Rebuilding Post Production in the Cloud
Sohonet CEO Chuck Parker reflects on the evolution of cloud-based work in the post-production industry
Until very recently, the idea that editors and VFX artists could work remotely from one another seemed a far-off reality. Yet, with continued investment in cloud-based infrastructure and fast private connection lines, the size and location of your office, teams and collaborators has become increasingly irrelevant — opening up new possibilities for businesses.
How is the industry keeping up and how dramatically has the post-production landscape been altered already?
Let’s take a step back. The visual effects we’re used to seeing on our screens, in whatever format that’s consumed, have advanced dramatically from what they once were. As the demand for high-quality VFX has multiplied at breakneck speeds and delivery timescales have halved, the industry has leaned heavily on the cloud to keep up – resulting in a shift in how VFX content is now budgeted and created.
Cloud storage, virtual workstations, cloud-based rendering, and a thriving freelance culture means that scaling up for a project now not only requires less capital expenditure (workstations, servers, etc.), but includes the ability to cast a wider talent net – indicating that the transition to digital solutions has come at no cost to speed nor expertise and might even offer a quality of life improvement.
This change has been a welcome advent to smaller operations who can now win business based on their reputation and talent. Smaller outfits are now able to utilize remote collaboration and cloud compute tools for both rendering and virtual workstations. No longer is it necessary to purchase large amounts of hardware that might sit idle during quieter months or, to have extra space to accommodate artists during busy times.
The barriers to competition just dropped further.
What’s next? Greater investment in the cloud. Undoubtedly the largest benefit from working this way is freedom — you remain untethered from hardware, from both buying and maintaining it. Facilities such as FuseFX are building entire TV shows, commercials and even feature-length films from cloud resources, and Untold Studios recently launched as the world’s first entirely cloud-based studio. While this may be considered by many as a highly disruptive business model, we see it as one that will be replicated many times over.
Virtual desktop workflows will drive the next wave of transport requirements to and from the cloud accompanied by increasingly sophisticated cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) applications. In essence, the cloud could offer a pop-up studio, accessible anytime, anyplace across the world. Now, dominant professional post-production platforms such as Avid and Adobe are adapting to operate as SaaS applications in the cloud in order to facilitate this trend.
The impact on the artists? Instead of being a hindrance to the creative process, technology is now being harnessed to empower artists to produce even better work. Using ultra-secure cloud storage and compute endpoints, graphics can be streamed to inexpensive desktop monitors in real-time. The goal is providing a lag-free experience that gives the benefits of using a high-powered VFX workstation from anywhere.
For artists, the interactive experience is comparable to having the machine under their desk. Moore’s Law dictates that continued improvement in average speeds combined with affordable tools will advance post-production further and faster. Working this way for the artist is intuitive and familiar.
It is not an understatement to describe this as a revolution in distributed workforce with huge ramifications for the facilities business. There will be more, not less, of the trend and the transition will continue to power the creative community and impact the businesses that serve them (perhaps this helps to explain the valuation of WeWork). The good news is that greater freedom is available to productions and creative teams. What’s more, facilities and technologies will continue to do what they do well, and that’s evolve.