“Qumulo’s interface around troubleshooting was a great advantage … it’s a life-saver at a time when you have to figure out quickly what is going on.”

Tyler Dalzell, Head of Information Technology

COMPANY

alter ego is Canada’s premiere commercial post-production facility. From color grading, visual effects, computer graphics and motion design, alter ego handles all aspects of the visuals required to make a story sing.

USE CASE
  • VFX
  • Post-production
  • Rendering
  • M&E
REQUIREMENTS
  • Rapid scale and performance
  • Low maintenance & upkeep
  • Strong customer investment & support
  • Multi-platform support

Seeking to push creative boundaries in commercial post-production, Toronto’s alter ego turns to Qumulo for visibility, control and insights into its file data.

Leading the way in film grading and compositing in the Canadian marketplace.

alter ego is Canada’s premiere commercial post-production facility. From color grading, visual effects, computer graphics and motion design, alter ego handles all aspects of the visuals required to make a story sing.

alter ego has been helping to tell stories for over a decade – its team of passionate colorists, compositors, designers, animators, directors, and producers, has collectively worked on thousands of commercials in their careers, as well as feature films, short films, music videos, and television series.

The studio leads the way in film grading and compositing in the Canadian marketplace, combining decades of collective experience with the latest in non-linear digital technology.

Image of alter ego sound board

“When we first launched, alter ego was the first company in Toronto that did non-linear color transfer with commercials. We wanted to do the technically most challenging thing possible and provide a new service for this industry,” explained Tyler Dalzell, head of IT for alter ego. “We’re a company that is always trying new things and expanding whatever departments we have to in order to accommodate new workflows.”

Dalzell handles the firm’s IT purchasing, systems set up, upgrades, maintenance, backups, help desk, and also consults on new projects and pipeline workflows.

As alter ego looked to continue pushing creative boundaries amid client and staff growth, it became increasingly apparent that its current storage infrastructure simply wasn’t up to the task.

With regard to the studio’s previous SAN storage, “It did some stuff well, but lots of stuff badly, and it was a nightmare for a number of reasons,” Dalzell said. “Part of its issue was that it’s a SAN, not a NAS, so it required a lot more complicated set-up and a lot more maintenance to upkeep. We had file system repairs almost monthly. We eventually just got fed up because we had to repair it all the time, and the support wasn’t great.

“We found with Qumulo’s system, we could get the IO requirements we needed for rendering capabilities, and it also provided the large-volume storage to handle very large projects that we need to keep online and ready for when the artists require different shots or elements.”


Tyler Dalzell, Head of IT

Customer Success as the Top Priority

When the time came to look for a new storage vendor, Dalzell knew his top priority: “Support had to be number one.”

Dalzell was introduced to Qumulo about three years ago at an industry trade show, and was able to learn more about Qumulo’s products, its roadmap, and its steadfast commitment to customer success.

“In speaking with a lot of people, we were confident Qumulo could fulfill our needs. The combination of instant communication via Slack, and dealing directly with people that can actually help you, versus a disconnected support chain like a lot of other vendors, we found you guys are doing customer support really well.”

He continued. “For example, if there was ever an issue, we had a response immediately. It felt like we were being cared for – they weren’t just there because it was a job. Qumulo was genuinely interested in helping us out and making sure we were happy and successful. We’re happy to see that because that’s not common with a lot of products that we use.

“Compared to other IT infrastructure support teams, Qumulo is among the best. I’ve got some support teams who I don’t contact unless I absolutely have to, because it’s a hassle and I know I’m not going to get the answers I want, and I’m wasting my time. I’ll just figure it out by myself. Your guys aren’t like that. Your support is great and it’s fairly responsive, so it helps us keep on task and reduce downtime.”

BENEFITS
  1. Control. Upgrade at your own pace, with the reliability and low cost of on-prem-only solutions.
  2. Real-time Visibility. Life-saving troubleshooting capabilities at your fingertips.
  3. Scale Across. Scale capacity and performance however your business needs, regardless of project size.
  4. Customer Value. Instant communication when you need it, with more value added every two weeks.

“What’s helpful is we can look at the cluster and see when files get put in the wrong place, or by accident. It’s easy to see and remedy the situation. It tells us what’s actively going on as well as what’s happened in the past, and really helps to troubleshoot any lost data.”


Tyler Dalzell, Head of IT

Powerful Performance at an Affordable Price Point

In addition to its commitment to customer delight, Qumulo offered Dalzell a flexible solution that could accommodate the studio’s growing data volumes. “We grew very quickly and ran into a situation where we wanted storage that we could expand as we needed to, whether that meant performance or space.”

As an example, Dalzell explained, “When you’re rendering certain scenes, there’s a lot of IO requirements with writing back to the storage, and reading from the storage. It’s tiny little chunks of data that most general network storage solutions weren’t capable of handling. It was difficult for us to find something to do the really high IO demands, and also come in at a price point that was accessible.

“We found with Qumulo’s system, we could get the IO requirements we needed for rendering capabilities, and it also provided the large-volume storage to handle very large projects that we need to keep online and ready for when the artists require different shots or elements,” he said.

Dalzell’s experience with Qumulo has been “rock solid” to date. “We don’t feel like we have to constantly upgrade it, or increase it to stay current. We’re a small company and we try to keep things in-house as much as possible. It was nice to keep the infrastructure onsite and not incur huge internet costs and services to store and use the data that we need.”

Image of alter ego workstation

Increased Value over Time

Additionally, Dalzell noted that the value of Qumulo’s file storage has increased over time for alter ego. “A lot of IT products come out with new features over the years, but those come at a cost. Something often has to give in order to get more.

“We were surprised that with the Qumulo updates, we’ve gotten more performance out of the product over the years, and doing that without a lot of downtime. Through all the software optimizations that you guys have done, we feel we’re getting more value than we did when we first bought it.”

“Compared to other IT infrastructure support teams, Qumulo is among the best.”


Tyler Dalzell, Head of IT

Gaining Visibility and Insight into Data

While Dalzell’s team has created its own custom interface for data analytics, he found Qumulo’s real-time analytic functionality was “very, very useful out of the gate to find out what’s going on and how our data was being used. For a turnkey product, that was pretty great. I found that as an administrator on the cluster, it was a big, big help for us.

“Qumulo’s interface around troubleshooting was a great advantage. We don’t use it a lot, but when we have to, it’s a life-saver at a time when you have to figure out quickly what the heck is going on.

“What’s helpful is we can look at the cluster and see when files get put in the wrong place, or by accident. It’s easy to see and remedy the situation. It tells us what’s actively going on as well as what’s happened in the past, and really helps to troubleshoot any lost data.”

“Qumulo is the least troublesome piece of equipment that I have to deal with, and that’s a big plus for us because we have better things to be doing than dealing with finicky hardware.”


Tyler Dalzell, Head of IT

Flexible, Multi-Platform Support

Multi-platform support was a key decision factor for alter ego. The studio uses Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, and “they all play well with the Qumulo systems – that’s a big advantage,” said Dalzell. “The other competitors we looked at really didn’t do that very well. A lot of the SANs required different partitions for different platforms so it was really nice to get the SAN-like features without having the actual SAN, and using the near-line architecture from your clusters.

“Whatever tools are required to manipulate media, we have it here,” Dalzell said. alter ego uses a variety of software tools and programs, including Baselight from FilmLight, Autodesk’s Flame, Maxon Computer’s Cinema 4D, Houdini from SideFX, and Nuke from Foundry.

Would Dalzell recommend Qumulo to a colleague?

“If I had to describe Qumulo to a peer, I’d say it will be the least of your problems,” he said. “Once you get it all up and running, it just goes. Qumulo is the least troublesome piece of equipment that I have to deal with, and that’s a big plus for us because we have better things to be doing than dealing with finicky hardware.”

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