Industry is realizing a potential for cloud solutions to manage digital content without needing huge capital investments.
The post-production phase begins with the raw source footage and ends with completed content, ready for making distribution copies. As technology evolves, post-production continues to proliferate into an increasing variety of jobs and tasks. Where there was once a single editor who was responsible for the majority of the post-production process, there may now be a whole special effects team, an audio department, a colorist, and a number of assistant editors keeping track of all the footage. Post-production can be an expensive, unpredictable operation. Just as no two contents are exactly the same, the amount of resource required for post-production is different every time.
The static nature of current on-premises infrastructure has studio making critical commitments upfront based on murky insights. Taking the better to have too much than not enough common sense approach, studios are effectively guessing how much compute will be needed to execute each project. From managing data storage and buying the necessary rendering tools, to investing in physical space for servers; companies can find themselves lumbered with a heavy bill for a job that, in hindsight, could have been more cost-effective.
It is best to think of editing and post-production in general not as technologies in themselves, but as a quest for problem solving. Loren Blake, Broadcast Bridge explains it well. For example, one of the greatest tasks that is crushing budgets these days is the burgeoning cost of creating deliverables. With so many new formats and platforms being demanded, it is not unusual for a studio to create dozens of differently formatted copies of a finished project. And it is not just a matter of running all those dubs through various codecs, it is also a matter of QC-ing them because even if there is one caption out of place, one garbled sound bite, it means a costly makeover.
If the master file is treated as data instead of video, it is possible to perform an insert edit on a completed master without having to re-cook the whole pot of soup. This can be a tremendous time saver. And if only what is required is to change the part that has been inserted, you no longer have to QC the rest of the show.
Another way the industry is trying to manage the rising cost of deliverables is through the expanding use of IMF(Interoperable Master Format) files. This is especially relevant now because Netflix requires that all productions must be submitted to it in 4K and as IMF files.
Although IMF is not really standardized, it is based around the core framework of SMPTE ST 2067-21 extended by Applications 2 and 2e often referred to as the studio profile since they deal with high dynamic range (HDR) and 4K frame sizes.
In an oversimplified nutshell, an IMF file contains all media for a program and enough descriptive metadata and playlists to put it together. Theoretically, if you pump an IMF file into the Hurdy-Gurdy and turn the crank, you can spit out the program in any deliverable format you want. If you keep in mind that makes it good for now and easily adaptable for tomorrow, the use of IMF files gives the hope of future-proofing your current investment in a project.
But even though there is a SMPTE-35PM50-SMI (Sample Material Interchange) committee working on an IMF standard it is still not universally accepted. The Rohde & Schwarz CLIPSTER leads the way in creating IMF files. They are at the forefront of IMF development, and, thanks to Rohde & Schwarz’s powerful CLIPSTER mastering station, have created more IMF files for the big studios than anyone else.
When it comes to post-production, many of us think first of editing and NLEs serve well here. The Quantel Rio finishing system with Dolby Vision certification is impressive. EditShare fills the gap adequately here too. Speaking of a wide variety of formats available, Grass Valley has separated their really handy Mync, personal content management tool, from their GV Browser and made it available on its own. Mync can help organize a wide variety of consumer and professional formats. Mync enables sort and store all kinds of video, from cell phone to pro and create storyboards from them. The standard version even lets export those storyboards to YouTube so others can review and approve the general outline of a project’s flow.
Several companies like VSN offer web-based editing systems like WEDIT. It is fully developed in HTML5, enabling any user to work within their MAM system on deep archived, near-line or online content.
The two big companies, Avid and Adobe, have much of their collaborative workflow schemes using the cloud. ScriptSync and PhraseFind, being re-introduced by Avid are useful tools. ScriptSync allows to edit by words as well as numbers. It is a phonetic indexing tool that inputs the text of a script, then listens to the recorded track of each dailies take and indexes its words to the relevant part of the script. PhraseFind then enables to find sections of the recorded media by searching for spoken words and phrases. Both had been discontinued back in 2014, but have now been brought back to the Media Composer NLE and they can change the way approach editing is done.
Top Technology Trends Influencing Post-Production
The expectations for creative, immersive and high-quality cinema, television, and Internet streaming are higher than ever before. Professionals are finding a need to enhance their workflows with the latest tools and solutions to meet these demands.
These trends for production and post-production stand out:
Convergence of the cinema, broadcast and multimedia worlds. Content is no longer solely produced to meet the specific technical standards for cinema or television or consumer devices. With the number of potential viewing screens increasing daily, along with an array of different resolutions, frame rates, color spaces, and dynamic ranges, content must be developed so it is pervasive across all mediums. This requires universal technologies and standards ranging from file formats to codecs.
The rise of the IMF. Currently in standardization by SMPTE, professionals will rapidly adopt IMF to simplify workflows and content exchange with a single, uniform format. The IMF is a universal format that can be converted into any distribution format for flexible transport between post-production stages, post-production facilities, and content suppliers.
Demand for advanced compression technologies in production environments. Providing the bandwidth and infrastructure for live productions to maintain resolution and dynamic range requirements up to 4K and beyond will become increasingly difficult over conventional ethernet or HD SDI cables. The use of codecs to assure visually lossless transfer of this content for professional use case scenarios will become increasingly important.
Adoption of light-field technology. The number of cameras and camera arrays used on the set will grow rapidly to provide professionals with additional views for editing in post-production. Light-field technology exploits these views to create depth maps, virtual camera movements, changes in focus and relighting, along with enhancements for virtual backlot applications, all in post-production based on a single shot.
The potential for wasted overhead is all too feasible and it has manifested in certain business inertia – content creators are literally placing a cap on creativity. For such a hi-tech industry, the management of the post-production process is in dire need of an upgrade and cloud technology is opening doors to resolve this.
A new generation of innovative post-production providers is embracing cloud, virtualization, and remote working to deliver services with a radically new business model. Cloud-based post has only now become a reality as developments in public cloud technologies, connectivity, and industry software tools have coincided, and enabling content to be produced wherever and whenever is needed without carrying the capital cost of an expensive facility.
The amount of data and work required to make any content perfect for delivery can be huge. Cloud provides unlimited, worldwide access to creative tools, rendering applications, dynamic infrastructure, and infinite storage, simply by opening up a web-browser with zero configurations. The potential benefits are vast. It will enable people to work in a revolutionary and dynamic new way – one that industry is not currently attuned to.
The single biggest barrier to the production of video content is the process of editing. While editing may not be a complex process, it is always time-consuming as footage needs to be reviewed in real-time, to enable evaluation of suitable content in order to create the finished video. The combination of latest file-transfer processes and comprehensive editing support will provide video editors with a unique service to enable them to create and deliver their own high-quality video production, with complete peace of mind and at cost-effective budgets. Cloud-based editing service provides more cost-effective and time efficient editing facility.
Workflow with the Public Cloud
The public cloud offers an economical option for flexible and highly scalable storage of content. As early concerns over security started to wane, media companies began using the public cloud as a means to extend data protection and disaster recovery to an offsite target, often in the pay-as-you-go model that continues to make the cloud attractive. Through this approach, they can replicate and store media files in multiple geographic locations.
With the benefit of a managed storage environment on-premise and the agility to adapt storage instantly to changing demands, media companies are using public cloud services to achieve a new level of freedom and control. In fact, a 2015 third-party survey shows that 19 percent of business and technology professionals in the media and entertainment space expect 25–50 percent of their data being stored in a public cloud within three years. Clearly, the public cloud is widely considered ideal as a cost-effective backup for high-value content.
Integrating Private Cloud
An effective collaborative production workflow demands that team members have the ability to share content and that their access to stored media be seamless and independent of the way the people work. The cloud now makes this possible. Both file system and cloud technology have advanced to the point that private cloud models can offer not only storage and compute resources, both optimized for media, but also cloud-based applications that support the on-premise production workflow. In most cases, the private-cloud solution involves a primary production facility and one or more secondary production facilities, connected to one another via the Internet with content moving via WAN-accelerated transfer or a similar mechanism. Also connected to a private cloud these sites ingest content and push it up to the cloud, where it becomes available to the full creative team.
The integration of private cloud solutions with popular production applications has allowed media companies to migrate portions of their existing workflows to the cloud without disruption of their usual operations, enabling them to reduce either their costs or their delivery time.
The automation of ingest and delivery processes helps to streamline this workflow and maintain the feel of a local production model. Advanced transcoding and streaming engines deliver the speed necessary for real-time production workflows. A workflow automation system manages the full inventory of assets and content, whether on premise or in the private cloud, to keep content and assets in sync within a single collaborative production environment.
The cloud can essentially offer a pop-up studio, accessible anytime, anyplace across the world. Working in the cloud is changing the way people approach and use post-production resources. Infrastructure and editing tools go through peaks and troughs in terms of usage demand, but the cost of having them, even when dormant, remains constant.
For smaller companies in particular, using a cloud service is eradicating a host of tricky problems, such as having to commit to purchasing capacity to complete a project for a timespan that is longer than you need it. With the cloud – just like other utilities – compute and storage are commoditized and depreciation is therefore outsourced. This transparency enables companies to scale aggressively and flexibly, both upwards or downwards, to suit the business needs at the time.
Media companies today rely on the cloud for significant elements of their operations. Many small and mid-sized production companies already have implemented the cloud for long-term content storage, and now an increasing number of these companies are migrating production tasks — indeed their end-to-end workflow — to the cloud. Although bandwidth and application challenges remain, the shift is under way and surely will accelerate as bandwidth to the cloud becomes more affordable and as a growing number of vendors rewrite and tailor their applications to allow users to take advantage of the cloud’s unique capabilities.
Industry is realizing a potential for cloud solutions to manage digital content without needing huge capital investments. Cloud service providers are offering comfortable, creative production and post-suites equipped with the best available technology, all under one roof. Once transitioning to the cloud is adopted completely, the progressive impact this will have on the industry will be incontrovertible.