Storage, networking and virtual advances are driving a huge impact in places you might not expect. In the case of The Jim Henson Company, most notably known for Muppets and Sesame Street characters, these technologies are being leveraged to drive new programming and ventures.
In recent years, The Jim Henson Company has been developing new ways to take traditional puppetry to the digital animation space. It has developed advanced simulation capabilities driven by the company’s own animation software engine, a workstation using a joystick and a digital glove, and actors with body sensors enabling puppeteers to manipulate a digital puppet exactly like they would a physical puppet.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop also had to resolve other technical challenges associated with terabytes of video footage moving across the network, video editing and rendering. Each day, hours of footage must be downloaded to servers from a disc attached to the video camera. With as many as 5 editors working on a show in unison, this process could take up to eight hours thanks to the need to share large flows of data across the storage network. While content is transferred, editors cannot edit. And editing is expensive. Demanding production schedules only added more pressure. This is where the value of flash storage, Brocade switches, 40 GbE and a dedicated IP Storage network are each playing their various business critical roles.
Innovative, scalable networking, accelerated flash storage, automation and open platforms like Brocade have enabled The Jim Henson Company to break through technology limitations and focus on what they do best; create. For example, in editorial and post-production activities they have reduced download times from eight hours to 30 minutes. A single half-hour television show using traditional animation used to take approximately six months to produce and now projects can be recorded 1 to 2 days before airing on television.
With its new technology advances, the Jim Henson Company is planning to produce more than 40 half-hour episodes per year at the company’s Los Angeles studio. With advances in digital animation artists are now able to achieve the level of visual quality once reserved for feature films. By leveraging cutting-edge networking and storage they gained higher visual and editorial quality, increased production efficiency and much faster time to market. The technology remains behind the scenes powering a bandwidth intensive creative process with efficiency and resilience. And we reap the benefits of a visually stunning product.
While these technologies have facilitated dramatic change in the world of digital animation at The Jim Henson Company, it is only the beginning. The same storage and network advances that are creating digital puppetry and animation can be applied to simulation and visualization anywhere. Here it is applied to entertainment, but it’s also the way of the future for higher education, military, healthcare, automotive, life sciences, medicine and many other applications.