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Hogarth shows FIDO, custom Final Cut Server-based solution

o Mark Hattersley
06.03.2010 kl 15:54 |

London-based video editing and production suite, has taken Final Cut Server and integrated it with a number of other databases to create a complete workflow solution. We catch up with Hogarth to talk about its FIDO System.


London-based video editing and production suite Hogarth, has demonstrated its FIDO collaborative working system to us. Developed using Final Cut Server combined with a number of other utilities, the Mac OS X networked system has enabled Hogarth to take post-production to a new level internationally.

Indeed, Hogarth has been so successful that Apple itself has taken personal interest in the system they are using, and asked Macworld UK to go along and see it in action. We caught up with Mark Rhys-Thomas, partner at Hogarth and Mark Keller, CTO, to talk about FIDO, Final Cut Server, and Apple.

"Hogarth is a new breed of video production facility," Mark Rhys-Thomas said. "The technology is finally working and the tools have suddenly got very good." Efficiency is obviously at the heart of what Hogarth does. It's not a creative agency as such (although clearly much of their work is creative).

"We don't make new ads," says Rhys-Thomas, "we repurpose, repackage, execute, and deliver adverts. Basically every time you hear a 're' [in a creative market] that means more money." Essentially, Hogarth takes creative adverts (mostly video, but it also works in print and web) and creates and distributes multiple versions for various international markets. "We take a 60 second spot that's just an advertising video and do 400 different variations. They'll have different lead actors, different audio, content overlays; they also have different audio levels and will work in different formats. We also handle the distribution to all the television networks."

A video editing suite at Hogarth Worldwide

"The technology finally works and it makes us more efficient." says Rhys-Thomas. "The tools suddenly got very good and we could produce a facility for next to nothing."

Importantly, Hogarth has found that the creative talent it hires to work on video and media has largely moved to using Final Cut, making the system easier to implement. Rhys-Thomas says: "Typically you find the talent is ahead of you. When the industry moved to Photoshop from Barco Creator we found that designers were ahead of the curve, because they know which way the industry is moving. And it's the same with Final Cut.

"And it enabled us be very efficient in a repeatable business that was most cost efficient. We set up two years ago and have 200 people here; we're looking to open up in NY and Shanghai." According to Rhys-Thomas, Final Cut has allowed Hogarth to streamline its business. In the past, a company would have five creative agencies with offices throughout the EU and alongside you'd have five local offices, he says, whereas now you just need the five creative agencies and facilities such as Hogarth handle everything else.

"Some of our clients include Wella, who make shampoo," says Rhys-Thomas, "and Pfizer, probably best known for Viagra, but they also do a lot of other medical products. They don't do ads in a typical sense, they create content for doctors." The localisation of content has to be carefully approved, he says. if you get two and four mixed up when advising doctors on treatment levels it can become serious.

At the heart of Hogarth's system lies 200 Macs (mostly iMacs from what we could see) connected to a Mac OS X Server and Xsan. Most of the computers that people at Hogarth work on are hot-swappable (meaning that an employee can come in and sit down at any machine). "We have double shifts, and triple shifts coming soon," says Rhys-Thomas. The company also has numerous different rooms for different types of work (audio studios, demonstration rooms, open offices "where different people can bounce ideas off each other", and private rooms where individuals can work without distraction.

Hogarth has a networked system of Macs that are hot-swappable. When a user logs on the Home folder is remotely transferred to the machine, and saved the session ends

Mark Keller, CTO took us over the network and the FIDO system at the heart of it. "We have one software build for each machine in the office," he says, but when a user logs they get their own Home folder. "This is harder than you think," says Keller. "Especially because a lot of applications like Final Cut have their own cache in the User folder." Basically Hogarth has developed a system where the Home folder is transferred from the network to the local machine at the start of a session, and then saved at the end.

There were "some licensing issues" says Keller. "Getting Smoke on a floating license was a challenge... but we needed to get bigger, and we needed a unified workflow with a conceptual way of working."

That's where FIDO comes in. Standing for Fully Integrated Data and Operations, the FIDO system is built out of Final Cut Server with a number of other off the shelf applications. Hogarth has stitched these together into a single system.

"Previously we've tried building a system from scratch," says Keller, "but by the time you've got it working the market has moved on. The answer was to select lots of off the shelf applications and glue them together. So we've got Final Cut Server, Esko, Zynet, and so on. These are all databases that hold proxy media and metadata." These are applications that integrate the production process of print, web, and video together in a single place. There is even information from Sage accountancy implemented in the system so the business side of things, and the production side, are all in one place.

"We have continuous tracking of production status throughout the process from a single interface" says Keller. "We even have a web version that can display Final Cut Server information over a web client."

Final Cut Server comes into this for delivery asset management. Although the software isn't the most forward facing in terms of marketing, it's one of Apple most powerful pieces of kit. Final Cut Server essentially scours a system for video production files, then collates the files and enables you to stitch together a workflow on a project. Users can check in, and check out, project files and it can also automatically contact users when a file is ready for them to work on - or approve. It also handles conversion and distribution of video media.

The Hogarth FIDO system is housed on a complex Mac OS X network. Here Mark Keller, Hogarth CTO stands next to the system

FIDO is clearly designed to take this workflow ethic a step further. "It's not just a program it's a way of working," says Keller. Emailing aspects of a project around an office is disconnected, says Keller, and FIDO is designed to fix this. There's no connection between the email and the project," he says. "Final Cut Server and the FIDO system creates this connection."

The inference is that the system at Hogarth does all the organisational work, enabling the creative users to get on with the process of creative video work. "It helps that here at Hogarth we have to tape at all." says Keller. "All of the files are digital. We also don't do offline and online. Everything is online. It's all edited and finished online."

There is also an archival aspect to FIDO. "Most people think archival is the distributable source (the clock master)." says Keller. "This isn't any real use. Especially because 300 clock masters are huge. We archive all of the sources and edits and bundle it off to a remote location. It's a 150TB Matrix Store. A bit like an Isilon."

So why did Hogarth choose Apple for its system? "Pure idleness," jokes Mark Rhys-Thomas, before adding: "this is the third facility we've built with final Cut and the technology has finally come of age. On a more practical level it's also Quicktime and Xsan."

But also it seems Apple's keen involvement with the company has been a driving force. "What's interesting is how you solve problems with a company like Apple," says Rhys-Thomas, "it's not the problem itself. It's how it gets solved."

(Visit our sister site MacVideo for in-depth details and analysis regarding all the features found in Final Cut Pro.)

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