Digital storage company OpenDrives is planning a move into the lucrative world of esports and gaming and has hired former Activision Blizzard post production lead André Rievers to help lead the effort.
OpenDrives is a backend storage provider for some of Hollywood's biggest studios including WarnerMedia, Disney, NBCUniversal, Dreamworks, Paramount, Netflix and the Los Angeles Kings hockey team.
And it already has three hot names in gaming – Santa Monica-based Riot Games, Culver City-based esports team 100 Thieves and "Fortnite" maker Epic Games – as clients. OpenDrives raised $20 million in January.
OpenDrives' product is a physical drive enabled with software that lets production editors avoid the time consuming process of compressing and decompressing video files. That's especially valuable in increasingly collaborative workflows that require rendering and sharing large files extremely fast.
Rievers was named as vice president of operations, a role that will let him put these tools in the hands of editors producing live esports events, something he knows well.
"The pain point for us is really the storage not being able to handle the content, or not being able to provide the content fast enough, or at full resolution for the editor," Rievers explained. "It's not allowing the editor or the producer to focus on their creativity. With OpenDrives, it's like the system is not even there."
Rievers spent nearly four years at Activision as head of post-production, managing a team of editors that quickly turned around footage for live events like the company's annual BlizzCon showcase and esports matches in the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues. Prior to that he was a post-production manager at Univision for four and a half years, and led live production on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
While producing these events, Rievers and his team quickly noticed that where the digital files were stored – and how quickly they could be accessed and edited – greatly impacted how the overall final product would look.
"As the end user, the last thing I want to have to worry about is what storage I'm working with, (and) the thing about open drives is that it's it's the best thing I've ever seen," Rievers said.
He joked that he tried many times to push OpenDrives' network-attached software's limits as a customer, and was impressed by how well it worked under pressure.
"Every chance I had to test or to demo OpenDrives, I did my absolute best to try to break it and fight it," Rivers said. "If it wasn't me, it was one of my editors… and nobody could break it."
Rievers argued that he was interested in the OpenDrives software not just because it was fast, but because when he used it he actually almost forgot it was there, but it did the heavy lifting in the background for his team as they rapidly edited, produced and shipped dense video files.
OpenDrives chief operations officer Sean Lee said OpenDrives wants to run in the background without disrupting the workflow.
Lee spent years working at NBCUniversal production prior to joining OpenDrives.
Often he'd have a problem that'd need "to be fixed within the hour because I have a deadline to meet. If my storage isn't working, and I'm not having this good experience, I may have hundreds of VFX artists or editors just sitting around waiting for this thing to work."
Lee sees opportunity opening up as pandemic restrictions ease. The esports leagues will resume live broadcasts from around the world as they compete in real-time, meaning they might benefit from upgrading their storage.
"If storage is doing its job, you should not even know that it's there," Lee said.