Plans for one consolidated IT platform should boost information flow and cut down on data entry.

Laurie Sullivan, Contributor

August 7, 2006

3 Min Read

Lucasfilm Entertainment Co. Ltd. has set plans in motion to create one IT platform that provides worldwide access to all digital assets. The system will link information and art across the company's divisions from games to movies to animation, a company executive said Monday.

Parts of the digital asset management, scheduling, budgeting, and tracking systems have been created for individual divisions. The task that remains aims to take the pieces and build out a collaborative environment to centralize digital media content for the company's offices from the United States to Singapore.

Responsible for leading the task, Lucasfilm director of information systems Lori Gianino says many times these tools will allow "us to eliminate data entry by pulling information from other systems."

Gianino manages Lucasfilm's 20-person IS department that designs, writes and maintains the proprietary non-graphical software. The group supports the flow of information for about 2,000 employees throughout Lucasfilm, LucasArts, Lucas Animation, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound.

The digital asset management system will house live-action frames, stock footage, motion picture capture data, and metadata, as well as provide a production and workflow tracking system, to help artists and schedulers manage projects. There are plans to add another 15 employees in the IS department global operations,

"This could take a long time to complete because we just don't have the staff, and that's one reason we're looking to hire people," Gianino said. "Our capacity has grown, we've opened a facility in Singapore, and we need different ways to manage our digital assets."

Tom Scott, vice president of technology at Onstream Media Corp., a provider of services for online video and audio content, who left Lucasfilm more than a dozen years ago, helped design the original database to keep track of all the special effect shots ILM created on film. "There's a lot of bookkeeping required," he said. "That type of operational database opens the door to all kinds of status reporting, the kind of information any business would like to know."

The workflow system integrates with the scheduling tool to push tasks though each department, confirming artists always have the correct information and latest file. Tracking software follows the entire production cycle for every movie.

Studios need to know how much time each tasks takes to keep production schedules and budgets in check. In a low-margin industry where remaining competitive requires IT survival skills, a benchmark can keep schedulers and budgeters in sync to get the job done.

Ten years ago you might have been able to keep track of tasks on a spreadsheet, but not anymore, says Marty Shindler, CEO at the entertainment industry consulting firm The Shindler Perspective Inc. "When you have 1,000 shots to do, and several hundred people working on a show, you have to know the status of the work in process at all times," he said. "You put work into a 2D or 3D pipeline, and it's not unlike what goes on an assembly line at General Motors or other car manufacturers."

A 100-TB Oracle Corp. database supports the project to design, manipulate, access and store the vast number of complex images that go into a creative work. The digital arts center is outfitted with a database from Oracle, routers from Foundry Networks, and workstations from Hewlett-Packard & Co. to deliver content to about 1,500-artist workstations over a broadband network.

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