Ubuntu delivers a bulletproof workstation platform for media production

Screenshot of cartoon character

Challenge

Carbonado Intermedia and Auteuristic are two digital media companies owned by Nestle Snipes (typically referred to as Nes Snipes). Carbonado produces animated sitcoms such as Budz, while Auteuristic is a traditional digital video production company focused on live series, including the Times Square Chronicles’ video version of their newspaper, Times Square Beat. Budz and the Time Square Beat are being leveraged by properties such as Verizon and Dish Network.

Both companies faced a similar challenge, requiring software they could rely on to create, render and edit episodes. In the animation world, days or even weeks of work can be lost when a system crashes, forcing the animators to return to the last autosave point or, at worst, to start again from scratch. With the live series, The Times Square Beat, multiple camera angles of each segment need to be synced up and edited rapidly.

Given the nature of the business and the constant production of the two technically diverse and ongoing series, neither company could risk the disruption caused by system instability, especially with tight time constraints of producing each series weekly. They needed a workstation platform they could truly rely upon consistently.

Considerations

A vast number of hardware and software combinations can be used in media production, however the majority are resource-intensive. Many require costly software licences and the need for expensive dedicated hardware is not uncommon.

With reliable HP workstations already in place, it was important that the selected operating system provide the stability, power and speed needed for reliable performance. The chosen platform would also need to support a wide range of internal and external peripherals and offer the flexibility to adjust all hardware-related settings.

Stability was the most important factor to consider. There was an inherent need for a platform that presented no issues with memory allocation, hardware compatibility and file format. At no point in the creative process – from creation to previewing and rendering – could the chosen platform be susceptible to crashes.

Licensing and management hours can easily push costs skyward. The solution therefore had to be easy to support, and because of the companies’ reliance on freelancers and external reviewers, it had to offer the flexibility to scale up and down. In an industry where every licence can cost thousands of dollars, paying for commercial software that is not used constantly can erode profit margins quickly.

Solution

In deciding on a software platform, the companies undertook a detailed review of all the alternatives on the market, before settling on Ubuntu, with a production toolchain based largely on open source applications.

The resulting workflow features Lightworks for editing and Blender for 3D creation, with GIMP used for 2D image editing work. Although there are better-known commercial applications in this space, every feature and every requirement is catered for with these tools, at a significantly lower cost and, most importantly, with the rock-solid stability the organizations needed.

Results

Ubuntu has transformed the ability of both production companies to remain lean and yet deliver its digital content both on time and on budget. Crashes and the costs associated with them have become a thing of the past. The new toolchain posed no adoption problems for a team that were schooled on traditional commercial software. According to Nes Snipes:

Ubuntu is a real workhorse. It handles absolutely everything we throw at it. When it comes down to it, Ubuntu just works.

On the Times Square Beat, the combination of Ubuntu and Lightworks saves a full day of re-formatting time, multi-camera editing, and daily content sharing for review, when compared with the previous solution (a market-leading OS and NLE or Non Linear Editing System). But ultimately, it’s the newfound platform stability that matters most. Ubuntu gives both companies the uptime they desperately need.

“We simply wouldn’t be able to deliver our work as fast and cost-effectively as this with any other platform,” adds Nestle. “Ubuntu gives us wings and Lightworks and Blender help us fly! Thank you Ubuntu.”

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