Success To What? The Grass Valley Group Story

gvgsHow GVG got involved with the movies is a story close to any exhibitor’s heart. “With some of our products, we have long been connected to the post-production side of filmmaking,” explains Beth Bonness, GVG’s director of digital cinema. “Working on the high-definition version of our Profile digital-video server, one of our engineers, who had been reading up on the latest developments in digital-cinema projection, suggested that we develop this technology further and leverage it for this emerging sector.” As it turned out, the person responsible for this insight used to be a projectionist of good old-fashioned 35mm film. As an engineering student, Dr. Jim Clark worked in college theatre booths, running tandem projectors with synchronized-transition, 5,000-foot reels and even carbon-arc light sources on some of them. How could he not miss celluloid? “It was a second job for me,” he says, “so it was a fin challenge to show up for a new movie with 30 minutes to spare and get everything spliced together correctly What I miss is running individual reels and synchronizing the transition from one reel to the next.”

Many experiments and technical upgrades later, the Emmy Award winning GVG Profile XP Media Platform now accommodates full-length feature films on a single server, with enough storage capacity to run movies of Titanic-size proportions. No more juggling of reels–or even computers, for that matter. While previous digital presentations for multiple screens have featured several servers routing the same signals to different theatres, Jurrasic Park III plays from a single Grass Valley digital-cinema server. The technical key is that up to four channels can be routed to as many theatres in an appropriately networked multiplex.

With an average compressed density of 80 to 100 Gigabytes per film, the GVG Media Platform employs ten hard disks with capacities of 72 Gigabytes each, eight of which can be used for content storage. Coming from the broadcast industry, where a glitch in airing an advertising spot during the Super Bowl or Academy Awards becomes a matter of someone’s life or death, the GVG server offers proven reliability and safety features. “The information is stored across multiple disks in such a way that any one disk can fill without losing data, because the lost data can automatically be recovered from the remaining drives,” assures principal engineer Mike Bruns. “Modem RAID units [Redundant Array of Independent Disks] are so sophisticated that the failed drive can be simply slid out and replaced with a new unit-while the disk system continues to send out data continuously. The new disk is then automatically programmed as the system continues operation. In other words, the system heals itself after the disk replacement. GVG RAIDs run with five disks in a group and redundant power supplies. In cases of multiple RAID drive failure, we tend to automate the recovery if possible.

These disks capture high-resolution digital audio and video that can be accessed in a variety of compression formats. Beth Bonness explains how this “enables exhibitors to program alternative Continue reading