footage and the importance of real-time replication throughout the edit, to the new workflows now possible with NewTek’s emerging NDI format. Says Hartmann, “We want to help folks understand the fundamentals of a truly robust media workflow. It isn’t just shared storage but is also ingest and asset management and backup and archive. It’s all these components put together seamlessly with the features that make it easier for creatives to do their jobs."

ProMAX Digital Salon
To learn more about the ProMAX Digital Salon and register for one of the five sessions uniquely tailored by Hartmann and Cooper to address various media workflow environments, click here.