Data in Film: Helping the Film Industry Boldly Go Where No Film Has Gone Before

By Jason Danielson, Solutions Marketing Manager, NetApp Media & Entertainment


media_blog.pngWhether you’re watching a movie at home or in a cinema, it’s easy to see how much technology has transformed the film industry in the last 40 years.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Avatar have all helped change our perceptions of what’s possible on screen. But equally as dramatic is the impact technology is having behind the scenes with how movies are created and distributed.


Twenty years ago, you might have two to three major “blockbusters” over the course of a summer, but today, it seems like there’s a new blockbuster released every week. Today’s blockbusters are loaded with computer-generated graphics to dazzle the eye and sometimes even produced in stereoscopic 3D offering a more immersive experience.


As studios continue to focus efforts and resources on major franchise blockbusters, the effects of this trend are two-fold. The use of computer generated graphics has become an intrinsic element of blockbusters. Post-production costs have dropped with the price of production software, compute cores and storage systems. However, studios and production houses will need to rethink their IT infrastructure to manage the increased number of data heavy films.


Looking Back


Five years ago, the production of the average film took approximately a petabyte. Today’s blockbusters – with thousands of frames with computer-generated imagery (CGI) many scenes localized into several versions, and add the second “eye” version for 3D– and production capacity explodes out past two petabytes.


In addition, 4K technology has been leading an even more dramatic change in the amount of production storage needed. In the past 12-18 months, more and more studios are employing the latest in 4K cameras and 4K workflow to deliver unparalleled digital resolution to the screen. This technology is not limited to strictly film. Recently premium content providers such as Netflix are promoting 4K streaming to the home. And in the next few years we will see the adoption of 4K televisions in the home for viewing of live sports broadcasting.


All of this innovation is resulting in a data growth on par with a Michael Bay level explosion. Whereas the increased use of CGI and stereoscopic 3D resulted in the average amount of data per film doubling to two petabytes, 4K technology means the average amount of data per film will almost quadruple to eight petabytes.


Today’s Consumer Also Making an Impact


From an IT infrastructure perspective, shooting and storing these data-heavy films is only one side of the 4K coin. The other major challenge is distribution and how / where the average person consumes the content.


Before five years ago, the traditional process for releasing a film was a theatrical release followed by a VHS or DVD release six to nine months later. With the advent of streaming services, rampant piracy and the need to cater to foreign audiences, studios have had to drastically rethink how they distribute a film.


Additionally, as the North American theatre going-market continues to shrink, films custom tailored for European and Asian audiences will become increasingly vital. As such, studios now need to be able to distribute multiple versions of a film simultaneously and securely without thieves getting to it. Meaning studios’ IT infrastructures need to be able to both securely store and globally distribute their latest 4K films and their entire digitized/remastered back catalogues.


Technology the Leading Role


As such, high-end storage arrays and data management solutions, like NetApp’s E-Series and Clustered Data ONTAP, will play a starring role in how tomorrow’s films will be produced and distributed.


While CGI technology changed what’s captured in film, storage and data management will help change how and where movies are experienced. Whether you’re watching the latest sci-fi blockbuster from the comforts of home or going out on date-night to see the latest rom-com, data storage and management is helping the film industry boldly go where no film has gone before.