Many post-producers and broadcasters had their plans for remote editorial accelerated as a result of the pandemic, but very few had it within their wheelhouse all along.
PBS, the esteemed public broadcaster, and most prominent provider of educational TV programming to stations in the United States, had not only greenlit plans for a remote post operation by late 2019 but had decided to base its strategy on Sohonet’s ClearView Flex.
As part of a wider upgrade and redevelopment of its production hub in Alexandria, Virginia, PBS had taken the decision to collocate its postproduction resources at the production hub, away from the main headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
“This would physically separate our editors in the post facility from producers,” explains Brian M. Jones, senior director, Media Production Operations.
“Our team was tasked with acquiring solutions that would aid in our effort to bridge that geographical gap with a reliable, fast and efficient workflow… something that wouldn’t disrupt the current working relationship between our producers and editors.”
He adds, “Our editors are technical as well as creative people who fully embrace any tech that can do the job better, but with the change, managing expectations of how this technology would aid editor-producer collaboration was in order. Our plan was to use ClearView Flex in-house/at headquarters to allow users to fully understand the new workflow before relocating our postproduction resources to Alexandria.”
Then COVID-19 hit.
“What it did was force everyone’s hand,” Jones explains. “We didn’t know how long the shutdowns would last but with ClearView Flex we had a ready-made solution. It was an appliance that we had been in preparation to rollout toward the end of 2020 and, as it turned out, we ended up using it in production every day across multiple shifts at least six months earlier than anticipated.”
In the initial stages of the crisis PBS producers worked from home while its editors remained on-site. After six weeks, towards the end of March 2020, the editors were also able to work from home using ClearView Flex to play back content from the on-prem Avid Media Composers.
PBS distributes a wide array of educational, documentary, drama and public affairs programming from a variety of producers to its more than 330 member stations across the U.S. Shows include PBS Newshour, Antiques Roadshow, Finding Your Roots, Masterpiece Theater, Sesame Street and more. Before onward distribution, it must all pass rigorous quality control to adhere to PBS’ Technical Operation Specification.
“Some producers are more hands on than others, but they all work closely in teams and are using Sohonet ClearView Flex to do so,” Jones says. “It [COVID-19] has proven to be quite a beta test case for when the rest of the organization does move back into the HQ.”
Still today no one is working on premises at PBS HQ but even when a return to the office is allowed, the remote editing, packaging and QC workflow will remain in place.
“It has worked really well from our point of view,” Jones says. “It gives our operations and creative teams flexibility in being able to collaborate as producer-editor pairs plus a work from home edit capability that we didn’t have prior to acquiring ClearView.”