DigitalFilm Tree chooses Signiant Media Shuttle for remote workflows for faster transfers, its level of security and performance, and the ability to brand user-access portals.

Signiant DigitalFilm Tree Colour Suite

Post-production facility DigitalFilm Tree in LA carries out dailies, VFX, colour and finishing services for theatrical films, documentaries and scripted and unscripted television series. Ted Lasso, Shrinking, The Umbrella Academy and Manifest are some of the productions DigitalFilm Tree has worked on.

Their team routinely delivers original, shot footage – often acquired in a RAW format – from production sets to producers, artists and partners wherever they are in the world. This means DigitalFilm Tree must move 5 to 12 terabytes of footage daily within 8-12 hours of uploading, across multiple projects.

File Transfer Backbone

DigitalFilm Tree has chosen Signiant Media Shuttle for their remote workflows for reasons including faster transfer capabilities, its level of security and performance, the ability to brand user-access portals and others. File transfers are a backbone element for DigitalFilm Tree’s style of working, not just for their staff but for other remotely located partners on each project.

Because Signiant can keep up with the speed at which at DigitalFilm Tree needs to operate, Media Shuttle helps reconcile the benefits of focussing on creativity with the need for technological expertise. Through their ability to directly access the large, original camera files anywhere in the world, DigitalFilm Tree storytellers have more time to make better decisions to improve their content without sacrificing image quality.

Founded in 1999 by CEO Ramy Katrib, DigitalFilm Tree started as an educational media company, but transitioned to supporting mainstream feature films and eventually adding scripted and unscripted television. “We started gravitating towards scripted television before it was considered cool to work on,” Ramy said. “Because it moves really fast on extreme schedules and tight budgets, it’s daunting and riddled with challenges.”

Signiant DigitalFilm Tree editorial

Not-so-Comfortable Lifestyle

The attraction to daunting challenges continues at DigitalFilm Tree. Early on in the company’s life, Ramy developed his own post-production philosophy that combines an intertwined relationship between technology and creativity, a problem-solving approach and a desire to work outside comfortable industry conventions. This philosophy, which Ramy calls their ‘lifestyle’, influences DigitalFilm Tree’s services and what they look for from technology partners.

Even before the pandemic, they built, supported and promoted the idea of making every service remote - colour, dailies, editorial and pre-visualization. Like companies around the industry, they were suddenly facing every individual and every team remotely as well.

“We didn’t stop. We didn’t shut down,” said Ramy. “We were trafficking more files during the pandemic than in previous years by a long shot. Therefore we leaned on Signiant services to get us over the hump and now we carry that momentum for a bigger scale than ever in our company’s history.”

CTO Scott Bradbury said. “We’ve been able to roll out Signiant portals in new ways and integrate them with our existing pipelines and tailor them to individual clients,” “We’ve found a level of efficiency that let our personnel focus on creative challenges and more pressing technical issues than routine busywork.”

Raw Source Material

DigitalFilm Tree’s use of the original camera RAW files as the editing or VFX source throughout the post-production process, not just at the end, is what sets them apart from most other companies.

Signiant DigitalFilm Tree vfx

“The source is where the attention is focussed. When you see something change, you’re looking at the source material, not a representation of it, and some people care about that. It’s not relevant to all productions, but for the productions we work on, that is a requirement,” Ramy said.

But to live this ‘lifestyle’, as mentioned above, 5 to 12 terabytes per day flow through the Signiant platform to DigitalFilm Tree’s private servers in Los Angeles, to and from many locations with varying internet connectivity. But while a standard ‘Ted Lasso’ episode alone produces 3 terabytes daily, if a Lasso football scene is needed, it could be 5 to 6 terabytes.

Media Shuttle is used to distribute this considerable amount of media anywhere in the world as a matter of routine across all post parameters, VFX, colour, online, final delivery and final sign-off. The Signiant Platform’s accelerated transport allows DigitalFilm Tree to devote all 100 Gbps of its internet bandwidth to send their massive content packages. From a custom-built DIT station on set, the footage is uploaded to a DigitalFilm Tree branded portal. Stakeholders receive automated notifications to make everyone aware of their content’s status.

Precious Commodity

“We use Signiant Media Shuttle to push those camera masters over within a 24-hour period using the internet, not only within the LA region but all over the world,” said Erin White, DigitalFilm Tree Director of Content and Data Security.

Time is one of the most precious commodities in media and entertainment. The Signiant Platform allows DigitalFilm Tree to change direction at a moment’s notice, for instance, either taking a new creative direction or following a sudden location change at the last minute.

Signiant DigitalFilm Tree Portal

“For the Ted Lasso Amsterdam shoot, we probably had a week prep time before they shot, but we had to move all of that media back over to us for editorial in LA within the expected time frame, while also delivering a copy of it to the UK,” Nancy Jundi, DigitalFilm Tree COO and CFO said.

Ramy commented, “The schedules are always contracting, the budgets are reducing, more is expected for less. We’re always working to find the best ways to mitigate these factors and make clients’ lives easier. The effect of Signiant is to help storytellers wherever storytelling is happening.”