How one filmmaker uses OpenStack to be a “superlative technologist” | #openstacksummit

Guillaume Aubuchon - Openstack Summit Atlanta 2014 - theCUBEAt the #openstacksummit 2014, Stu Miniman and John Furrier, theCUBE co-hosts, interviewed Guillaume Aubuchon, CTO of DigitalFilm Tree to get his take on how OpenStack is serving the film industry.

Furrier first asked Aubuchon to talk about how he first found his way to OpenStack and cloud storage as a filmmaker. Aubuchon explained that just under a decade ago he and his colleagues saw that they needed to write their own software in order to “further our business and continue innovating in post production.”

This prompted Furrier to ask exactly what type of cutting edge technology is at play in Hollywood.

“In this day and age,” Aubuchon said, “to be a cutting-edge filmmaker, you have to be a superlative technologist as well.” He mentioned that Hollywood has begun shooting and adding effects digitally, and that they’re filming all over the world and therefore need to access that data regardless of where they are.

Furrier inquired whether coding was also a factor. Aubuchon replied that yes, in order to manipulate the pipeline, serve the creative process in the most efficient way possible, and get the most from the money when filming, they have to write custom code.

Where technology & creativity intersect

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Next, Furrier asked Aubuchon to consider the education process in film and journalism, and to explain where technology intersects with the creative process. Aubuchon reflected on how video has been democratized through technology, and believes that students now can communicate with video just like filmmakers.

Furrier inquired, “Is the tooling sufficient right now?”

Aubuchon replied with a resounding affirmative, explaining that iPhones and DSLRs have given amateurs access to the same tools that filmmakers use to create multimillion dollar TV shows and feature films.

The infrastructure of modern filmmaking

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Then, Miniman wondered how difficult it has been for DigitalFilm Tree to maintain building their own software.

Aubuchon laid out his company’s original motivators that pushed them to create their own software: “We had grown weary of being battered around by companies changing their software or going to out business.” He agreed that it is difficult to maintain, but that he and his colleagues decided that it was the best way to grow their business — to “deliver a unique experience.”

Curious about the infrastructure that supports DigitalFilm Tree, Furrier asked Aubuchon to take theCUBE co-hosts through “the sausage factory that is your business.”

Aubuchon explained that their original need was for cheap, reliable storage, “so we started by implementing swift storage as a way to not only build out large amounts of storage at digital film tree, but also to build out nodes of that storage on site.”

He explained that they work with two shows right now, and each show has a swift node in editorial that’ snacking up the RAW camera data, so that creatives have access to their footage that’s sunk back to DigitalFilm Tree. He stressed that instantaneous access was a key factor to them, that they wanted to provide creatives with the “same feel as vine or twitter, but in [a] professional creative environment.”

Furrier then asked how creatives find the clips in question, whether they are indexed and if DigitalFlim Tree wrote that software themselves. Aubuchon said that they use NoSQL databasing and OpenStack tools that allow them to sift through metadata. “The key,” he elaborated, “is that we have an infrastructure with OpenStack that we’re aggregating all that meta data to.” He explained that they use said metadata to build associations that make it extremely simple for their creatives to search for what they want.

When asked about his wish list for technology in the coming years, Aubuchon said simply, “Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth.” He said that while storage technologies are maturing, transporting 60 to 70 terabytes of material was cost prohibitive.

Advice for film students

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Furrier was also curious about advice Aubuchon might have for students who are interested in getting into filmmaking. Aubuchon responded that learning how to tell a great story is essential: ” no matter what you do — if you get into tech or creative — that will dictate your entire career. If you know how to tell a great story, then creating a workflow to tell that story is the same as writing a script.”

Also looking towards the future, Miniman asked Aubuchon to speak to the push to contribute as a follow-up on what he previously said about finding a career path. Key to any career, Aubuchon explained, is getting involved with the community and understanding the building blocks of the industry — for tech, that means writing code.

Wrapping up, Miniman asked Aubuchon what he would express to his peers what OpenStack has done for his own career. Aubuchon replied that he would tell the same story he used in part of his keynote: that four or five years ago he read an article that said post production would be gone in the next ten years. But for Aubuchon, “redefining post-production around software and finding new paths around OpenStack […] was an invigoration.”

About Rachel Schramm

Rachel Schramm is a writer on Silicon Angle. She often covers conference segments and is particularly interested in the way Big Data can help civic, educational, environmental, and earth science organizations gain a better understanding of the world in which we live. Rachel is a world traveler but currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio.