LAIKA Executive Touts Switch to Hightail

During LAIKA’s first two films (“Coraline” in 2009 and “ParaNorman” in 2012) the main way the Oregon-based stop-motion animation studio went about sharing video files among those in the company was via FTP.

Needless to say, “there were issues,” according to Martin Pelham, manager of media services for LAIKA. “We had the standard issues you have with FTP, especially with those who don’t know how it works: dragging files before they were finished uploading, opening them before they were downloaded, slow Internet connections where it was dropping out,” he said, speaking during a special presentation at the recent fifth annual Hollywood IT Society HITS Summit.

And then there were the data management issues. Or basically an unmanaged nightmare, where chaos ruled and nobody could find anything easily, he relayed. “It was messy, a little wild west,” Pelham said, sharing what his studio’s executives went through at the time. “We had a few close calls with sensitive materials.”

For 2014’s “The Boxtrolls,” LAIKA decided it had had enough with FTP, and wanted a better way to share files, something fast, simple, secure, and affordable. “We wanted a company that didn’t share information … where we didn’t have install apps and plug-ins, and it had to be cost-effective,” Pelham said.

In the end, LAIKA turned to file-sharing company Hightail. And the results were pleasantly jarring, compared to what the studio went through using FTP.

By the end of production for “The Boxtrolls,” LAIKA had sent more than 1,500 individual download links for the film to more than 4,000 recipients, using Hightail. No breaches, no complaints. “By the end of production, Hightail had been such a success, we … abolished using DVDs [to share video],” Pelham said. “And one of the more pleasing and surprising outcomes was we managed to replace ‘can you FTP something?’ with ‘can you Hightail something?’ Now, anything shared outside of the studio, it’s Hightail.”

It was an endorsement the Campbell, Calif.-based company was more than happy to receive, according to Britton Montalvo, senior director of product and brand marketing at Hightail. “It was great to hear from LAIKA and find out what they got out of a service like ours,” she said. “It was a huge benefit to them, in that they were doing everything old-school style with FTP, and as a result files were downloaded before they were ready, files were getting into the wrong hands. Luckily their [intellectual property] didn’t get out, but it absolutely could have.”

Using Hightail and its purposeful limits on the number of downloads and the dates during which files can be shared proved successful for LAIKA with “The Boxtrolls,” so much so that the company is keeping the service going forward, Montalvo added.