Pioneering foresight keeps the story going at Untold Studios
When Untold Studios launched the first completely cloud-based creative studio in the world, it was ahead of its time in ways that even its founders could not have imagined.When the global pandemic broke in early 2020, sending production into virtual shutdown and post producers scampering to set up remote workarounds, for Untold it was business as usual.“We were already working remotely in our Studio as all our artists could connect to virtual machines from any desktop,” explains Sam Reid, Head of Technology at Untold Studios. “The way we work has changed very little since the crisis, albeit we maintain social distancing measures and connect from home!”Untold is an independent creative studio based in London, making content across, Music, TV and Advertising. It works with an internationally based creative community of writers, designers, directors, animators and creatives.The studio’s design from inception meant that highly resource-intensive cloud computing workflows (virtual workstations, VFX rendering, transcoding, processing) are streamed securely from AWS over Sohonet FastLane, a private uncontended network which suffers no packet contention or loss.“There’s been no change to workflows and our productivity has not dropped at all,” says Reid. “The only difference now is that artists are using their own internet connectivity to the Studio. We created VPN connections from artists’ homes to the Studio, and from there the media travels as before over FastLane to AWS.”When Covid-19 struck, Untold was working with AWS and Autodesk to migrate its final finishing workflow to the cloud. Without a hitch, the Studio switched this crucial part of the process to a remote workflow using ClearView Flex.“There are two review workflows we drive from the Flame—regular reviews between clients and creatives where we discuss VFX shots in progress—and the final review for the client to sign off on the project,” Reid explains. “For final review the picture has to be at the highest resolution and the highest possible quality.”Both are now being facilitated remotely by ClearView Flex. The security of assets was arguably the main brake on widespread adoption of cloud production and post operations prior to lockdown. Untold Studios, though, was set up from day one with studio-grade security. “It is another aspect of our workflow that we haven’t had to firefight overnight,” says Reid. “We had MPAA guidelines already in place. We rely on Sohonet to provide triple ‘A’ security on connections to our office. When our artists connect over VPN from their machines at home to get onto our network there are airtight protocols including multifactor identification.”He continues, “Our studio is not constrained by the physical location of our data, so we don’t have to have artists in the studio working on content – they can be anywhere in the world. That was as true before the pandemic as it is now.”There are also positive lessons to draw from the crisis as production gradually returns to normal.“We know that remote working can be as productive if not more so than working in a studio with all the distractions that can entail,” Reid says. “We will look at what has worked best for us under lockdown and maintain those workflows where it makes sense. ““Part of the vision for Untold Studios is to provide people the flexibility to work wherever they want. There is no reason why any creative community should be less productive because they’re not physically in a studio. Those days are long gone.”
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