New York City-based Engel Entertainment is no stranger to multitasking and deadlines. The production company specializes in reality TV, documentaries, feature film and digital content, which means the team that brings viewers Animal Planet’s “Lone Star Law” and feature-length documentary “Sea Change” are constantly racing deadlines while adding new projects.
Engel Entertainment had relied upon its Avid ISIS storage system since August 2011, but the workhorse was nearing the end of its life six years later. “We were just kind of bursting at the seams,” said Engel Entertainment Vice President of Development Kara Smith.
It’s common knowledge that space is at a premium in New York, so when Engel Entertainment made its move to 220 West 42nd Street, VCA helped them choose a solution that gave them “twice the storage and half the footprint,” according to Smith.
To achieve that goal, VCA recommended the Avid NEXIS E4 200TB two chassis, replacing the existing five-chassis ISIS system. In addition to increasing capacity, the NEXIS cut power consumption in half — down to 750W per hour per chassis, from 3750W per hour drawn by the ISIS.
The timing of the transition was crucial. Engel Entertainment had to juggle production and delivery schedules, as well as the end of their lease. They moved in September 2017, but production had to continue uninterrupted because Engel’s teams were in the middle of work on several reality TV programs and a documentary.
On the TV side, the workflow “is kind of all hands-on deck,” Smith explained. “You have a story producer and an editor working in tandem under a supervising producer and a showrunner. So, right there on one episode, it is four people looking at content.” Multiply that by 50 episodes, factor in repack episodes and two series, and remember that the team is constantly “accessing all the same footage at the same time” — then you’ll have a better idea of the challenges of migrating from system to system in the midst of production.
“The ISIS couldn’t keep up with how much footage we had with how many episodes were getting ordered,” Smith said.
Additionally, Smith said the documentary alone consisted of 800 hours of acquired footage.
VCA provided next-level service, giving advice and hands-on assistance throughout the project. “VCA was instrumental in our move,” Smith said.
Prior to the transition, VCA looked at the new space to assess its compatibility with the planned transition to NEXIS, including recommendations for networking, cooling and power.
When it came time to transition, VCA packed up the ISIS and migrated the system to the new location the weekend of the move. Smith noted that it was quickly clear that Engel had made the right call by choosing to upgrade to NEXIS. “Fitting everything into the media closet — if we had to grow the ISIS, I don’t know if it necessarily would have worked. But because the NEXIS is a smaller footprint with the different chassis, that was a major plus for us.”
During the process, Smith valued VCA’s flexibility and practical knowledge. “They understood our production deadlines, and where we could have a stop gap, where we could not afford a stop gap and worked with us on that. During the move, we could not afford one dark day in production, so they had techs here on the weekend; they were very helpful.”
Smith explained, “You know how that goes where you have deadlines. We were moving in the middle of delivery, so we kept everything on the ISIS while we moved. Then, when we could afford the downtime in between seasons of ‘Lone Star Law’ and ‘North Woods Law,’ is when they came back and were able to work during the weekend and switch over the system.”
To take advantage of a year-end special, the company opted to order the NEXIS in late December, but they weren’t ready to implement the new system until several months later. They upgraded to the NEXIS in spring 2018, about six months after the initial move.
“They kind of did a two-step program with us, which was really helpful,” Smith said.
Smith said the media transfer process was fast, “They popped in, set up a table, set up a couple PCs, moved everything over for us, and then the next day we were all just logging into a different looking app.”
A few months into using the new system and a year after their move, Engel Entertainment is pleased with their decisions and remain loyal VCA and Avid customers. “We’re on the latest version of Avid. Things are running smoothly,” Smith said.
And in the new space, Engel Entertainment now has 63 Avid workstations, up from the 40 at their old office — an obvious measure of their rapid expansion.
“At the rate that we were growing, it was really important to make the transition from the ISIS to the NEXIS while we had the opportunity, and without VCA, it would have been difficult,” Smith said.