Imagine Products Qualify for Top Shelf in New Zealand

Top Shelf Productions’ Assistant Editor, Robyn Nicholls.

Established in 1988, Top Shelf Productions is a leader in New Zealand television and film production. It has a long and successful history in television — particularly with documentaries and factual-based series which comprise more than 1500 hours of documentaries and multiple award-winning productions. It currently has a number of local and international shows in development, including “Heritage Rescue,” a series that travels the country in search of museums needing restoration and revitalisation, and “The Lion Queen 2,” the second installment of a mini documentary series about a South African woman trying to save the lion species. Recent awards include two from the 2016 Doc Edge Film Festival: Best New Zealand TV Documentary for “Target Zero” and Best New Zealand Feature for “Loving in Limbo.”

With work dating back 28 years, the company’s archive holds over 10,000 hours of content and counting. Top Shelf archives an average of 75 terabytes every three months, and the company recently archived 24 terabytes in just four days.

“When I first came to Top Shelf,” says Jack Mugford, Film and Television Editor, Top Shelf Productions, “the archive was scattered across drives and DigiBeta XDCAM tapes, and accessing the content was a time-consuming, stressful, tedious endeavor. My goal was to ensure that at the end of each production, we archived everything to LTO tape so that it would not only be safely backed up, but much easier to access.

“To make it happen, we turned to PreRoll Post, the LTFS archiving application from Imagine Products. Having used applications from Imagine Products before, I knew the company’s knack for amazing software that follows a logical thought process. In fact, we use Imagine Products software throughout our workflow, starting with the ShotPut Pro offloading application and ending with PreRoll Post. Simply put, choosing PreRoll Post was a no-brainer.”

On the basis of Imagine Products’ partnership with storage-gear provider Magnext, Imagine Product’s known expertise in tape storage, and positive feedback from others in the industry, Top Shelf decided to pair PreRoll Post with Magnext’s MagStor LTO7 tape drive.

“We’ve found that Magnext certainly lives up to its reputation,” says Mugford. “The MagStor drive is small and aesthetically pleasing and has been well worth the money. In fact, we are looking at purchasing a second MagStor drive to give our storage operation a boost, as our current unit is working almost all the time.

“With PreRoll Post and MagStor, we can easily archive to and access content from a tape that acts almost identically to a drive. Each LTO7 tape gives us 6 terabytes of uncompressed data storage, which is usually just the right capacity for storing entire documentaries, TV series, and films.

“So far we’ve used the PreRoll Post/MagStor combination on three productions. At the end of each production, we archive the entire series, documentary, or film to LTO7. All file-based media such as master outputs of the show; all footage shot throughout the series; all assets such as graphics, master audio, After Effects projects, and stills — all of it goes on one tape, sometimes two (PreRoll Post helps us span to two tapes). A second backup is made so we have a true archive of the complete working project with all related material. Adding PreRoll Post and MagStor into our workflow at the end of each production ensures that we will have ready access to the entire series years down the line and can recut or grab anything at any stage if we wish.”

One feature that has been especially helpful for Top Shelf is PreRoll Post’s Discovery Channel mode, which automatically archives LTO tapes based on Discovery Channel specifications. Mugford says relying on PreRoll Post to do the formatting is a simple, hassle-free way to ensure Top Shelf delivers content to Discovery Channel that is compliant with the network’s requirements.

“In addition to regular backups at the end of each project, we use PreRoll Post and MagStor to back up our server periodically, a function we can set to occur even when no one is working,” says Mugford. “We also archive the master output files on our server for all productions to date. These files originate from high-quality masters and ensure we can deliver downsized versions without losing quality. We run this backup on a yearly basis to capture all master outputs from every production that year. We expect to back up around 150 terabytes of data for 2016.

“Thanks to PreRoll Post and MagStor, we’ve gone from using space-hogging DigiBeta XDCAM tapes to compact LTO7 tapes, which allowed us to recapture physical space and downsize our storage facilities. We’ve also saved time and money. Because accessing content from LTO7 tapes is so much easier than ingesting it from DigiBeta, our team spends less time retrieving content from the archive and more time being creative.

“I can’t say enough about how much easier our archive-and- retrieval process has been since implementing PreRoll Post and MagStor into our workflow. They brought Top Shelf Productions into the 21st century of archiving.”

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