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How M&E organisations can enable remote work with cloud-based video and animation production studios

(Image credit: Image Credit: llaszlo / Shutterstock)

The year has kicked off with a series of unprecedented and unpredictable challenges for businesses around the world. Media and entertainment digital content creators, for example, today face many challenges from both a creative and a logistical point of view. Creating the films and programs that we all love watching has become an entirely new endeavour in today’s remote work environment. Most studios and post-production houses were neither ready nor equipped for remote work, and even if they were, there is the added concern that remote work might lack the security and seamless collaboration that in-studio production enabled.

The media and entertainment industry is rich with talented artists, deeply immersed and very comfortable with technology in their day-to-day work. So, on one hand, working on a screen whether a local workstation or connected to a resource running elsewhere makes little difference provided that the experience is seamless. The main issue at hand is the content and production data. It’s not always easy to see how enormous volumes of file data traditionally located on-prem can find its way to the cloud; particularly datasets which need to be edited simultaneously by teams of artists and producers to get that content to market quickly.

Being 100 per cent productive from anywhere doesn’t need to be a challenge with the right tools to support production teams in their work.

Some of the world’s largest movie studios, streaming content providers, and gaming companies are using the public cloud to run their customised pre and post-production workflows at scale. This allows artists to use the best-in-class applications they prefer, allows for massive scale at a moment’s notice, and removes inbound bottlenecks to corporate LANs, physical assets, and even constraints of time zone and location.

The right technology partner can help studios set up the IT architecture that will enable them to continue running specialised workflows such as editing, rendering, and post-production effects remotely through the public cloud.

Leveraging cloud-based infrastructure and data services mean you can pivot when needed so that your operation won’t miss a beat in the face of a challenge. To know when the time is right for you, start by evaluating your current capabilities, noting opportunities for improvement:

  • Can my mission-critical applications be accessed by artists, anywhere in the world, with studio-quality frame rates, full colour space, and high performance for this high-fidelity work?
  • Are all of my studio’s applications easily able to expand or shrink on-demand?
  • Does my infrastructure support making the remote work environment feel like the environment from inside my studio space?
  • Can I set up or move a workstation for a new or relocated employee in under an hour? In under five minutes?

For studios looking to enable remote work and bring their in-studio production experience to artists at home, here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Have your data wherever you need it. Allow your artists to connect from anywhere (including their sofas), but make sure they are experiencing seamless full-frame video playback. But how do you enable remote employees to use the cloud when your file data is tied to the servers running in your studio? You need to look beyond traditional solutions. Modern hybrid file software solutions have solved this problem with a native data platform that is not bound to any particular hardware platform—yet is consumable on a number of platforms, including the cloud. Your technology provider should enable you to seamlessly move to the cloud without having to rewrite existing applications that rely on file services. It should allow you to continue to work on projects by moving the critical  applications and data that run in the studios to the public cloud on both AWS or GCP platforms, without buying new versions of the software you already own, or without changing your workflows at all. That way, your content creators can better leverage resources and talent across time zones, and more effectively collaborate with globally dispersed teams.
  • Use the pro apps you already know (and own). When choosing the right solution, remember to go for one that is fully integrated with the tools you already use. Your technology solution should work with popular software tools used in post-production such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, Nuke, Maya, and others. But you might wonder: can these workhorse applications — all written for desktop workstations actually run in the cloud? The answer is yes, if you remember the following point.
  • Get the right storage capacity to handle your workload. At a minimum, your file storage needs to support multiple protocols in a single namespace so that your Mac, Windows and Linux team members can create content, render and edit from the same volume. Combined with ultra-low latency remote PCoIP clients, remote artists can get the same level of application responsiveness they’re used to, because the file system should deliver the read and write performance applications need to run optimally. With the right systems, all of this can run harmoniously together, at large scale and warp speed in the cloud.
  • Scale with automation. Truly modern hybrid file systems will give admins the power to automate pretty much anything using IaC (infrastructure as code). Pay close attention to which systems allow you to do this—and how much is scriptable. The best systems allow you to access any feature in their software via a matching API. With this power and flexibility, anything you can do by hand, you can automate at scale. This is critical for building a scalable solution that can be expanded or contracted with the flick of a switch. For example, IaC can allow you to bring on new artists and set up their virtual workstations in seconds. Thinking bigger, you could create an entirely new virtual private cloud (VPC)—including all the artist workstations—in seconds and create massive capacity in a new region in the process. And when you’re finished, you can spin it down just as quickly.
  • Make informed decisions about your business. Your technology provider should offer real-time analytics that help you to understand your overall storage usage, throughput and source files, and client IP addresses, allowing you to proactively manage your costs and timelines. One of the greatest challenges in file storage, at scale, is knowing what data you have, who is using it, how it is growing, and where bottlenecks are occurring. Data-driven organisations require real-time analytical tools to make well-informed decisions regarding their data. Unstructured data is directly tied to better decision making and increasing competitiveness in delivering new products and business strategies.

Closing comments

As we all find new ways to work, know that you can absolutely turn your artists’ homes into professional production studios, if you select the right technology and tools. Done right, you can create a remote studio experience that does not compromise on speed, flexibility or security—in fact, remote studios can actually provide artists with a better, more responsive software experience than the desktop workstation setups they were using before. While remote work is what we all need to do now, a flexible, work-from-anywhere environment is the way we’ll all work in the future. Today, this means creators can stay focused and productive, and do what they do best: create, edit, and deliver amazing content.

David Sniderman, product leader, Qumulo