High bandwidth foundations support video company’s two cities approach
If ever there is a sector that requires the deepest of digital foundations – communications infrastructure delivering the utmost in bandwidth, low latency and robustness – it is the visual broadcast media.
An hour of 4k (high definition) video ready for transmission is roughly 300GB, but that’s just the tip of the digital iceberg. To end up with that 60 minutes of broadcastable viewing, programme makers shoot between 100 to 1000 hours of material depending on the genre, creating truly gargantuan files.
The task of editing this vast quantity of raw material is often undertaken by post-production companies. These specialists employ highly-skilled people to operate state-of-the-art video manipulation software running on seriously powerful computing platforms to achieve the concise, polished end result. The Farm is just such a company, responsible for the post-production of a string of high profile TV programmes including Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor.
When The Farm decided to establish a facility in Manchester’s media quarter, adding to its home base in London and offices in Bristol and Los Angeles, the issue of digital foundations came right to the fore.
Manchester is fast becoming the UK’s largest film and TV production location outside of London. In recent years the BBC has set up a northern hub in moving to MediaCity, and the creation of the independent Space Studios has provided working space to a whole ecosystem of media-related suppliers.
The driver for The Farm’s primary focus on foundations was the decision to give staff that were to be based in Manchester pseudo-real-time access to key technology platforms located in London. Point to Point Ethernet was the technology chosen, on the grounds that it would be more competitive than dark fibre. The other alternative to a high bandwidth data link would have been to duplicate key pieces of equipment at both sites, but that would have come in at several multiples even more costly.
With a fitting out of the new facility – a redevelopment of part of what was the famous old Granada Studios site – and opening scheduled for the autumn of 2018, five potential suppliers of the high-performance link were identified. There followed an evaluation of the overall costs of each offer, the detail of service level agreements, a judgement of the degree to which each contender was being open about likely real-world responses to problems, and finally and crucially, the boiler-plate latency of the proposed connections.
Explains The Farm’s IT director Adam Morris: “We were looking for a diverse 10 gig link back to London to allow Manchester staff to use London technical resources – basic infrastructure like storage, but also workflow-related functions like processing of audio and video to enable 4k video finishing. Many of the processing elements of our work are particularly time-sensitive and so we need a connection that effectively made the Manchester site ‘just around the corner’ from Soho, in latency terms.”