Cloud Workflows: Addressing the concerns of the TV and Film Industry

An exploration of real world technologies and solutions that have allowed production and post production to work more efficiently over distance and on an elastic scale.

The TV and Film industry is warming to the Cloud. Once regarded with skepticism, the possibilities and advantages new technologies are bringing to the industry are hard to ignore. With production and significantly post-production costs increasing and time-frames shrinking, creatives want to be able to produce and collaborate on high quality content cost effectively, quickly and securely.

The Visual Effects Industry is a great example – it’s a sector that is striving to reach a level of visual complexity and detail with unusually tight deadlines. VFX houses generating content for motion pictures and commercials face dramatic spikes in rendering workloads as deadlines approach. The drive for more work results in overlapping projects requiring more capacity than the most companies currently have available at their in-house render farms.  As a result,  VFX houses are being forced to purchase additional servers to deal with this peak demand in order to deliver the productions successfully. This bursty nature of VFX production creates the challenge of having to buy extra hardware to complete a project that will very likely sit idle until the next project.  The detrimental effect of this is pushing these companies to innovate and capitalise on the benefits of public cloud storage.

At Sohonet, we believe the key to unlocking the M&E industry’s ‘cloud potential’ is the ability to offer studios, post production houses and visual effects companies options for getting their applications connected to public and private cloud infrastructure in a manner that meets their low network latency and high security requirements while still meeting the ‘on demand’ business model to support their ability to burst into the cloud for production.

Sohonet has the ability to create FastLanes allowing for its customers to connect directly from their offices worldwide to the Cloud. As a result customers now have increased flexibility, sustained / guaranteed throughput and a reliable high-speed conduit to multiple cloud providers wide range of remote storage and compute solutions.  Sohonet’s FastLane moves data away from internet bandwidth, removing network congestion and decreasing the time it takes for an individual to transfer their data. With a direct link to the Cloud, customers are in control of how their data is routed, leading to a more consistent network experience for the entire business.

Sohonet is also helping the M&E industry to move towards burstable cloud rendering – a model of consumption for compute resources that has become available due to the decrease in price of commodity hardware and the availability of high bandwidth network connectivity. VFX and post production houses can choose to consume additional compute resource for as little as a few hours or as long as they need. This can be used as a method to get past a bottleneck in a project or as a way to increase capacity for the lifetime of a project. Since you only pay for what you use, the costs can easily be modelled and incorporated into pricing models for downstream clients which allow both small and large facilities to bid on the same business.

Whilst the understanding that these tools can help alleviate pressures and reduce costs is certainly there, like with any new technology, people have their reservations. Tools that require radical change in workflow cause concerns that it will be difficult to implement whilst artists need to keep churning out creative deliverables. Ironically, the worry is that by proactively making a change to speed up your workflow you will be temporarily slowing it down.  Advancements in the development of Cloud API’s mean that integrating your existing deployments with cloud rendering tools is easier than it’s ever been. The key to this technology is its simplicity. The scalability of cloud rendering minus the IT headache of historic rendering tools allows artists to focus on the creative process rather than being tied down with software and hardware issues.

Another issue holding the industry back from fully embracing cloud-based technologies is the fear the the Cloud is simply not secure enough. In a sector where the pre-release of content can spell the end of a company’s success, it is a hard task to alleviate those concerns. If your company is being employed by the greater production to work on a project, a pre-existing contract is likely to exist also containing security measures that preclude the use of ‘public’ Cloud infrastructure for your workflows.  

Sohonet’s answer to these challenges is to use its acquired knowledge of effective network segmentation, and specifically designed security products so that requirements such as malware protection and Intrusion Detection and Prevention occur on the network level. The ever-increasing sophistication of attacks and number of recent high profile content leaks means that productions are leaning towards more intelligent security products. Sohonet offer Next-Generation Firewall products that are application-aware, capable of filtering and monitoring traffic on a host or user level, and are backed by leading dynamic databases of attack signatures.

Access to cloud-based resources is critical to the industry’s progression and evolvement, traditional hardware solutions are being replaced with more cost-efficient and productive cloud-based solutions. So whilst this technological change is transforming the distribution and consumption end of the production process, it is key that this cloud-based approach is adopted by the entire workflow.

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