First Look: Studio Network Solutions EVO with ShareBrowser

This week at Biscardi Creative Media we brought online a new ethernet based shared storage system that adds another 48TB of high speed media storage along with some some sweet media asset management and project sharing tools to boot.   I first became aware of Studio Network Solutions back in July of 2014 and it was their media asset management system that really caught our attention.  Our original workhorse 48TB shared storage system is now being used as near-line archive allowing us to move completed projects off the primary, yet keep them handy for editing and changes at a moment’s notice.   So 96TB of raw power!

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Studio Network Solutions EVO 48TB Online Media Storage (black) along with our original Small Tree 48TB system now operating as our near-line Archive. 96TB in about 6 rack units!

The Studio Network Solutions EVO line includes a ShareBrowser tool which allows us to manage the system quite easily and does away with a lot of OS X and Windows permissions issues we’ve experience in the past.   All User prefs are set via the administration tools and individual users can lock individual files as they’re working if need be.   This adds a whole new level of efficiency and control for us.

Here’s a look at the basic NAS and Project Sharing panel, which is web browser based, where we can set who has access to which volumes and even down to projects.

Screen shot 2015-04-02 at 9.57.09 AMYou can see we have broken the 48TB down into four partitions, EVO 1 – 4.   We do that to make it easier to manage the system and also from time to time we can wipe out a partition to completely erase it giving it a clean, fresh directory.   Over on the right you can see “Users.”   Clicking that brings up the main User Management controls.

Screen shot 2015-04-02 at 9.57.44 AMHere’s the User Management controls for EVO 1 and how we can do a very simple, top level “Allow / Deny” access.  We can also assign whether the user will connect afp or smb depending on how your network is configured.  In our case all the Macs connect afp while the Windows system connects smb.   The user names you see here correspond to our systems and not individual users, however you can set up individual users if you’d like.   What this really does is takes away permission settings from the Mac and Windows OS where we have run into some stumbling blocks trying to get things to work cross platform.  In fact permissions issues just from Mac to Mac were causing some issues.   Now everything is set and managed within the EVO Browser.

Here’s the EVO ShareBrowser on Mac.  This application gets installed on every client workstation and this is how you mount / unmount all the volumes and also do the tagging and keywords.

And here it is on Windows.

EVO Locking

You can see they pretty much look the same and you can also see one of the locking features of the EVO Browser in the Windows image.  The Premiere Pro project file is locked and controlled by Edit 3.  This both allows two editors to use the file at the same time and ensures that they will not overwrite each other’s work.    You can read more about this in another recent blog “Two Editors, One Adobe Premiere Pro Project File.”

You’ll also notice on both the Mac and Windows systems, all the connected drives to the computers systems show up and can be indexed and managed by the EVO ShareBrowser.   The software is not wholly connected to just the EVO storage.  So we can Asset Manage all of our media through the EVO ShareBrowser system if we so choose.

Here’s a very simple example of tagging assets through the ShareBrowser.

Screen shot 2015-04-02 at 9.59.24 AMI’ve got the folder selected and on the right side of the screen you can see the windows for Tags and Comments.   These are exactly what you think they are.   Simple asset management to tag and keyword all assets from folder level down to file level to make for much easier location and retrieval later.

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Now the tags have been added to that folder and now those are searchable elements to retrieve those assets later.   The Tags and Comments can also be exported as an XML and brought into Adobe Premiere Pro and other NLEs.   This is a very high level asset management system.  In no way does this replace full asset management systems like CatDV or Axle which are both very in depth products.   There is also no way to generate a proxy directly through the EVO, this would be done with a third party software.  But for a first level, very simple “Tag the assets as they are loaded” this is an awesome addition with minimal training required.   With the coming of Contemporary Living Network and the sheer amount of data we’ll be dealing with when that launches, this will be a great first step asset management tool for the initial tagging of the assets.

When you quit out of the ShareBrowser, you’re presented with an option to manually change the locking status of your projects.  

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If you’re done for the day and you want to open up your files to be used / altered by others you can do so.  But remember, there are administrative controls that still supersede what an individual user can unlock.   

You can login to the system from outside the facility via the web browser too to manage the system.   This is especially great for weekend and evening management allowing the administrator to work from wherever they are and not have to run back into the shop.  Overall the asset management controls are perfect and quite simple for any multi-user shop.  Assigned file types can automatically be locked, such as Projects, to ensure that they don’t get accidentally changed.   If you’re running a shared storage setup, this is super easy, super simple to get going with.  

The one thing SNS needs to work on is consolidating their interfaces.   Right now there are two Admin control interfaces, one web based and one application based.  Each has a certain set of controls that they operate which is a bit cumbersome.  Having both a web interface and an application version is a great idea since, as I just mentioned, you can log in from outside the shop to make admin changes.  And when you’re in the shop, you can run the app which does operate faster.  But both Admin control interfaces should have the exact same controls no matter how you log in so I don’t have to remember “now which Admin controller do I need to log in to for adding a User?”   There’s also some tweaks that need to be made to bring commonly needed controls more to the front of the interfaces rather than being buried a bit.   It’s a common “engineer is trying to protect the end user from making mistakes” syndrome that we see all the time.   We’re professionals, just put the “big obvious button” in front of us and let us make the changes quickly.   Yeah, we’ll make mistakes along the way, but that’s ok.  The ShareBrowser is just a single interface so that’s good.   I’m looking forward to chatting with the SNS team to see what changes are on the way and what we can do to help streamline the Admin controls.   Just having these simple interfaces is really a wonderful thing when all you want to do is get into the storage, make the change and get right back to creating.  Especially smaller shops like ours where I’m the editor, animator, writer, engineer, barista, and producer all in one.

The system runs on both 10GigE and GigE and we have it running through our existing Small Tree 10gig Switch to all our workstations.  For systems that have an internal 10gig card, we’re seeing Read speeds top 700MB/s.   For those with external boxes, like the iMacs with a 10Gig to Thunderbolt adapter, we’re seeing Read speeds top 300MB/s.  This is all in early testing as anyone will tell you, the Write / Read speeds off any test only give you part of the story.   The efficiency and video playback is wholly dependent on how the entire system is configured.   We’re good playing back and editing both HD and UHD on this system.

The system connects currently to four Editorial Workstations (Premiere Pro primarily), ProTools 5.1 mix system and a Davinci Resolve system.  In addition, it connects to four Producer iMac stations, two Library Media Management systems and various other connection points throughout the shop.  All the main workstations are 10GigE while the rest are a mix of 10 and 1Gig.

We’re pretty excited to bring this system online, not only for the boost in our storage capacity, but for the new way to manage the media across our entire network.  It’s going to really enhance the way we work with your projects.   There is a LOT of control for management of the shared storage and if you really want to know the nitty gritty, reach out to the guys at SNS for more details.    Better yet, if you’re going to be at the NAB Show 2015, you can find them at Booth SL12413.  In fact, BCM Founder, Walter Biscardi, Jr will be at the booth most of the day on Tuesday and Wednesday of the show.  So come on by,  say hello and let’s talk Shared Storage and Editing.

Of course if you’d like to see the system here, well give us a shout and come on out to the shop.  Molly the Wonder Dog would love to show you how the new system looks in person.

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