It takes a brave soul to swap jobs in the midst of a pandemic, but Darren Woolfson was up for a challenge. He left the Pinewood Group to re-join Molinare last May as Director of Technology & Visual Services. Soho’s iconic full-service postproduction house had been forced, like every other media business, to revert to ‘at home’ workflows.
“When I arrived at the facility, a lot of gear such as Baselight and Avid, had been moved to people’s homes as a short-term solution to business continuity,” Woolfson explains. “I wanted to get the media back into Molinare and provide a remote control solution to improve the workflow.
Security was one aspect but not the only one. “There are genuine security issues and perceived ones,” Woolfson says. “Having media outside your facility is a perceived issue but how genuinely a major issue it is, is up for debate. A facility is a more obvious target than a single hard disk at someone’s home. It’s a consideration for sure, but my reasons for wanting everything back at Molinare was to achieve greater control and consistency in everyone’s experience of remote working. Engineering support is also far more practical with media and equipment in one place and next to impossible without physically entering someone’s home.”
Rather than rely on one tool, Woolfson engaged a combination of solutions including HP’s Remote Graphics Software (RGS), Teradici for access to Media Composer and Sohonet ClearView Flex as well as the facility’s own newly deployed client streaming platform.
“What we like is to have lots of options for different use cases and different environments,” Woolfson says. “Often there are compromises in bandwidth capacity at the receiving end but having a wider inventory also enables us to market and package remote solutions tailored for each client.”
Underpinning them all is the Sohonet network. “Our VPN is managed by Sohonet. Our firewall services are delivered through Sohonet. I’ve worked with them for many years and I know Sohonet technology is first class.”
“ClearView Flex itself is a fantastic product,” he says. “The quality of stream is excellent and viewable on Apple TV and mobile devices and laptops. It’s fair to say that if you’re making very specific and nuanced decisions about colour or you’re trying to identify a particular artefact then anything other than a professionally calibrated 4K display may not be suitable.
“We’ve attached ClearView Flex to our grading and online suites principally for reviews and used it to post a variety of high-profile projects for all the streaming giants during the pandemic.”
From lockdown last March through to today, Molinare never closed its doors entirely. Clients could attend craft sessions with strict health protocols in place.
“We monitored the Co2 in each room which gives a good indication of the quality of air and air flow,” Woolfson says. “Thanks to social distancing and the other health measures we put in place, we’ve not had a single outbreak as a result of being in the office. Now, as lockdown rules are lifted, we’ll begin to see more staff and more clients return to the suites.”
Inevitably as a result, the role of remote will diminish a little. He says, “Many people are desperate to get back into the office. On a bigger project in particular it is much more effective to be able to discuss issues and share ideas with various creatives by simply going from cutting room to online to grade or audio mix within the same building.
“That said, we will keep all our remote solutions in place to offer to our customers. Going forward, if a client needs six cutting rooms – four might be in the building and two might be remote. It’s a great advantage for everyone. The client has the flexibility to decide how they want to set up, and it allows us to sell more edit facilities. While accepting that remote or even hybrid won’t be right for every job, we are no longer constrained by physical capacity. I think it offers a real opportunity for all round.”