London-based video editing and production suite Hogarth, has demonstrated its FIDO collaborative working system to us. Developed using Final Cut Server combined with a number of other utilities, the Mac OS X networked system has enabled Hogarth to take post-production to a new level internationally.

Indeed, Hogarth has been so successful that Apple itself has taken personal interest in the system they are using, and asked Macworld UK to go along and see it in action. We caught up with Mark Rhys-Thomas, partner at Hogarth and Mark Keller, CTO, to talk about FIDO, Final Cut Server, and Apple.

"Hogarth is a new breed of video production facility," Mark Rhys-Thomas said. "The technology is finally working and the tools have suddenly got very good." Efficiency is obviously at the heart of what Hogarth does. It's not a creative agency as such (although clearly much of their work is creative).

"We don't make new ads," says Rhys-Thomas, "we repurpose, repackage, execute, and deliver adverts. Basically every time you hear a 're' [in a creative market] that means more money." Essentially, Hogarth takes creative adverts (mostly video, but it also works in print and web) and creates and distributes multiple versions for various international markets. "We take a 60 second spot that's just an advertising video and do 400 different variations. They'll have different lead actors, different audio, content overlays; they also have different audio levels and will work in different formats. We also handle the distribution to all the television networks."

Hogarth Video Editing Suite

A video editing suite at Hogarth Worldwide

"The technology finally works and it makes us more efficient." says Rhys-Thomas. "The tools suddenly got very good and we could produce a facility for next to nothing."

Importantly, Hogarth has found that the creative talent it hires to work on video and media has largely moved to using Final Cut, making the system easier to implement. Rhys-Thomas says: "Typically you find the talent is ahead of you. When the industry moved to Photoshop from Barco Creator we found that designers were ahead of the curve, because they know which way the industry is moving. And it's the same with Final Cut.

"And it enabled us be very efficient in a repeatable business that was most cost efficient. We set up two years ago and have 200 people here; we're looking to open up in NY and Shanghai." According to Rhys-Thomas, Final Cut has allowed Hogarth to streamline its business. In the past, a company would have five creative agencies with offices throughout the EU and alongside you'd have five local offices, he says, whereas now you just need the five creative agencies and facilities such as Hogarth handle everything else.

"Some of our clients include Wella, who make shampoo," says Rhys-Thomas, "and Pfizer, probably best known for Viagra, but they also do a lot of other medical products. They don't do ads in a typical sense, they create content for doctors." The localisation of content has to be carefully approved, he says. if you get two and four mixed up when advising doctors on treatment levels it can become serious.

At the heart of Hogarth's system lies 200 Macs (mostly iMacs from what we could see) connected to a Mac OS X Server and Xsan. Most of the computers that people at Hogarth work on are hot-swappable (meaning that an employee can come in and sit down at any machine). "We have double shifts, and triple shifts coming soon," says Rhys-Thomas. The company also has numerous different rooms for different types of work (audio studios, demonstration rooms, open offices "where different people can bounce ideas off each other", and private rooms where individuals can work without distraction.

Hogarth Studios

Hogarth has a networked system of Macs that are hot-swappable. When a user logs on the Home folder is remotely transferred to the machine, and saved the session ends

Mark Keller, CTO took us over the network and the FIDO system at the heart of it. "We have one software build for each machine in the office," he says, but when a user logs they get their own Home folder. "This is harder than you think," says Keller. "Especially because a lot of applications like Final Cut have their own cache in the User folder." Basically Hogarth has developed a system where the Home folder is transferred from the network to the local machine at the start of a session, and then saved at the end.

There were "some licensing issues" says Keller. "Getting Smoke on a floating license was a challenge... but we needed to get bigger, and we needed a unified workflow with a conceptual way of working."