"It's time to play the music / It's time to light the lights / It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight."
The Jim Henson Company is famed for creating some of the most well-known TV programmes and films beloved by children and adults alike: The Muppets, Sesame Street and the David Bowie legging-fest Labyrinth.
However, while the company is famous for felt-characters and giant costumes, it has moved with the times, as animation and digital technologies become core to its work in the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop division.
This unit runs its own software animation engine to create digital puppetry footage from physical puppet systems, and can also film puppeteers interacting in its own three-camera studio (see video below).
Of course, working in this way means the company produces a lot of video files, and that means a lot of data.
These files have to be shared across the company for staff to access, edit and share again. However, the amount of data being shared was starting to take its toll on the company’s network and slowing its productivity as staff had to wait for files to download and upload.
So, rather than letting Gonzo the Great use chickens to carry CDs around the office, the company made a more sober choice in the form of Brocade.
A Brocade VDX Switch was deployed in the studio's storage environment consisting of two Samsung SSD 100 percent flash storage devices. Using the Brocade switch enabled the Jim Henson Creature Shop to move data at 40Gbps within its network.
This has allowed the firm to reduce data download times by 94 percent, boosting efficiency by letting editors work on many more projects throughout the day as the time it takes to access and then share video files is dramatically reduced.
Sadly, Kermit the Frog was not available for interview on the project, but Steffen Wild, visual effects supervisor at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, stepped in and explained how this is benefiting the company.
"To have four or five puppeteers in unison creating a scene means tons of data has to be moved around simultaneously," he said.
“We reduced download times from eight hours to 30 minutes, can move data faster, communicate more effectively, and we can tell stories in even more compelling, more magical ways than we’ve been able to before.”
Jorg Mohnen, senior system engineer for the Jim Henson Company, added that the Brocade switch has been the most important technology procurement for the company in the past two years.
“The speed to storage and the way that we connect our storage systems and the way these machines render notes and connect to that storage is something very special,” he said.
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