In late April, thousands of professionals from all corners of the media, entertainment, and technology ecosystem assembled in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters trade show, better known as the NAB Show. We were delighted to sponsor NAB after its two year hiatus due to COVID-19. Our staff came in blazing hot and ready to hit the tradeshow floor.
One of the stars of the 2022 event was Backblaze partner LucidLink, named a Cloud Computing and Storage category winner in the NAB Show Product of the Year Awards. In this blog post, I’ll explain how to combine LucidLink’s Filespaces product with Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage and media asset management from iconik, another Backblaze partner, to optimize your media production workflow. But first, some context…
How iconik, LucidLink, and Backblaze B2 Fit in a Media Storage Architecture
The media and entertainment industry has always been a natural fit for Backblaze. Some of our first Backblaze Computer Backup customers were creative professionals looking to protect their work, and the launch of Backblaze B2 opened up new options for archiving, backing up, and distributing media assets.
As the media and entertainment industry moved to 4K Ultra HD for digital video recording over the past few years, file sizes ballooned. An hour of high quality 4K video shot at 60 frames per second can require up to one terabyte of storage. Backblaze B2 matches well with today’s media and entertainment storage demands, as customers such as Fortune Media, Complex Networks, and Alton Brown of “Good Eats” fame have discovered.
Alongside Backblaze B2, an ecosystem of tools has emerged to help professionals manage their media assets, including iconik and LucidLink. iconik’s cloud-native media management and collaboration solution gathers and organizes media securely from a wide range of locations, including Backblaze B2. iconik can scan and index content from a Backblaze B2 bucket, creating an asset for each file. An iconik asset can combine a lower resolution proxy with a link to the original full-resolution file in Backblaze B2. For a large part of the process, the production team can work quickly and easily with these proxy files, previewing and selecting clips and editing them into a sequence.
Complementing iconik and B2 Cloud Storage, LucidLink provides a high-performance, cloud-native, network-attached storage (NAS) solution that allows professionals to collaborate on files stored in the cloud almost as if the files were on their local machine. With LucidLink, a production team can work with multi-terabyte 4K resolution video files, making final edits and rendering the finished product at full resolution.
It’s important to understand that the video editing process is non-destructive. The original video files are immutable—they are never altered during the production process. As the production team “edits” a sequence, they are actually creating a series of transformations that are applied to the original videos as the final product is rendered.
You can think of B2 Cloud Storage and LucidLink as tiers in a media storage architecture. Backblaze B2 excels at cost-effective, durable storage of full-resolution video assets through their entire lifetime from acquisition to archive, while LucidLink shines during the later stages of the production process, from when the team transitions to working with the original full-resolution files to the final rendering of the sequence for release.
iconik brings B2 Cloud Storage and LucidLink together; not only can an iconik asset include a proxy and links to copies of the original video in both B2 Cloud Storage and LucidLink, iconik Storage Gateway can copy the original file from Backblaze B2 to LucidLink when full-resolution work commences, and later delete the LucidLink copy at the end of the production process, leaving the original archived in Backblaze B2. All that’s missing is a little orchestration.
The Backblaze B2 Storage Plugin for iconik
The Backblaze B2 Storage Plugin for iconik allows creative professionals to copy files from B2 Cloud Storage to LucidLink, and later delete them from LucidLink, in a couple of mouse clicks. The plugin adds a pair of custom actions to iconik: “Add to LucidLink” and “Remove from LucidLink,” applicable to one or many assets or collections, accessible from the Search page and the Asset/Collection page. You can see them on the lower right of this screenshot:
The user experience could hardly be simpler, but there is a lot going on under the covers.
There are several components involved:
- The plugin, deployed as a serverless function. The initial version of the plugin is written in Python for deployment on Google Cloud Functions, but it could easily be adapted for other serverless cloud platforms.
- A LucidLink Filespace.
- A machine with both the LucidLink client and iconik Storage Gateway installed. The iconik Storage Gateway accesses the LucidLink Filespace as if it were local file storage. Deploying the gateway on a Vultr instance allows it to read files from Backblaze B2 at zero cost.
- iconik, accessed both by the user via its web interface and by the plugin via the iconik API. iconik is configured with two iconik “storages”, one for Backblaze B2 and one for the iconik Storage Gateway instance.
When the user selects the “Add to LucidLink” custom action, iconik sends an HTTP request, containing the list of selected entities, to the plugin. The plugin calls the iconik API with a request to copy those entities from Backblaze B2 to the iconik Storage Gateway. The gateway writes the files to the LucidLink Filespace, exactly as if it were writing to the local disk, and the LucidLink client sends the files to LucidLink. Now the full-resolution files are available for the production team to access in the Filespace, while the originals remain in B2 Cloud Storage.
Later, when the user selects the “Remove from LucidLink” custom action, iconik sends another HTTP request containing the list of selected entities to the plugin. This time, the plugin has more work to do. Collections can contain other collections as well as assets, so the plugin must access each collection in turn, calling the iconik API for each file in the collection to request that it be deleted from the iconik Storage Gateway. The gateway simply deletes each file from the Filespace, and the LucidLink client relays those operations to LucidLink. Now the files are no longer stored in the Filespace, but the originals remain in B2 Cloud Storage, safely archived for future use.
This short video shows the plugin in action, and walks through the flow in a little more detail:
Deploying the Backblaze B2 Storage Plugin for iconik
The plugin is available open-source under the MIT license at https://github.com/backblaze-b2-samples/b2-iconik-plugin. Full deployment instructions are included in the plugin’s README file.
Don’t have a Backblaze B2 account? You can get started here, and the first 10GB are on us. We can also set up larger scale trials involving terabytes of storage—enter your details and we’ll get back to you right away.
Customize the Plugin to Your Requirements
You can use the plugin as is, or modify it to your requirements. For example, the plugin is written to be deployed on Google Cloud Functions, but you could adapt it to another serverless cloud platform. Please report any issues with the plugin via the issues tab in the GitHub repository, and feel free to submit contributions via pull requests.