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From Essex To Icehouse: The OpenStack Evolution Will Be Televised

OpenStack is the cornerstone for almost every television show we do – which is pretty astonishing considering the technology is just four years old (though, it’s been around longer than the lifespan of most TV shows).

Still, it’s crazy to think that it was just a few years ago we at DigitalFilm Tree started tinkering with OpenStack, and now the majority of our business is powered by it. The first OpenStack Summit that I attended was Portland, the Havana Summit; and now in Atlanta I am up on the keynote stage doing my best Zach Galifianakis impression for a Between Two Ferns-style presentation (I’ve been told we look alike, but I don’t see the resemblance).

You may recall that OpenStack is the lynchpin in my plot to save Hollywood. And working with OpenStack and Rackspace, my plan is starting to take hold. I meet with Hollywood bigwigs regularly to tout how OpenStack has changed our business and how it makes collaboration more efficient. I talk about it at the Entertainment Technology Center at USC. I evangelize it every chance I get – which I hope to get to do again when OpenStack Summit hits Paris in November (wink, wink). I’m forging a grassroots campaign to change the way the film and television industries collaborate and share film and data – similar to how OpenStack is sparking collaboration in the cloud.

Through my evangelism, I feel like I’m contributing back to a community that has given me so much. I’m contributing code, but I’m preaching the word of OpenStack.

DigitalFilm Tree is a pre- and post-production house. We work with the six major studios and nearly every major TV network. We use OpenStack in production – a major leap from me toying with it on a $600 box I built from Fry’s as my first devstack – and we currently have about a petabyte of Swift storage for the camera raw material, and we expect to double that next year.

OpenStack is truly changing our whole company from the inside out. Our OpenStack evolution truly was a snowball effect. I think of it this way:

  • Essex was “hey, maybe I should play around with this at home.”
  • Folsom was “hey, let’s give this to our dev/software team and really play around with this in software.”
  • Grizzly was “hey, let’s go to production with this on our software applications.”
  • Havana was “hey, let’s start putting multimillion dollar television shows on OpenStack.”
  • And Icehouse is the culmination of how do we really evolve our entire business around an OpenStack platform.

For us, what it really comes down to agility. We build up and tear down our infrastructure every few months. Let’s face it, every show is different and Hollywood is a fickle mistress – each project is a beautiful, unique snowflake. We share files between our private cloud and the Rackspace Public Cloud. OpenStack, like our environment, is open and evolving all the time – it helps us stay nimble. We’ve found that OpenStack and Rackspace represent the perfect marriage for our private and public cloud environments.

Overall, for me, I’m tremendously excited to go from someone who was just learning and playing with OpenStack to someone who is really helping tell the OpenStack story to the world.

This is a guest post by Guillaume Aubuchon, CTO of DigitalFilm Tree (DFT) a post, production, creative, consulting and software development company. Since 1998, DFT has played a definitive role in designing post and IT workflows for the media and entertainment industry. Clients include television, motion picture, independent and the technology industry. DFT fosters an academic approach to post and IT design. Known for its numerous books, whitepapers and engineering reports, DFTs advice is sought after by clients of all scale and scope.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Guillaume Aubuchon.

Guillaume Aubuchon has spent the past decade melding the latest in technological innovation with the century old tradition of filmmaking. From television such as Nip/Tuck, The Sarah Silverman Program, and NCIS: Los Angeles to theatrical projects like Spike Jonzes’ “Her”, he has been a leader in the emergence of file-based workflows as they permeate the creative process.

Guillaume has been involved with many firsts including the development of camera systems, editing software, and storage solutions. Now as CTO of DigitalFilm Tree, he finds himself focused on bringing cloud workflow into mainstream production. Working on shows such as Mistresses and Perception, he has sought to bring practical use of cloud technologies into active television and film productions. After speaking to thousands at the OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong and encouraging greater interest in media from that community, he hopes to boost adoption of OpenStack in entertainment.


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