Trailblazer Studios

Emmy-Winning Studio Sets the Stage for Cloud-Based Workflows

Shows Actively in Post
More Frequent Backups
Peace of Mind

Budgets and timelines for any kind of content have been shrinking, so we are being asked to do more with less on a daily basis. With Backblaze, we’ve incorporated a workflow that creates a more future-proof pathway for media.

Kevin Shattuck, Systems Administrator, Trailblazer Studios


With an average of 10-15 shows actively in post-production at any one time, Trailblazer Studios amasses huge quantities of footage, audio, and media files that they back up and ship to off-site storage. Satisfying internal and external backup requirements led to a complex and costly manual system of LTO tape and spinning disk drive redundancies.


Trailblazer Studios now uses Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage to keep geographically separate backups in the cloud. Automatic syncs update those backups nightly for as long as a show is in production, until files move to permanent LTO in compliance with the policies set by Trailblazer Studios’ network and corporate clients.


Implementing Backblaze was Trailblazer Studios’ first step toward realizing their vision of a fully cloud-based production future. The automated cloud backup process reduces the manual effort and long-term costs associated with LTO, and Trailblazer Studios never has to worry about having enough physical space available to store tapes. It’s easy to track and manage the overall footprint of scalable cloud storage capacity.

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Disaster Recovery
LTO Replacement
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Trailblazer Studios is an Emmy-winning entertainment company, operating a full production, post, and sound facility located in Raleigh, North Carolina. They have delivered over 2,000 shows and films (like “Sister Wives” and “The Lady Bird Diaries”) to more than 24 networks (including Showtime, ESPN, Netflix, and PBS) over the past quarter century. Their passion for creativity and gracious approach to business drives everything they do. As experts in their field, it’s no surprise that the Trailblazer Studios team prioritizes effortless collaboration using cutting edge equipment and aims to provide the best industry experience possible.

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Star-Studded Entertainment Production Studio Reaches for the Cloud

When it comes to entertainment, Trailblazer Studios does it all—from field production to editing to color correction and sound mixing, their expert team puts together the many interlocking pieces of award-winning media projects. Their versatility is as broad as their technical skills, having produced projects including commercial and branding work; local, regional, and national ad spots for agencies; reality TV shows; and high-quality documentaries.

Production houses face increasing pressure in today’s entertainment industry, so improving efficiency and reducing costs are paramount. “Budgets and timelines for any kind of content have been shrinking, so we are being asked to do more with less on a daily basis,” said Kevin Shattuck, Systems Administrator for Trailblazer Studios. “With Backblaze, we’ve incorporated a workflow that creates a more future-proof pathway for media.”

When Shattuck and his team set out to realize their dreams of a fully cloud-based production environment, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and finding peace of mind along the way, they started by moving from LTO tape to a modern cloud backup system. Here’s how they did it.

I looked at the pricing structures of various cloud services, and chose Backblaze because it had what we needed at the right price point.

Kevin Shattuck, Systems Administrator, Trailblazer Studios

Living with Manual LTO Redundancies, Dreaming of Simple Cloud Storage

With production running virtually around the clock on as many as 10-15 projects at a time, Trailblazer Studios constantly accumulates huge file volumes that need to be backed up securely. And while data backups and disaster recovery are best practices for any modern business, Trailblazer Studios also faces mandated backup protocols from some of its clients, like the television networks ordering new seasons of beloved shows.

They originally installed an LTO appliance as a disaster recovery system; LTO has served as an insurance policy so that if anything happened to the studio’s data, they would still be able to recover client media and internal production files. Production crews shooting in the field use shuttle drives to ship copies of their footage to the office. Back at Trailblazer HQ, the team would create two LTO copies of that data—one would live on the shelf in Raleigh, and another copy would be stored off-site at an Iron Mountain physical storage facility.

But creating tape backups requires time and resources, and causes tons of troubleshooting headaches to boot. “When you take away LTO, you shrink the time it takes to create them and back them up as well as the cost for storing them at Iron Mountain and securing them on-site,” said Scott Roy, Trailblazer Studios’ Senior Vice President of Post-Production. They started looking for a cloud storage solution that could not only solve the LTO problems but also help them move toward their dream of a cloud-based production future.

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Cloud Backups and Automatic Nightly Syncs Inspire Peace of Mind

Backblaze was already a frontrunner when Shattuck first started comparing cloud service providers; Trailblazer Studios has been using Backblaze Computer Backup to secure data on staff laptops since 2010. As they started to understand the breadth of Backblaze’s integrations with other appliances and connectivity within the cloud, adopting Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage was an easy choice. “I looked at the pricing structures of various cloud services,” said Shattuck, “and chose Backblaze because it had what we needed at the right price point.”

Today, Trailblazer Studios has eliminated tape as an off-site backup for their production data in favor of Backblaze B2. They only use LTO on-site when specific network clients require it: “I’m not sure that’s going to completely go away until we have more adoption into cloud services,” said Roy. But Backblaze B2 provides the geographic separation that Trailblazer Studios needs as part of their disaster recovery strategy. “Backblaze is our off-site production backup,” said Shattuck. “The hope is that we never need to use it, but it gives us peace of mind.”

Trailblazer Studios now stores backup data for all projects that are still in the post-production phase in Backblaze B2. Syncs take place automatically every night (instead of manually every two weeks) to keep all those assets up to date. “If there’s anything that needs to be backed up, it automatically gets put in Backblaze B2,” said Shattuck. “We don’t have to worry about it. I check it just to make sure its status is good, but it’s a lot less work than dealing with LTO.”

Once the project, show, or season is wrapped and delivered to the client, Trailblazer Studios permanently archives all the relevant assets to LTO.

Backblaze is our off-site production backup. The hope is that we never need to use it, but it gives us peace of mind.

Kevin Shattuck, Systems Administrator, Trailblazer Studios

Automation, Flexibility, & Efficiency Make the Journey Worthwhile

For Trailblazer Studios, reduced manual effort has been one of the main benefits of using Backblaze for disaster recovery. Before Backblaze, Shattuck had to stay on top of available LTO inventory to ensure there was always enough room available for the next round of assets coming in from the field. Someone always had to be close to the LTO appliance room so they could remove old tapes and load up new ones, not to mention clear and reset tape jams. “LTO means having a whole other server and appliance that you have to administrate,” Shattuck said. “Backblaze takes that administration out of the picture, so we can just do the thing we need, which is get a backup done.”

Flexibility has been another key benefit for Trailblazer Studios: if a field team needs to make a last-minute backup of a bunch of footage, for example, it’s easy to store it without having to purchase a physical storage unit or free up a disk drive. “It’s unlimited space if I need it,” Shattuck said. And at any given time, it’s easy for Shattuck to check how much active storage the studio is using across all active shows, understanding their overall storage footprint at a glance right there in Backblaze.

Even though some of Trailblazer Studios’ clients still require physically segmented LTO backups, delaying that step means that the studio can organize and format final storage to each networks’ specifications once at the end of the process instead of multiple times along the way. This has reduced redundant work and given the team back time they would have spent on managing LTO for off-site backups. “We get to do that later down the line, when we know that we’ve got all our ducks in a row,” Shattuck said.

Five years from now, we’re hoping that machinery gets smaller, our footprint in the cloud is bigger, and cloud services are being more widely adopted…Backblaze was our chance to take a baby step toward getting this technology into our workflow.

Scott Roy, Senior Vice President of Post-Production, Trailblazer Studios

A Rocket to the Cloud-Based Future of Production

Roy and his team dream of a cloud-based future for the entire production ecosystem, including compute, render, and editing all located in the cloud. “Five years from now, we’re hoping that machinery gets smaller, our footprint in the cloud is bigger, and cloud services are being more widely adopted,” said Roy. “It’s definitely trending that way, so Backblaze was our chance to take a baby step toward getting this technology into our workflow.”

Now that they’re ahead of the curve, Trailblazer Studios is already seeing more ways that working with Backblaze will help them usher in that future. Instead of having to ship LTO tape in and out of their offices, including writing and rewriting to ensure compatibility, it’s now easy for Trailblazer Studios to imagine delivering content digitally. Say a client needs footage from last season—once everything is stored permanently in the cloud instead of on LTO, it will be easy for Roy and his team to send clients links to Backblaze so they can pull down assets at their convenience.

As remote-first work becomes a permanent operational reality, implementing cloud storage opens a whole new world of opportunity for Trailblazer Studios. And fully cloud-based production systems will allow the Trailblazer team to serve global needs beyond the world’s entertainment hubs. “Our goal is to make it easier for us to work with anybody, anywhere,” said Shattuck. “Having backups in the cloud, easily accessible, with a smooth onboarding process, it’s going to open up more flexibility and opportunity for us.”

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