Minions in China VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Nearly 100 minions appear on a square in Zhengzhou, China, in September 2015

How Object Storage Supercharges the Minions Merch Business

Merchandise is big business for movie studios, and speed matters there too.

For Illumination Mac Guff, maker of blockbuster films such as Despicable Me, Minions, and the Secret Life of Pets, merchandise sales is big business.

Earlier this year, the animation studio wanted to provide its team faster access to its digital film archives, so they can more quickly develop video promotions and design and create new merchandise, such as Minions, stuffed animals, toys, and video games.

To meet its needs, the company, a Universal Studios subsidiary, recently standardized on storage hardware from Avere Systems and HGST, a Western Digital brand. It has deployed Avere FXT Edge Filer appliances and HGST’s ActiveScale object storage systems to provide its users fast, cost-effective access to its digital assets, the two tech companies announced today.

“Once the movie is done, Illumination Mac Guff needs video snippets of movies to do promos and to use for merchandising, such as toys and video games,” said Rebecca Thompson, Avere’s VP of marketing.

George Crump, president and founder of Storage Switzerland, and IT market research firm in Fort Worth, Texas, said the market for object storage systems is growing rapidly, particularly in the movie and entertainment industry, because it allows for more cost effective storage.

Another benefit for the entertainment industry is that object storage allows users to tag content with advanced metadata, enabling users to quickly and more precisely search for and find specific content, he said.

Avere’s appliance, which sits in front of an object storage system, features processors and memory that provides fast access to data. The appliance also houses software that translates the data from object-based storage to file-based storage, allowing computer users to view the information, Thompson says.

Avere, based in Pittsburgh, is known for its high-performance appliances, Crump said. Other companies in the object storage space include Panzura and Nasuni, but they are not direct competitors to Avere, he said.

Animation Studio’s New Archival System

Illumination Mac Guff has used Avere equipment on its production systems for about five years, so it was familiar with Avere’s technology when it was seeking a faster, more economical archive system for its digital assets.

Today, Avere’s appliances sit in front of 6 PB of production data across two storage clusters. Avere’s appliances ensure high-performance input/output to the studio’s 80,000-core render farm and to 1,000 artist workstations, the company said.

“We are providing pure performance, so they can render and layer in special effects in a [shorter] amount of time,” Thompson said.

The animation house installed the new archive system using Avere and HGST equipment six months ago. It provides access to the studio’s entire archive of completed productions, totaling about 2 PB of data, Avere said.

In an Avere case study, Illumination Mac Guff executives said the fast access to the archived data allows artists to work without any interruptions to their creative flow. The Avere and HGST archive technology is a more economical, on-premise, active archive system than its previous system, which was a second-tier, super-dense network-attached storage system with high-availability features, Illumination Mac Guff executives said in the case study.

“The second a project is over, the assets need to become a reference library. This library must be online at all times for the content to be quickly found, reused, and monetized….,” Illumination Mac Guff Head of Technology Bruno Mahe said in the case study. “The Avere and HGST solutions effectively shield studio artists from data access complexities and fluctuating rendering workloads, keeping them productive and free to focus on artistic vision.”

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