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Final Cut Server Solution for The Lab

13th August 2008

The LAB is a full-featured, in-house post-production facility built in 2005 by London-based AMV BBDO, the UK's largest advertising agency. It was designed to reduce the cost and time it takes to pro- duce television commercials and other key video projects, such as repurposed advertisements.



But while the LAB easily met and even exceeded its original goals for efficiently producing assets for broadcasters, it was nowhere near as efficient in managing and tracking those assets.

"Finding files on the various volumes we use was very difficult," says Alex Buchanan, Operations Manager at the LAB. "We were using a spreadsheet to track jobs, cross-referencing them with a file path and numbered file names. As the department grew, files and folders alone were becoming difficult to manage using manual methods. We needed a faster, easier way to let clients request basic information from us, such as who is the editor on a certain job, or where to find elements and final deliverables. It had to change."

Final Cut Server at the LAB

The LAB found their solution in Final Cut Server, which manages all of the facility's assets and lets their artists quickly find specific production assets using metadata searches. At the LAB, Final Cut Server integrates with FileMaker databases that contain information about broadcast commercials, project data, and scheduling information. This allows creative teams to perform Google-style searches across multiple folder structures and volumes. Final Cut Server also allows the LAB to maintain a library of material that can be reused and repurposed without replicating assets on the SAN.

"With the powerful scanning features of Final Cut Server, the LAB now has an automatic, up-to-date database which allows us to manage projects efficiently," says Buchanan.

Because the LAB was already using locally-hosted FileMaker databases to manage job tracking and resource management, it seemed natural to do the same with media assets. The challenge lay in integrating the two, which was resolved by making exten- sive use of Ruby scripting to automate event-driven data exchanges between data bases. This enabled automatic modification of the metadata associated with the assets: details such as the producer's name, artist, and production title are tagged onto each asset automatically as the data passes from FileMaker to Final Cut Server.

Final Cut Server's integration with Open Directory lets the LAB restrict access to certain assets, keeping sensitive work private. For instance, user group traits enable them to create a turnkey application from the diverse feature set of Final Cut Server that allows only relevant producers to see their respective work. This integration also allows the LAB to make its growing library of rich assets accessible to the rest of AMV BBDO.

Archiving with MatrixStore

Archiving from Xsan to nearline or offline backup used to be a manual process at the LAB. Ensuring that all linked assets were ready to archive and verifying that tape backups existed before deleting files was a time-consuming process. Archiving to near-line storage is now automatically managed by Final Cut Server through its integration with MatrixStore clustered storage management software from Object Matrix. With MatrixStore, older storage units can be repurposed to expand the Object Matrix cluster because disk performance and reliability are not so much an issue as they are in the main SAN storage pool.

MatrixStore allows the LAB to automate backup of assets along with the Final Cut Server metadata, something they cannot do with tape without costly tiered-storage management systems. Based on metadata triggers, such as an asset being marked for archive, or date-triggered responses, MatrixStore can post whole collections of data across to Object Matrix storage.

One of the benefits is that users can search for archived assets and watch proxy previews of the files as if they were still online. The Final Cut Server interface identifies the asset as archived, and a simple right click can bring the individual asset, or whole productions, back online.

Looking ahead

The LAB is planning to use Final Cut Server to automate the playout workflow that controls deployment of digital assets to TV stations. This would allow producers to transmit an ad with the click of a button. They also plan to enable users to publish content to approval microsites. Using the XML export capabilities built into Final Cut Server, a web application will be built around Ruby/Rails integrating with Compressor and its Episode plug-in from Telestream to automate transcoding to various approval formats at the user's request.

Company

The LAB , AMV BBDO, a full-featured, in-house post production facility at the UK's largest advertising agency.

Goal

Reduce cost and time to produce TV commercials and repurposing of advertisements.

Capabilities

Leveraging Mac OS X, the LAB produces 2D and 3D animation, effects, compositing, color grading, offline and online video editing, full audio post, and sound design.

Solution Highlights

• Final Cut Server allows creative teams at the LAB to quickly find specific production assets using metadata searches.

• MatrixStore allows the LAB to automate backup of assets along with the Final Cut Server metadata.