Boardwalk Pictures Continues To Deliver High Volume Of Quality Unscripted Content, Despite Covid Impact

The secret of their success includes a revolutionary StorageDNA product – DNAfabric, which syncs the facility with creators, producers, and editors at home.

Boardwalk Pictures / Cricket Lane is a long-time customer of Key Code Media, which has seen an explosion of demand over the years for ultra-high-resolution documentaries and unscripted projects. Boardwalk Pictures is the production side of the company, shooting content in 4k, 6k, and even 8k out in the field. Cricket Lane is their in-house post production and finishing team that edits and color UHD projects, meeting and often exceeding project deadlines. Their credits include hit Netflix series Chef’s Table, CHEER, Last Chance U, and Street Food Asia.

Part of Boardwalk Pictures / Cricket Lane’s success is due to their forethought in building out a workflow-focused network infrastructure- in partnership with Key Code Media. At the core of their network, a high-performance Quantum StorNext manages ingest, storage, and archive of all project content. An additional 40-50 story producers, editors, AEs, and colorists do all their creative collaborative editing on an Avid Nexis stack. And, Cricket Lane’s secret weapon during COVID- StorageDNA’s new remote sync product called DNAfabric.

We recently interviewed Suzanne Greenfield (VP of Post Production) and Dan Gordish (Technical Supervisor) to get into the details of Boardwalk Pictures / Cricket Lanes success, their transition to remote production workflows, and current facility expansion.

“In a perfect vacuum of a world where COVID doesn’t exist, you have your Avid Nexis, an array of media drives, graphics, audio, and music- the things everyone is used to seeing. With our staff now working remotely, it changes everything.”

– Dan Gordish, Technical Supervisor

The Creative Editing Team Behind Boardwalk Pictures and Cricket Lane

Before we get into the team- let’s give a look into the current and expanding facility. Boardwalk Pictures / Cricket Lane started in a 10,000 sq ft Santa Monica-based facility with roughly 1x DaVinci Resolve Edit Bay, 1x ‘mini’ Resolve Suite, and roughly 20x Avid Workstations. The team is now taking over the entire second floor of the same facility- expanding into 20,000 sq ft with 3 finishing bays, a 5.1 Dolby Certified mix room, adding 18 offline editing suites, plus more Story Producer and AE workstations than can be counted.

“Boardwalk Pictures team started as a high quality, video-focused marketing and advertising agency. We then decided to take that concept to unscripted television- creating reality content without sacrificing quality.”

– Suzanne Greenfield, VP of Post Production

With documentary content, the shoot-to-edit ratio is typically very high. At Boardwalk, there is the added complexity that almost all the capture content is in 4k-to-8k RAW media formats. That’s where Dan Gordish comes in.

“Housing all this 4K, 8K material is already a challenge, but then you add the back-end deliverables and mastering in UHD- the storage requirements are astronomical. Being able to have the throughput of the StorNext system, combined with our StorageDNA LTO backup, keeps us from not ‘blowing up’ with the amount of footage coming in.”

– Dan Gordish, Technical Supervisor

Dan provided an example of one Netflix series that is currently sending half a petabyte of footage after a 6-month shoot, delivering it to the office- then turning around and filming the next 6-months of footage of raw footage for Season 2. Dan’s team is prepared to handle ingesting and archiving large media dumps, thanks to the combination of Quantum StorNext, Avid Nexis, and StorageDNA LTO Archive infrastructure designed and maintained by the Key Code Media engineering team.

“Creative Story Producers are collaborating on an Avid. They’re deep in the projects, putting together radio cuts, and string outs. Assistant Editors are a catch-all for things that are technical and everything else. There is Victor, our talented in-house staff colorist, as well as a few freelance colorists and editors that we also bring for a handful of projects.”

– Suzanne Greenfield, VP of Post Production

Post Production Producers typically handle the nuts-n-bolts of any project. There’s a lot of creativity that is involved in that process- post producers are typically pushing the workflow, while managing the teams, and delivering something on budget- at the highest standard possible. All of the post production teams are leveraging a mixture of licensed editing software- Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Sapphire for titles, and DaVinci Resolve for finishing.

StorageDNA Fabric Keeps Projects Flowing During COVID-Times

At first when the pandemic hit, and the Boardwalk Pictures / Cricket Lane team was sent to work from home- the entire storage and network infrastructure built to help creators collaborate in-house essentially became useless- everyone grabbed their workstations and went home.

“When the pandemic hit, we were in a fortunate situation- a majority of our projects had already been shot. We just needed to figure out a process to get media, bins, and sequence to the editors. Would it live on an island with the editor? How would they collaborate? The footage was coming in and our team needed to collaborate. That is where StorageDNA’s DNAfabric has changed the game for us.”

– Dan Gordish, Technical Supervisor

StorageDNA’s DNAfabric takes a distributed approach to remote post production collaboration, providing a decentralized workflow instead of the VPN-style remote alternatives. Each producer, editor, and creator simply need an internet connection and the DNAfabric agent installed on their Avid editorial system. Creators are then able to collaborate on editing projects locally, with all the media, sequences, and bins syncing through the cloud, back down to the Boardwalk Pictures facility. DNAfabric handles WAN acceleration, syncing, versioning, and locking across the remote editors and central Avid Nexis. DNAfabric’s “bring your own cloud” model allows the customer to select their cloud provider and use their own security keys ensuring an end to end encryption and content protection. Similar to how a DropBox or Microsoft 365 document would operate in the cloud.

“With the new system, we can have someone start editing on a project in the office, take a small hard drive home with them to continue working on a sequence. Then, when they return to the office to review edits the following morning, all the updates made at home are synced and ready to playout off the Avid Nexis in the facility.”

– Dan Gordish, Technical Supervisor

The DNAfabric workflow essentially allows staff at Boardwalk Pictures to continue working on projects remotely, without the ‘laggy’ experience other creators are experiencing with VPN solutions on an unstable home internet connection.

“There is something about editing that is really tactile and when we first used other VPN options, a lot of our team complained. Our creative teams are loving the more natural collaborative editing experience they’re getting from the StorageDNA experience. It also has been very easy to set new users, as we expand our staff on projects”

– Dan Gordish, Technical Supervisor

Typically, Assistant Editors would keep a massive excel spreadsheet containing a list of every bin, sequence, or link that was sent to a staff member- a ‘check-in, check-out’ log. DNA Fabric automatically tracks all that information, assembling it in automated reports that teams can review.

“The AEs were using a massive spreadsheet to keep track of Avid Media and MXF files to track how the media was being passed across the 15+ members on the project ‘Did you download these bins? Did you download these Avid Media Files? Is it going to show up when you open the bin?’ These are things that needed to be coordinated by AE’s previously, but with Fabric all these files, bins, and media are automatically pushed to the users that are assigned to a particular project.”

– Dan Gordish, Technical Supervisor

Suzanne added:

“A lot of teams are used to passing around sequences, reviewing, and giving feedback on a scene. Previously, Producers would wait to receive a DropBox-type link before reviewing. Now with DNAfabric, they are able to sync their bins and collaborate in real-time. It cuts down tremendously on the amount of time is spent with the back-and-forth.”

– Suzanne Greenfield, VP of Post Production

Throughout the pandemic, the Boardwalk Pictures / Cricket Lane team has never missed any delivery dates or launches. The team feels very grateful and lucky that that happened. A lot of the success can be attributed to StorageDNA’s DNAfabric and how it’s allowed the teams to continue working remotely.

Summary of Key Code Media & Boardwalk

The Key Code Media team helped design, install, and support a future-proof ultra-high-resolution post production network and workstations for the Boardwalk Cricket Lane team. Now four years into the relationship, with four successful storage and network expansions, the Key Code Media team continues to provide aftermarket support for their integrated Quantum StorNext, Avid Nexis, StorageDNA systems- and the countless edit bays and workstations connected to it.

Currently, the Key Code Media team is designing and constructing Boardwalk Pictures’ 20,000 sq ft expansion, which includes extensive wiring, wire runs, online edit bays, finishing bays, acoustic dampening, and a 5.1 Dolby certified finishing room with projector and screen.

“Key Code Media from the start came in and helped us build a robust infrastructure, which allowed us to handle the amount of footage, at the high resolution that we wanted to work in. They helped develop and build the infrastructure and is now overseeing our expansion into a new 20,000 sqft facility. We’re able to shoot, edit, and deliver everything in-house. This gives us more room for creativity, but also helps us remain more profitable- by not having to hire as many outside resources and vendors.”

– Suzanne Greenfield, VP of Post Production