Accelerating Innovation in a Time of Uncertainty

Learn how companies who have embraced change with an eye on future opportunities.

Without question, 2020 proved to be an exceedingly challenging year. Regardless of industry or region, the combination of government mandated lockdowns, quarantines, and company-implemented preventative measures wreaked havoc on standard operating procedures and processes.

COVID-19 was particularly hard on media and entertainment companies, given their heavy reliance on collaboration. The impact was felt across nearly every discipline within the industry. On-set physical production, for example, typically requires tens to hundreds of specialized people, making live video production extremely challenging. Development of broadcast content, such as live sports, experienced a steep drop in production as well.

Even VFX and animation teams were affected. While they might not work on physical sets with large groups of people, these teams are accustomed to real-time, face-to-face interaction as an essential part of their creative process. The elimination of in-office collaboration threatened to disrupt their production processes across the board. The pandemic led many companies to turn their focus to survival.

This was not the case for Like a Photon Creative.

Driving Innovation During Adversity

Based in Brisbane, Australia, Like a Photon Creative is the only woman-owned and operated animation studio on the continent. The studio develops cross-generational animated content that embraces diversity to promote tolerance, kindness, fairness, and integrity. Today the studio employs 50 full-time staff, increasing to over 150 staff when on production. They produce content across TV shows, games, literacy platforms, and online books. They work with some of the largest children’s entertainment companies and have received multiple Davey Awards for creating exceptional content on a small budget.

From their humble beginnings in 2012, founders Nadine Bates and Kristen Souvlis have held a laser focus on innovation through technology. They have embraced technology to not only maintain the status quo but to drive improvements across their workflow. When COVID-19 struck, many in their industry focused on mitigating the negative impact to their bottom line. Like a Photon Creative took preemptive action to turn their challenges into an opportunity for growth.

When in-person collaboration first became an impossibility due to lockdowns, they were concerned about the impact to their business. Initially, Bates and Souvlis anticipated an 80% decline in productivity. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the flexibility of working from home actually helped creative teams become even more productive. For many of their staff, operating remotely enabled them to better balance their work and home lives.

Company logo for Like a Photon Creative, in yellow cursive font. By working with partners like Dell Technologies, the studio redefined its procedures, processes, and workflows. Focusing on innovation enabled them to lay the foundation for a transformation from in-person to remote collaboration. This gave the team the agility to seamlessly transition to remote workflows when the need arose. This was possible because the investments they had made in their underlying infrastructure delivered the performance required to meet the demands of a remote workflow. Regardless of lockdowns and another preventative measures in place, the studio was able to empower creativity and deliver the most value from the ground up.

As a result, Like a Photon Creative experienced a 120% increase in productivity.

A Foundation for Collaboration

The team originally had a storage environment that was highly segmented and spread across multiple small deployments. This architecture required manual oversight and led to higher maintenance costs. This also made it challenging to keep their production pipelines supported with enough storage. In addition, it was difficult for production and pipelines teams to access data, a vital requirement for remote workflows.

In working with Dell Technologies to determine the right storage platform to support their workflows, Like a Photon Creative chose Dell EMC PowerScale because of its performance and day-to-day ease of maintenance. In terms of performance, PowerScale’s cross-platform support for NFS and SMB enabled high-speed server and workstation access. PowerScale now forms the backbone of their GPU render farm, consisting of Dell PowerEdge R640s with NVIDIA RTX cards. By leveraging PowerScale’s ability to support non-concurrent workloads, animators can take full advantage of the GPUs for fast renders without needing to first move data to a different storage platform.

PowerScale’s management tools and automation also allowed IT to simplify and minimize storage management activities. These tools provide access to real-time performance and utilization data as well as free up IT to proactively address potential problems before they can negatively impact performance and efficiency.

Fast Installation Equals Accelerated Value Realization

In addition to the performance, collaboration, and management gains delivered by the PowerScale platform, Like a Photon Creative found value in how quickly the solution could be deployed. To stay operational, the studio needed to be able to support remote workflows overnight. In short, they needed to stand up a fully stable storage solution as quickly as possible.

Dell Technologies Sales and Services Teams were able to deliver a solution that was up and running in two weeks. The added performance and efficiency also negated the impact of latency issues inherent with remote workflows. The net result of such a fast deployment enabled them to complete their current project two weeks early at a time when other companies were either completely shut down or struggling to complete work.

Embracing Change and Looking to the Future

As the above success story shows, adversity and change do not necessarily need to disrupt a company’s ability to produce results. By embracing the challenges in front of them, Bates and Souvlis have evolved their company during difficult times. Moving forward, they will continue to offer their teams the flexibility to work from home. At the same time, they are exploring new directions to pursue that build upon their PowerScale, server, and GPU investments. Currently they are evaluating real-time, remote collaboration utilizing virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) to give their creatives and directors the ability to imagine new worlds in a fully virtual environment.

This is just one of many examples of companies who have embraced change with an eye on future opportunities. For more examples of how Dell Technologies is helping to fuel innovation through advanced storage technology in the Media & Entertainment industry, be sure to check out our Industry Solutions page.

About the Author: Chhandomay Mandal

Dr. Chhandomay Mandal is the Director of Solutions Marketing at Dell Technologies. He leads solutions across artificial intelligence, analytics, business applications, VDI and HPC as well as industry-specific solutions for healthcare, media & entertainment, semiconductors and smart manufacturing. Prior to his current role, he led Dell’s all-flash storage solutions marketing efforts for desktop virtualization, server virtualization and private cloud. Dr. Mandal has been awarded 13 patents. He has a PhD from University of Florida, MBA from Indiana University, and BTech from Indian Institute of Technology.