By Rob Lofthouse, Director, Software Development
Every day, I wake up, have a bottle of water and a coffee. I then spend some time with my son in the garden and take a moment to enjoy the peace and tranquillity. A moment to treasure.
I need these moments, because nothing is the same as before. Since Coronavirus swept across the world, and impacted us all in different ways, there has been a level of intensity in life and work that feels relentless. The latter can reach extremes, but I have to remember no one is forcing me to do this.
I have always believed pain is temporary. We have moments in our life when we need to push and moments in our life where we need to be at peace, and this is a moment where I know I need to push because one day we will be in a better place.
You see, I have a passion for film. To me, film is magical and offers the opportunity to distract yourself from what is going on. It allows your mind to relax after a day of intensity; to share happiness and joy with others. It makes you laugh, or cry. It can frighten you or it can warm you, and it’s an important part of the fabric of this world.
We all have to face the problems in our life and the old advice is to try and ‘escape’ from them. Having gone through several intense episodes in my life, I know escaping’ is not the answer per se, but it can be useful as a pressure valve to allow you to keep moving.
Film is that old friend we all grew up with, and I want to protect it with everything I have. Not only for all the joy it has given me since I was a small boy, but for the relief it provides everyone during this hard time.
Helping you to collaborate remotely
I have spent the last few years building a realtime remote collaboration tool from scratch called ClearView Flex. It’s been a wonderful, interesting ride. I think in the early days the product was certainly before its time. It gained momentum over the years but once Coronavirus hit and changed the way we work, it became an important part of the fabric of the industry due to the need to ‘get things done’ remotely.
The tool was always envisioned as something that would allow collaboration no matter where you are in the world. People have always been at the heart of it. We wanted to save you time, so you could spend more time with your kids; cause less harm to the environment by not having to fly everywhere for reviews; ensure you didn’t have to battle the stressful commute. ClearView Flex meant you could do your job from the comfort of your home, hotel or wherever you might choose to be.
There are certainly unique issues to this ever-changing world. Customers have been presenting us with new and interesting challenges that we have been working around the clock to solve. Each issue resolved, drives our product forward, thereby driving creatives forward. We get stronger together. We are installing more boxes in homes, battling with home networking, confronting new types of content, and finding new ways to support customers where we can’t physically be in the same place or even the same time zone. Internally, we have been finding new ways to work as a company, finding new ways to help each other, working around our little kids who want to take over our keyboards rather than let us work and much more. During this time I have also greatly enjoyed the late-night video conferencing sessions with customers. In addition to being useful debugging sessions, they also provide a unique way to connect and feel “human” again and to connect much deeper with the problems they are facing.
Where do we go from here?
As a result of what’s happening, the industry is changing; I don’t think we will go back to the way things were before. We can’t always operate in the perfect environment and we often have to make do with what we have around us — Apple TVs, iPads, iPhones, Laptops, Mac Pros, our consumer TVs — in order to get the job done. I have spent many years working with consumer devices and turning them into powerful remote collaboration devices for this very purpose.
We can’t expect customers to want a jet engine in their house, or be able to buy a £40,000 piece of equipment for every person working remotely. Thankfully for us, consumer devices are incredibly powerful these days and I think that is where the innovation will be for years to come. We can also lean on other industries to understand how to set up our home environments to facilitate better sessions. I frequently look to the gaming industry for sources of inspiration; their learnings are often transplantable to the work we do in sub-second real-time remote collaboration.
The challenge, going forward, is around maintaining consistent playback, at sub-second low latency, while also increasing the audio and video quality. All of this is wrapped in security. It’s an incredible challenge and the product needs to adapt to the way creatives are using it now. There are often no references for how to do this well and others in this space either decrease quality significantly, increase latency significantly or they compromise on security – something we are unwilling to do. I am often told it’s impossible but as Nelson Mendela said – “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Sometimes we just have to look at things from a different angle or consider interesting ideas from disciplines that would otherwise seem irrelevant.
These are strange times and ClearView Flex is far from perfect, but we are learning, we are improving and we are collaborating. We care deeply about ensuring all our customers are able to do their job and stay safe. Hopefully, this will all be over soon, but I think a lot of the changes in how we do things are here to stay. The positives we can take from it are the new and wonderful ways of working, the barriers we have pushed and will continue to push and the deep relationships we have developed during these hard times. We are merely at the beginning of what we previously thought impossible.