Back in September of 2020, during a slight easing of the UK Lockdown, CODEX was asked to support a high-profile project that would be staged at Black Island Studios, in West London. That project would later became the recently launched ABBA Voyage virtual concert, now in residence at the custom-built ABBA Arena in London.
Beyond the obvious production social distancing rules put into place, there were stringent COVID guidelines being practiced, with temperature tests on arrival and weekly COVID swab tests. Equipment was wiped down continuously and masks were mandated everywhere on stage. In addition to these precautions, set security was extremely tight on the project. Mobile phones were collected each day upon arrival to make sure no images or contact was leaked from the set.
Production was scheduled over three weeks on the stages at Black Island Studios. The camera crew shot with (3) ARRI ALEXA Mini LF and (2) ALEXA LF camera systems, capturing on CODEX Compact Drive and Capture Drive media. In addition, there were also (4) Blackmagic Design witness cams that were used by the VFX team to capture the performers from every angle and perspective. All of this data from the main cameras and witness cameras had to be collected and backed up and put through the same pipeline, for Editorial.
"JUST UNDER 100TB OF DATA IN JUST 20 DAYS OF SHOOTING"
One performance was recorded per day, with three to four set ups of that same performance. This equated on average to two data drops from camera to the X2X Lab, usually around lunch time and then again at the days wrap. On any given day this ranged between 3 and 10 hours of ProRes 4444 material, totalling just under 100TB of data in just 20 days of shooting.
The camera media cards had to be securely backed up and archived and delivered back to the camera crew by the next day. The timing was tight for the data turn around, especially due to COVID and the Studio restrictions limiting the crew from working past 8pm. X2X Labs had to ensure the archives were launched and writing to tape before leaving in the evening, so as not to lose valuable time and able to get the media cleared and returned to camera and not having to constantly play data ‘catch up’.
The X2X Lab comprised of two main workstations – one driven by a MacPro* and the other by a Mac Mini*. Both workstations had the following hardware configuration:
CODEX TB3 Compact Drive dock for the ALEXA Mini LF and a TB3 SXR Capture Drive dock for the ALEXA LF media. For Editorial deliverables, a small 6TB NVMe storage device was also attached via TB3. Both workstations were attached over 10GbE switch to the CODEX MediaVault. There was also a third Mac Mini dedicated for data archiving, hooked up to two LTO-7 towers, running YoYotta.
As soon as the X2X Lab received a ‘drop’ from camera, the receivables and camera cards would be logged using a barcode scanner to build a database to track. Then using Pomfort Silverstack Lab, a data clone would be launched from the MacPro and Mac Mini, to the CODEX MediaVault directly over 10GbE network connection and also to the 6TB NVMe storage over TB3. Due to the capacity of the MediaVault being close to 200TB, we had the ability to keep all shots instantly accessible, which really saved the day when asked for re-deliveries from Editorial, or VFX turnovers from the VFX Dept.
"WE HAD THE ABILITY TO KEEP ALL SHOTS INSTANTLY ACCESSIBLE"
The X2X Lab created three copies of the Original Camera Media (OCN) for every media card. This provided the option of clearing cards for camera, should the Archive not have completed or failed overnight. Fortunately, due to the robust designed workflow, it was never required, however it was a massive weight off our minds to know that we could provide camera with cleared capture drive media every day, without compromising the data integrity and ensuring that this important project was properly archived.
Once the OCN was on the MediaVault, using a Filmlight Daylight system running on the MacPro, a creative show LUT was applied to the clips and the shot metadata would be QC’d and updated, if a slate name was missing or notated in error. Using the Daylight system, the clips would be transcoded from ARRIRAW into DNx85 AVID media for the Editorial team. This would be hand delivered to Editorial the next morning on encrypted shuttle drives.
This process was repeated on time and on schedule over the course of the production. The CODEX media and workflow was seamless and allowed for a lot of data to be managed in a very short period of time.
ABBA Voyage is the long-awaited concert from one of the biggest pop acts of all time featuring a setlist of ABBA’s biggest, most popular hits – each handpicked with great care by the band. Blurring the lines between the physical and digital, you can see the magic of ABBA brought to life using the latest in motion capture technology.
It’s the greatest ABBA performance the world has never seen. Until now.
ABBA Voyage - Behind the scenes & on-set interviews