– On this episode of “5
THINGS” we gonna get high in the clouds, with a
primer on using the cloud for all things post production. This is gonna be a monster episode, so we better get started. (intense upbeat music) Hello and welcome to another
episode of “5 THINGS” a web series dedicated to answering the five burning tech
questions that you have about technologies and workflows in the media creation space. Plus, tech stuff I dig, and how it’s used. I’m still your host Michael Kammes. I hate the name, but I love the tech: the raw horsepower and
flexibility found in the cloud is increasingly becoming a
larger part of post-production. But where exactly does it fit in? And how can you start using it? Fear not my friends, I’ve
got this handy dandy guide on what is possible today for
you to start using the cloud on your next project. (intense upbeat music) We in the Hollywood post
industry are risk averse. Yes, it’s true, my family,
look in the mirror, take a good hard look
and realize this truism. Take the hit. This is mainly because folks who make a living in post production rely on predictable timetables
and airtight outcomes. Deviating from this causes a
potentially missed delivery or airdate, additional costs
on an already tight budget, and, quite frankly, more stress. Now, the cloud is still new-ish, and virtually all post tasks can be accomplished on-premises. So why on earth should we
adopt something we can’t see, let alone touch? ♪ You got the touch ♪ ♪ You got the power ♪ – Incorporating the
cloud into your workflow gives us a ton of advantages. For one, we’re not limited
to the one or two computers available to us locally. This gives us what I like
to call parallel creation, where we can multitask across multiple computers simultaneously. Powerful computers. I’m talking exaFlops, zettaFlops,
and someday, yottaFlops of processing power, and
that have more flopping power than that overclocked frankenputer
sitting in your closet. Yeah, I said it. Flopping power. – [Retro Game Announcer] Flopping Power. – It’s also mostly affordable and getting cheaper very quickly. To be clear, I’m not telling
you that post production is to be done only on
premises or only in the cloud, most workflows will
always incorporate both. That being said, the
cloud isn’t for everyone. If you have more time than money, well then relying on
your aging local machines may be the best economical choice. If your internet connection
is more 1999 than 2019, then the time spent uploading
and downloading media may be prohibitive. This is one reason I’m
really jazzed about 5G, but that’s another episode. Now, let’s look at some scenarios where the cloud may benefit
your post production process. (intense upbeat music) Alright, let’s start small. I guarantee all of you have used some form of
cloud transfer service and are storing at least
something in the cloud. This can take the form of file
sharing and sync applications like Dropbox, transfer
sites like WeTransfer, enterprise solutions
like Aspera, Signiant, or File Catalyst, or even that antiquated, nearly 50-year-old format known as FTP. (gasps) Short of sending your
footage via snail mail or handcuffing it to someone
while they hop on a plane, using the internet to
store and transfer data is a common solution. The cloud offers numerous benefits. First is what we call the “five nines”, or 99.999% availability. This means that the storage in the cloud is always available and with no errors, with a max downtime of about
five and a half minutes a year. In the cloud, five nines
is often considered the bare minimum. Companies like Backblaze
claim eleven nines. This is considerably more
robust than, let’s say, that spinning disk you
have sitting on your shelf. In fact, almost a quarter
of all spinning hard drives fail in their first four years. Yeah. I completely get the fact
that the subscription or rental model is a
highly divisive subject, and at the end of the day, well, that’s what the
cloud storage model is. But you can’t deny that the cost that you get to spread out over years, also known as OpEx, or
operating expenditure, is a bit more flexible and robust than the one time buy out of storage, also known as CapEx,
or capital expenditure. Which brings us to the next point, what are the differences between the various cloud storage options? Well, that deserves its
own “5 THINGS” episode, but the two main points you need to know is that the pricing model
covers availability, or how quickly you can access the storage and read and write from
it, and throughput, or how fast you can
upload and download to it. Slower storage is cheaper, and normal internet upload
and download speeds are inline with what the storage can provide. Fast storage, that is, storage that gives you Gigabits per
second for cloud editing with high IOPs, can be several
hundred dollars a month per usable terabyte. (holiday jingle music) – A new hard drive? With unlimited storage? – [Together] No way! – This is why cloud storage is often used as a transfer medium, or as
a backup or archive solution rather than a real time editing platform. However, with the move to
more cloud based applications, the need for faster
storage will be necessary. With private clouds and data
lakes popping up all over, the cost for cloud storage
will continue to drop, much like the hard
drives cost per terabyte has dropped over the past several years. Cloud storage also has the added benefit of allowing work outside of your office and collaborating in real time without having to be within
the four walls of your company. Often, high-end firewalls
and security, are, well, highly priced, and your company may not have that infrastructure, or the IT talent to take
on such an endeavor. Relying on the cloud for that security is built into your monthly cloud price. Plus, most security breaches or hacks are due to human error
or social engineering, not a fault of the security itself. Cloud storage also abstracts
the physical location of your stored content from your business, making unauthorized access
and physical attacks that much harder. (intense upbeat music) The next logical step in
utilizing cloud resources is to offload the heavy
lifting of your project that requires Flopping Power. – [Retro Game Announcer] Flopping Power. – The smart folks working
in animation and VFX have been doing this for years. Rendering 100,000 frames, about
an hour’s worth of material, depending on your frame rate, across hundreds or thousands of processors is gonna be finished much faster than across the handful of
processors that you have locally. It’s also a hellova lot cheaper to spin up machines as needed then buying all the horsepower
outright for your suite. Before you begin, you need to determine what you’re creating your models in and if cloud rendering is even an option. Typical creative environments that support cloud rendering workflows include tools like 3DS Max, Maya, Houdini, among several others. Next is identifying the CSP,
or cloud service provider, in this case, the big three: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web
Services, or Google Cloud that support a render farm in the cloud. Once you have your CSP selected, a user establishes a secure
connection to that CSP, usually via a VPN, or
virtual private network. A VPN adds an encrypted layer of security between your machine and the CSP. It also allows provides a direct pipe to send and receive data to your local machines and your CSP. From here, a queuing and render management software is needed. This is what schedules the
renders across multiple machines and ensures each machine is
getting the data it needs to crunch in the most
efficient way possible. Deadline and Tractor are popular options. What this software also does
is orchestrate media movement between on premises, the storage staging
area before the render, and where the rendered media ends up. Next, the render farm machines
run specialized software to render your chosen sequence. This can be V-Ray, Arnold,
RenderMan among many others. Once these frames are rendered and added back to the collective sequence, the file is delivered. I know, this can get daunting, which is why productions
traditionally have a VFX or Animation Pipeline Developer. They devise and optimize the workflows so costs are kept down, but
the deadlines are still hit. – No movie is ever finished,
it just gets released. – This hybrid methodology
obviously blends creation and artistry on premises, with heavy lifting done in the cloud. However, there is a more
all-in-one solution, and that’s doing everything in the cloud. The VFX artist works with a
virtual machine in the cloud, which has all of the flopping power. – [Retro Game Announcer] Flopping Power. – Immediately available. The application and media are directly connected
to the virtual machine. Companies like BeBop
Technology have been doing this with apps like Blender, Maya, 3DS Max, After Effects, and more. Disclaimer, I work for BeBop,
because I love their tech. Transcoding, on the other
hand, is a much more common way of using the horsepower of the cloud. As an example, ever seen the
processing message on YouTube? Yeah, that’s YouTube transcoding
the files you’ve uploaded to various quality formats. How this can be beneficial for you are for your deliverables. In today’s VOD landscape,
creating multiple formats for various outlets is commonplace. Each VOD provider has
the formats they prefer and often are not shy
about rejecting your file. Don’t take it personally,
often their playout and delivery systems function based on the files they receive being in a particular and exact format. The hitch here is metadata. Just using flopping power– – [Retro Game Announcer] Go flop yourself. – To flip the file doesn’t
deliver all of the ancillary data that more and more outlets want. This can be captioning, various
languages or alt angles, descriptive text, color
information and more. Metadata resides in different
locations within the file, whether it be an MP4, MOV, MXF, IMF, or any other of the container formats. Many outlets also ask for
specialized sidecar XML files. I cannot overstate how important
this metadata mapping is, and how often this is overlooked. (intense upbeat music) We have a ton of ground to cover here, so I’ll be fairly topical. However, a future “5 THINGS” episode will certainly dive in even deeper. – It means, buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye. (thunder growls) – Audio and video editing, let alone audio mixing and
video grading and finishing, are the holy grail for cloud
computing in Post Production. Namely, because these processes require human interaction at every step. Add an edit, a keyframe, or a fader touch all require the user to
have constant and repeatable communication with the creative tool. Cloud computing, if not done properly, can add unacceptable latency, as the user needs to wait
for the keypress locally to be reflected remotely. This can be infuriating for creatives. A tenth of a second
can mean the difference between creativity and carnage. There are a few ways to tackle editing when not all of the
hardware, software, or media is local to you, and sometimes you can use multiple approaches together
for a hybrid approach. First, we have the private cloud, which can be your own little data center, serving up the media as live proxy streams to a remote creative with
a typical editing machine. True remote editing. Next, have the all-in approach, have everything, and I
mean absolutely everything, virtualized in the cloud. The software application, the
storage, and you access it all through a basic computer or
what we call a zero client. Lastly, we have the hybrid approach. Serve up media in the cloud to a watered-down web page based editor on your local machine. Each have their pros and cons. Both Avid and Adobe have had versions of an on-premises server serving up proxies to remote
editing systems for many years. The on-prem server, a private cloud for all
intents and purposes, serves out proxy streams of media for use natively within
an Avid Media Composer or Adobe Premiere Pro
system connected remotely. Adobe called it Adobe Anywhere, and today the application is nowhere. The expensive product was
shelved after a few years. Avid, however, is still doing this today, using a mix of many Avid solutions, including the product
formerly known as Interplay, now called Media Central,
plus a few add-on modules, along with a Media Composer
Cloud Remote license. It’s expensive, usually over $100,000. Back to Adobe, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention third
party asset management systems that carry on the Adobe Anywhere approach. Solutions like Editmate
from Arvato Bertelsmann, or Curator from IPV are
options, but are based around their enterprise
asset management systems, so don’t expect the price tag
to be anything but enterprise. Next is the all-in cloud approach, meaning your NLE and all of the supporting software tools and hardware and storage, are running in a VM, a virtual machine, in a nearby data center. This brings you the best of both worlds. Your local machine is simply a window into the cloud-hosted VM, which brings you all the
benefits of the cloud, presented in a familiar
way: a computer desktop. And you don’t have the expensive internal infrastructure to manage. This is tricky though, as
creatives need low latency, and geographical distance
can be challenging if not done right. A few companies are accomplishing this, using robust screenshare
protocols and nearby data centers. Avid has Media Composer
and NEXIS running on Azure and will be available with Avid’s new Edit on Demand product. BeBop Technology is
accomplishing the same thing, but with dozens of VFX and editorial apps, including Avid and Premiere. Disclaimer, I still work for BeBop. Because their technology is the shit. Some companies have
investigated a novel approach: why not let creatives
work in a web browser to ensure cross platform availability, and to work without the proprietary nature that all NLEs inherently have? This is a gutsy approach, as most creatives prefer
to work within the tools they’ve become skilled in. However, less intensive creative tasks, like string-outs or pulling
selects performed by users who may not be full-time
power editors is an option. Avid adds some of this functionality into their newer Editorial
Management product. Another popular choice for web
browser editing is Blackbird, formerly known as FORScene
by Forbidden Technology. This paradigm is probably the weakest for you pro editors out there. I don’t know about you, but
I wanna work in the tools I’ve spent years getting better at. Audio, my first love, has some way to go. While basic audio in an
NLE can be accomplished with the methods I just outlined, emulating pro post audio
tools can be challenging. Audio is measured in samples. Audio sampled at 48k is actually 48,000
individual samples a second. Compare this to 24 to 60
frames a second for video, and you can see why precision is needed when working with it. This is one reason the big DAW companies don’t yet sanction running
their apps in the cloud. Creative work with
latency by remote machines at the sample level makes this a clunky and ultimately unrewarding workflow. – And he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress. – Pro Tools Cloud is sorta hybrid, allowing near real time collaboration of audio tracks and projects. However, the audio processing and editing is still performed locally. On to Finishing and Color
Grading in the cloud. Often these tasks require
a ton of horsepower. And you’d think the cloud
would be great for that! And it will be someday. These processes normally
require the high res or the source media, not proxies. This means the high res
media has to be viewed by the finishing or color grade artist. These leaves us with one or
two unacceptable conditions: One, cloud storage that can
also play the high res content is prohibitively expensive, and two, there isn’t a way to transmit high res media streams in real time to be viewed and thus graded without unacceptable visual compression. But NDI you cry! Yes my tech lover, we’ll
cover that in another episode. While remote grading with
cloud media is not quite there, remote viewing is a bit more manageable. And we’ll cover that now. (intense upbeat music) Review and approve is one
of the greatest achievements of the internet era for post production. Leveraging the internet and data centers to house your latest project for feedback is now commonplace. This can be something as
simple as pushing to YouTube or Vimeo or shooting
someone a Dropbox link. While this has made collaboration without geographic borders possible, most solutions rely on asynchronous review and approve, that is, you push a file
somewhere, you wait, someone watches it, your wait, and then they give feedback. Real time collaboration, or
synchronous review and approve, meaning the creative stakeholders are all watching the same
thing and at the same time, is a bit harder to do. As I mentioned earlier, real-time, high-fidelity video streaming can cause artifacts, out of
sync audio, reduced frame rates, and all of this can take
the user out of the moment. This is where more expensive solutions that are more in line with
video conferencing surface, popular examples include
Sohonet’s Clearview Flex, Streambox, or the newer Evercast solution. Now, NDI holds a great deal of promise. And as I already said, we’ll
cover that in another episode. – Stop say that! – Back to non-real time,
asynchronous review and approve: the compromises with working
in an asynchronous fashion are slowly being eroded away
by the bells and whistles on top of the basic
premise of sharing a file with someone who isn’t local to you. Frame.io is dominating in this space, with plug-ins and extensions for access from right within your NLE, a desktop app for fast media transfers, plus their web page
review and approve process which is by far the best out there. (clears throat) Wiredrive and Kollaborate
are other popular choices, also offering web page
review and approve options. I’m also a very big fan of
having your asset management tied into your asynchronous
review and approve process. This allows permitted folks
to see even more content and have any changes or notes tracked within one application. Many enterprise DAMs
have this functionality. A non-enterprise favorite of mine is CatDV who has these tools built in, as well as Akomi by
North Shore Automation, which has an even slicker implementation and the ability to run in the cloud. As a bonus cloud tool, I’m
also a big fan of Endcrawl, an online site that
generates credit crawls for your projects without the
traditional visual jitteriness from your NLE, and the inevitable problems of 37 credit revisions. The cloud will play a massive part in post production moving forward, so expect more videos as
cloud technology changes. Do you have more cloud concerns other than just these five questions? Ask me in the comments section. Also, please subscribe and
share this tech goodness with the rest of your techie friends. It’s a great holiday dinner table topic. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who reached out via text or email or shared my last personal video. It means more than you’ll know. Until the next episode,
learn more, do more. Thanks for watching.