Tippett Studio - a Dell customer profile

Sanjay Das, COO of Tippett Studio, creator of digital content for television shows and films, talks about how his studio made their system selection decisions and why they chose Dell.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

It's very useful to speak with IT decision makers about the problems they're facing, what products they've considered to address those problems, what products they've chosen and why. These conversations cut directly to the chase and avoid a great deal of catchphrase marketing from vendors.

Sanjay Das, COO of Tippett Studio, creator of digital content for television shows and films, came by to discuss how his studio made their system selection decisions and why Dell was chosen to be the studio's system partner.

(Note: A summary of Dell follows the notes from our discussion.)

Please introduce yourself and your organization.

I'm Sanjay Das, COO of Tippett Studio, creator of digital content for television shows such as Cosmos and films such as Ted, The Smurfs and even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, I've been with the studio for seven years and in the industry for 20 years.

What were you doing that required this type of technology?

Digital content creation has become increasingly complex. Each film, television show or commercial has required that we stretch the boundaries of what commercial processing technology can do. After seeing what has been done before, directors think up something new and expect that digital studios, such as Tippett, come up with ways to put their vision onto the screen. That being said, the directors are very cost-conscious. A studio that goes over budget soon finds that its has no customers.

Early films might have offered a few scenes containing digital creatures or characters. These digital characters were relatively simple. Now digital content might be used quite extensively. Digital characters have become much more complex and films and TV shows are using more of them.

The resolution and frame rate of digital content has also been going up. Early projects required resolution of 2K (2048x1080 pixels or 2.2 megapixels). Now we're increasingly facing a requirement to support 4K (4096x2160 pixels or 8.8 megapixels). The early projects expected that 24 frames be projected per second (24 fps). Now we're increasingly facing the expectation for 48 fps.

Films and content were always 2D early on and now most films are being offered in 3D formats.

We need to be very creative in how we use our systems to take the best advantage of our workstations and servers. We also need to be creative in how we arrange our workflow so things get done on time and on budget. At the moment, we have over 5,000 processors working on our projects now.

What partners did you consider before making a selection?

We considered products from HP, Dell, IBM building our own white boxes. We needed help from a supplier that really understood both what we were trying to accomplish, our limitations in terms of staff and available system resources and a supplier that could help us push the limits of the available technology.

Why did you select this partner?

Since the studio has a limited amount of resources, the following considerations must be balanced each and every time a new project is taken on.

  • The processing power made available by the combination of server and workstation resources must be enough to address not only the day-to-day content creation process, but also it must be enough to address unusual, I-need-it-now requests when something didn't work out right.
  • The power requirements of the workstations, server, storage and networking equipment can't get larger than available in the datacenter.
  • The heat production can't be higher than the datacenter cooling can handle.
  • The operational management technology must be able to address the ever-changing needs of various projects as each progresses from idea to finished product.

Due to the extreme performance requirements of the digital content creation process, the studio can't really use multiple sites or cloud computing solutions. Huge amounts of data are created, modified and moved around from one system process to the next.

When we reviewed system performance, cost and the expertise of the suppliers technical resources, we chose Dell.

What advice would you offer others who are facing similar circumstances?

It's important to take the time to really comprehend the problem you're facing and to project your needs into the future. It's never wise to save money by skimping on resources on the front end. You're likely to discover that you don't have sufficient capabilities to deal with the inevitable emergencies and changes that your customers make.

Pick a partner that will take the time to understand you and your business. A good partner will actively try to help.

A bit about Dell

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