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Sohonet’s next chapter – Acquiring 5th Kind and beyond

Olivia Broadley
Mar 28, 2023
5 min read

As we think about this pivotal time in our industry and Sohonet’s role, we are excited to share our strategy following the acquisition of 5th Kind.  Not only does adding them to our current capabilities  expand  our continued vision to “ revolutionise the way storytellers create content by making collaboration seamless and more secure,” but will also allow us to increasingly support and help evolve cloud based, creative, connected workflows.

Founded in 1995 by a group of post production professionals who needed a way to send large digital files to each other securely and at speed – Sohonet has gone from a concept conceived in a local Soho pub to a multi-Emmy Award winning global powerhouse  connecting over 1000 M&E companies to over 100,000 storytellers worldwide.

It’s been an amazing journey and I want to thank every customer, employee and supporter we’ve had along the way – since those early days, our focus has been on building technology to help storytellers do what they do best — creating the magic we see on our screens, without being constrained by technical hurdles. We’re excited for the future of our industry- the one we want to continue to help invent!  

In thinking about that future I wanted to share a few thoughts about what got us here and  where we’re headed.

Looking back

Over its 25+ years, Sohonet has had a ringside seat and its own role on how connected digital workflows have evolved. Over the last 5 years, we began to see real change in the way teams wanted to share and collaborate. Rapidly advancing tools, new on-set and connected workflows, exploding global production, and with media creation beginning to move to the cloud, our customers began turning to us to help them solve some big challenges.

We were fortunate  that over the years we were able to develop deep and trusted relationships with the leading Studios, post production houses and content creators who looked to us to help them with their increased need to collaborate across workflows that demanded robust security, hassle free deployment and quality. Our customers were telling us that their existing tools no longer met their current or future needs.

Challenge accepted! From this collaboration with our customers, the first iteration of our real-time remote review tool ClearView was born, alongside FileRunner – our simple to use, browser-based file transfer tool, designed to remove the IT headache of sending large media assets over the network.

As Storytellers began to choose post partners further and further away from production locations, the need for an improved “real-time” collaboration solution expanded. And in late 2016, Sohonet launched ClearView Flex in an effort to expand access to real-time tools to the creatives themselves, rather than relying on complex configurations that required high-touch IT support.

Then, in early 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic created a forcing function in our industry that drove every creative to find a way to work with their colleagues remotely –  and our industry exploded with options for real-time and near-time collaboration.  We responded to the sudden reality of creatives working from home by improving the quality of ClearView Flex and launching a new extension  of our Pivot tools, allowing the sort of quality reviews creative collaborators demanded and  expected from their on-prem facilities partners, which were  then locked down.  What this ClearView innovation enabled was one of the keys to content resumption during the Covid19 lockdowns.  And all it took was for the creative to have a typical high bandwidth home internet connection. So if the bandwidth was there, so was the quality – full 4K HDR directly to homes in the middle of the pandemic, giving our customer the same high quality experience that they enjoyed pre-pandemic in connected facilities.

Since then we’ve seen our industry transform and evolve in unprecedented ways. Our vision at Sohonet, is to revolutionise the way Storytellers create content by making collaboration seamless and more secure – and Sohonet’s next chapter is focused on fulfilling and expanding this vision.

Acquiring 5th Kind

With Sohonet’s recent acquisition of 5th Kind, we’re building a powerful industry toolkit. The ability to connect real time collaboration with the underlying assets and the powerful metadata that fuel today’s content creation holds incredible promise for filmmaking creativity and efficiency.

5th Kind’s suite of tools have been helping major creative studios manage production assets for TV and film across franchises and creative use cases for fifteen years.  Its highly sophisticated Production Asset Management tool has been instrumental for thousands of creatives over the last decade as a way to securely and efficiently manage the complex series of workflows over thousands of artists that is required to deliver the amazing stories audiences enjoy on screens of all kinds and  sizes.  Just prior to the pandemic, 5th Kind launched its “dailies” tool to support the near-time collaboration of filmmakers, creating a secure ecosystem for assets to be shared and reviewed during the creative production process.

Looking forward – Original Camera Files and a collaboration tool kit that powers the true cloud-first post production

Quite simply, we believe that combining our ClearView collaboration tools with the ability to access, orchestrate and automate tasks with assets and metadata will mitigate complexity and unleash powerful new ways for filmmakers to create and save time, money or just be able to put more on the screen.

With more than 60 production facility partners supporting on-set communications for over 700 stages across the industry’s premium locations, we believe we can also deliver on the much discussed and promised efficiency and effectiveness of cloud-first workflows by enabling the near-time upload of Original Camera Footage directly from the set to the cloud.

Productions will no longer be required to spend time and energy on a bifurcated workflow where proxies get created on-set for editorial and full resolution video assets get sent to the post partner via harddrives.  By delivering the OCF directly into a public or private cloud repository, productions can choose to anchor their post production workflows in the cloud, allowing for creative partners and individuals from around the world to participate cost effectively.

Over the next few months, we plan to do the heavy lifting of integrating our teams and technical support infrastructures, including our industry renowned 24×7 support, while stabilising the product experience for our customers.  

In the first quarter of this year, we completed the acquisition of 5th Kind and hired a visionary product director, Brandon Bussinger, to lead our product strategy and work closely with our strategic customers. We are already hard at work on the initial integration of 5th Kind products into the Sohonet product family and will be excited to announce these changes at NAB in mid-April.

Of course, we have been contemplating and planning for both the development of our Sohonet platform and the integration of our new asset management capabilities, so you can also expect some new, flexible workflow options in the very near term.

And as you can imagine, the team here has been dreaming of and planning for our industry’s cloud journey for quite some time.

We believe our unique capabilities will allow us to combine high-speed connectivity from 700+ stages with these products in a manner that will deliver on the vision of enabling the transfer of original camera files from the set to the cloud, allowing productions to work seamlessly and securely while saving time and money.

For the past 25 years, the industry has looked to Sohonet to connect talent to tools and to each other. We are excited about the future and the role we are planning to play in it. We  look forward to not only connecting talent to tools and to each other but to also helping the industry unlock the power of the massive amounts of data and metadata that are produced in today’s content workflows. As our industry reinvents itself in an era of powerful new tools and the collaborative creative possibilities of the cloud, we are ready to continue to literally connect the dots. And of course, I would be happy to personally connect to talk and dream about the future at an LA or Soho pub. After all, that IS what got us here.

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