LA-based post-production facility, DigitalFilm Tree, provides theatrical films, documentaries, and scripted and unscripted television series with dailies, VFX, color and finishing services. “Ted Lasso,” “Shrinking,” “The Umbrella Academy” and “Manifest” are some programs DigitalFilm Tree services.
Uniquely, DigitalFilm Tree provides originally shot footage — often acquired in a RAW format — to producers, artists and partners wherever they are in the world. This means DigitalFilm Tree must move 5 to 12 terabytes of footage daily within 8-12 hours of uploading, across multiple projects.
Multiple factors make Signiant Media Shuttle the chosen solution for DigitalFilm Tree’s remote workflows, including accelerated transfer capabilities, security, performance, portal branding and more. Media Shuttle is a backbone tool for DigitalFilm Tree, not just for their staff but for other remotely located partners on each project.
Signiant operates at DigitalFilm Tree’s speed, helping blur the line between creativity and technology. By providing seamless access to the large, original camera files anywhere in the world, DigitalFilm Tree storytellers have more time to make better decisions to improve their content without sacrificing image quality.
In the popular Apple TV series “Ted Lasso,” a yellow sign with blue letters on a locker room wall became a viral sensation. It simply says — BELIEVE. For the characters, “believe” became a frame of mind and approach to challenges.
Years before “Ted Lasso,” DigitalFilm Tree CEO and founder Ramy Katrib created his own philosophy that emphasized an intertwined post-production relationship between technology and creativity, an approach to solving problems, and a desire to work outside industry comfort zones. This “lifestyle,” as Katrib calls it, influences DigitalFilm Tree’s services and what they need from their technology partners.
DigitalFilm Tree partners with Signiant to help move that philosophy into reality. And like “Ted Lasso,” the DigitalFilm Tree team and customers have bought in.
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Founded in 1999, DigitalFilm Tree started as an educational media company, but transitioned to supporting feature films like “Napoleon Dynamite,” “The Rules of Attraction,” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” eventually adding scripted and unscripted television.
“We started gravitating towards scripted television before it was cool to work on,” Katrib said. “Because it moves really fast. It’s daunting — the schedules, the budgets. It’s riddled with challenges.”
The attraction to daunting challenges is evident at DigitalFilm Tree. Even before the pandemic, they built, supported and promoted the idea of “remote everything” — color, dailies, editorial, and pre-visualization. Like companies around the industry, they were suddenly facing “remote everyone.”
“We leaned on Signiant to get us over the hump. We didn’t stop. We didn’t shut down,” Katrib remembered. “We were trafficking more files during the pandemic than in previous years by a long shot. Now we carry that momentum for a bigger scale than ever in our company’s history.”
“We’ve been able to roll [Signiant portals] out in new ways and integrate them with our existing pipelines and tailor them to individual clients, “ CTO Scott Bradbury concurred. “We’ve found huge efficiencies that let our personnel focus on creative and more pressing technical issues than routine busywork.”
The RAW Challenge
What makes DigitalFilm Tree unique from other companies is their use of the original camera file camera RAW files as the editing or VFX source throughout the post-production process, not just at the end.
“The source is where it’s all at. When you see something change, you’re looking at the source material, not a representation of it, and some people care about that. It’s not relevant to all productions, but for the productions we work on, that is a requirement,” Katrib explains.
But to live this lifestyle, 8 to 12 terabytes per day flow through the Signiant Platform to DigitalFilm Tree’s private servers in Los Angeles, to and from many locations with various internet connectivity. A standard “Ted Lasso” alone produces three terabytes daily; but if a Lasso football scene is needed it could be five to six terabytes.
Media Shuttle is trusted to distribute this massive, valuable media anywhere in the world as a matter of routine across all post parameters, whether it’s VFX, color, online, final delivery, or final sign-off.
“It is a backbone of our daily operations and we’ve not had a hiccup with that, “ said Nancy Jundi, DigitalFilm Tree COO and CFO. “Media Shuttle, for us, is incredibly ubiquitous. It’s in everything, like water.”
The Signiant Platform’s accelerated transport allows DigitalFilm Tree to use all its internet bandwidth — 100 Gbps — to send their massive content packages. From a custom-built DIT station, the footage is uploaded to a DigitalFilm Tree branded portal. Stakeholders receive automated notifications so everyone is aware of their content’s status.
“Using Signiant Media Shuttle, we’re able to push those camera masters over within a 24-hour period using the internet,” Erin White, DigitalFilm Tree Director of Content and Data Security, says. “That’s not all happening L.A. to L.A.; it’s happening all over the world.”
Time is one of the most precious commodities in media and entertainment. The Signiant Platform allows DigitalFilm Tree to change directions on a dime — whether it’s a new creative direction or a sudden location change at the last moment.
“For the [“Ted Lasso”] Amsterdam shoot, we probably had a week prep time and then they shot, but we had to get all of that media over to us in L.A., but also have a copy of it in the U.K.,” noted Jundi. “And being able to get that all over to editorial in the expected time.”
The Power of Belief
Belief is a powerful thing and necessary when facing the impossible. To meet their customers’ needs, DigitalFilm Tree believes in the Signiant Platform every day to move their valuable content no matter the conditions, timelines, or budgets.
“The schedules are always contracting, the budgets are reducing, more is expected for less. We’re always striving to find the best ways to mitigate that, to make our clients’ lives easier,” Katrib said. “Signiant, at the end of the day, is helping storytellers wherever storytelling is happening.”