Post Production

Postproduction – Offsite Collaboration and the Cloud

“The cloud” refers to a method of data storage which is by nature decentralized, offering both data redundancy and ready access almost anywhere on the planet. The concept is a little misleading since “the cloud” is not really up in the sky as the name suggests; rather, it involves remote computing from distant locations and allows users access to shared files and applications. Managing and securing the data is often provided by third-party vendors. Globally, thousands of companies offer license or subscription-based services, which are paid on a per-month, per-gigabyte or per-project basis.

At the most basic level, production companies need to show footage to clients and receive comments. Production has become international in scope, requiring collaboration across cities and countries around the world. Consider, for example, a feature production with cutting rooms in Los Angeles; visual effects houses in China, Taiwan and India; a producer in New York; and a director in Santa Fe. The score is to be recorded in London and the final mix scheduled to take place in Marin County. For a production on this scale, hiring an experienced firm with a proven track record is critical to share media effectively and communicate with each other in a fast, secure environment that does not requiring purchasing additional servers or information technology (IT) support.

There are many companies that offer cloud-based solutions tailored to fit different needs. For the large studio project that has satellite offices spread around the globe, companies such as PIX or DAX support nearly every stage of filmmaking, from pre-production and pre-visualization, location scouting and art direction, all the way through shooting and editing, sound mixing and visual effects. From a production management standpoint, they offer a central hub and secure “online production office” from which files and schedules can be shared and distributed: photos and clips, sound effects, budgets and breakdowns, all of which reside in one ecosystem.

From a post-production standpoint, their essential service is content storage and delivery, buttressed by ironclad security, which is of primary importance to the major studios. Strong data encryption is standard, along with watermarking (including individual user tagging) and transfer logs that record all movement of files in and out of the virtual private network (VPN). But even with all of these measures constantly at work, data transmission between sound, picture, visual effects, marketing and distribution is seamless.

TIP: For those needing high-speed connectivity, a fiber connection is a better option depending on location. Current bandwidth over high speed internet may be as high as 100 Mbps, or if you are willing to pay for a fiber connection, data rates can reach as high as 1.2 Gbps, which means an uncompressed project fi le can be transferred in mere minutes.

TIP: A cloud environment can be created on your privately owned server or it can be outsourced to companies such as Amazon or Sohonet. While it may be tempting to want to own your own cloud environment for flexibility of management, it is a costly upfront and ongoing expense. Consider first the costs of in-house IT support and equipment/software upkeep vs. leasing the service from an outside vendor.

An overview of some of the services that cloud-based companies provide:

• Remote or local servers based on clients’ needs

• Ingest/transcoding/creation of Proxies

• Archiving/storage/content distribution

• Encryption and watermarking of footage

• Monitor usage and provide activity logs

• Upload/download/streaming of material including mobile devices

• Calendars/email notification/watch folders

• User logging/annotation/comments of dailies or cut sequences

• Online applications for collaborative viewing/logging/editing

• Support for Application Programming Interface (API)

• Database search functions

For major broadcasters who create sports, news and reality TV programming, the post-production cycle is very different. While geography is only one hurdle for remote production, the schedules (fast turnaround) and amount of footage (measured in hundreds of hours) present a significant challenge to content providers. Large post facilities usually have a substantial investment in infrastructure that includes servers, editing platforms and online broadcast services. What they need is integration of their existing workflow into a shared work group environment that is fast, easy to use and can safely handle asset management and distribution across a wide network.

FORscene is a system created by Forbidden Technologies that enables such collaboration using cloud-based tools for editing and review of large volumes of source material. Footage that is shot in the field can be uploaded, reviewed and logged just as easily by the editor, producer or correspondent in the field. The web interface allows for shared editing and review online by multiple participants. Original footage that is copied to the local server is automatically uploaded to the cloud as proxies. While it offers a fully functional timeline editing system as part of its package, it can also import or export an EDL to or from Avid.

ForScene cloud-based editing interface

Both Avid and Adobe offer their own solution to this seemingly daunting task: How do you provide access to thousands of hours of material and enable collaboration among a wide variety of users without missing a beat? Producers, loggers, editors and colorists – not to mention sound and visual effects departments – all need to work in parallel under tight deadlines to craft a show. Examples that come to mind might be the Olympic Games with hundreds of hours of live broadcast feeds that require repackaging or repurposing for later air times. Alternately, a show such as America’s Got Talent features live and remote recordings using multiple cameras spread out over New York City while its executives in Fremantle’s Toronto office need to view the material and provide instant feedback as the show completes its edit.

Avid Interplay Sphere is the latest generation of software to support content creators, editors and videographers working within a facility or across the globe. It leverages the existing workflow and infrastructure of both Media Composer and NewsCutter using an ISIS storage system as the backbone. It connects multiple editors to the same footage who are able to work on the same project using proxies while the original footage is being ingested. The material can be instantly searched, logged or edited in any location and transcoded in parallel, allowing for faster turnaround.

Avid Interplay Sphere enables users in the field to capture and ingest media remotely and upload that media to the facility. They can also stream media from the facility and work seamlessly with remote and local media

Adobe Anywhere takes a slightly different approach to connecting multiple users of Premiere Pro, After Effects and Prelude. Like Avid, Adobe elected to use a centralized asset management and storage system, but they have chosen not to use proxies. Adobe acknowledges the creation of proxies takes up time and additional storage, so to solve this they created a scalable streaming system known as Adobe Mercury Engine. Depending on the network connection, the server can throttle back the data rate while playing back the native file format. The other core component of this system is the Collaboration Hub, which contains the database of project information and metadata, and resides on a separate server.

Avid Interplay Central provides a simplified editorial interface that runs in a web browser. This enables users to remotely or locally log media and produce a rough assemble all without needing a full Avid Media Composer workstation. Work can be done from home or while traveling using only a laptop and a secure VPN connection to the facility. This provides producers with an effective way of communicating their story ideas to the editors working in the field or back at the facility.

NOTE: The book Modern Post contains a table comparing all of the features of the leading cloud-based tools.

Excerpt from Modern Post: Workflows and Techniques for Digital Filmmakers by Scott Arundale and Tashi Trieu © 2015 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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