Computer Graphics Production Infrastructure Support

  • Service Infrastructure Support
  • Customer Computer Graphics studio
  • Year of implementation 2017 – 2020

Case

Computer graphics is a technically complex field of work that attempts to simulate reality. There are many subtleties to it, including various approaches to process pipelines, a wide array of software and hardware different from what is used by regular IT companies. Final stage of  production process involves computation of finished scenes and assembly of computer graphics components, called rendering.

Every day, every in-demand video production studio experiences the following problems: having to simultaneously render several high-load projects and the need to store large amounts of data generated in process.

Our customer is no exception. Studio's infrastructure used storage based on FreeNAS operating system. FreeNAS software serves as an intermediate layer between raw hardware and users, the company's employees. FreeNAS turns hardware into network-accessible storage.

Before cooperation with Loovatech started,  data storage would receive numerous requests from multiple workstations and rendering servers, and often could not bear the load. This hindered the efficiency of the customer's employees. Project completion would be delayed in the most stressful situations, that is, at the final stages of production just before delivery, and at rendering. This caused reputational and monetary risks, including penalties for breach of contractual obligations and negative feedback from customers.

Customer

Our customer is a CG studio specializing in broadcast design, visual effects, titles, motion graphics, visual identity and interactive solutions for presentations.

Their clients include TV companies, film studios, producers of video content for TV and websites, government agencies, as well as video game developers and publishers.

The company employs leading artists, programmers and managers. In its ability to deliver bold, one-of-a-kind videos in response to the creative needs of businesses, the studio has a clear competitive edge.

Business problems

  • #1 Constant threat of missed deadlines due to failures in the render farm at the final stages of project production.
  • #2 Employees wasting time due to failing rendering services and their incorrect operation.
  • #3 Threat of loss of critical data due to the lack of built-in data backup processes.

#1

Our approach

In situations where infrastructure cannot withstand the load, video production studios often try to solve the problem by simply buying additional storage media with more volume and speed. This may cure the symptoms for a while, but the root of the problem will not be solved and will resurface after some time. Moreover, one can’t simply keep spending money on expensive hardware infrastructure. The more hardware a company has, the more time and money it takes to support and operate it, which ultimately reduces business margins.

A comprehensive audit of the customer's IT infrastructure was carried out. No Loovatech project is complete without analysis and consulting, and this one was no exception. When a transparent picture of what was happening appeared, the true causes of the problems became clear. These were:

  • Incorrectly selected equipment for data storage;
  • Suboptimal organization of storage as a RAID array, implemented at the hardware level.

The hard drives used by the customer were models designed primarily for storing large amounts of data. They worked at reduced speeds of 5400 rpm, and their regular interaction with different video editing stations working in parallel critically throttled down the production process for the entire company.

Realizing the problem stemming from the components' features, Loovatech engineers took a sequence of measures:

  • Organized a second storage with new, faster drives, designed for regular access;
  • Upgraded the very first, main data array of the organization to use new drives.

Prior to arrival of Loovatech engineers, the old FreeNAS-based hard drives had been hardware-combined into RAID arrays using special boards. This caused incorrect operation of the data protection mechanisms employed by the ZFS file system, which made controlling drive status monitoring difficult.

Loovatech engineers altered the configuration of the data array, excluding the use of RAID boards. The data array was reconfigured at the software level, accounting for the infrastructure analysis findings. The new configuration was a FreeNAS-based RAID array without any unnecessary hardware.

After transition to a new RAID array configuration, hard drives were replaced with new, faster ones, designed for regular work under high loads. Automated deep monitoring of the data storage state was configured. After completing project's functional part, Loovatech team signed a contract for regular support of customer's infrastructure.

#2

Best Practice for everyone

Loovatech team always tries to bring best practices to all projects and help its customers, with client's business goals as priority. We believe it's unwise to keep useful knowledge within our team, tying the customer to our services.

The mission of Loovatech in infrastructure projects is to make client's life easier and help customer's company forget about technical issues and fully concentrate on production processes. Measures to achieve it include training customer's employees.

While implementing project's main requirements, Loovatech engineers trained studio's system administrators. This helped reduce the risk of infrastructure problems arising with an increased number of projects and studio production staff.

#3

Result

The main goal of infrastructure project was achieved. Commercial contracts are now delivered on time and with proper execution. Reputational risks were minimized at the most important stage of production when it is no more possible to postpone delivery deadlines. Over the years of cooperating with Loovatech team, video production studio has never suffered any penalties prescribed in a contract.

Customer's predicament regarding infrastructure operation and possible failure in stressful situations has been completely removed. The studio has focused on revenue-generating art processes relying on a robust infrastructure. Problems not related to production but directly affecting the final result were gone.

High storage speed gave a new impetus to organization. A stable, high-performance infrastructure helped it increase its production capacity. The customer was now able to work on more projects simultaneously without sacrificing finished product quality, which gave business greater profitability.

Business result

  • 100% availability of render farm at critical stages of production and delivery.
  • 4X reduction in number of requests to IT support for performance issues.
  • 0 data loss incidents in four years of cooperation with the customer.

Technology stack

  • Data storage FreeNAS, ZFS, CIFS / Samba
  • Render farm management Cerebro
  • Automation SaltStack
  • Monitoring InfluxDB, Grafana, Telegraf
  • Auxiliary services Active Directory, OpenVPN
  • Servers Supermicro
  • Networking hardware Cisco, HP
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Human factor is an issue

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