When COVID-19 shut down access to France TV's facilities, the national broadcaster stood up a comprehensive remote editing solution in days. Avid spoke with Managing Director Sébastian Grandsire and Technical Coordinator Philippe Vaidie at La Fabrique, France TV's internal productions, about their experience.
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Avid: Tell us about your role at La Fabrique in France TV.
Sébastian Grandsire: My name is Sébastian Grandsire, I'm the managing director of post production for La Fabrique, France TV's internal productions. We manage ten production sites throughout France, whose activities are completely varied in terms of duration and schedule. The team manages ongoing as well as individual projects. These range from short, two-minute modules to ninety-minute fictions, including magazine programs and documentaries. Each site is autonomous in terms of planning, but technical management is centralized in order to have a unity and consistency for media, renewal, and maintenance.
Philippe Vaidie is the team's technical coordinator. He is in charge of managing renewals, productions, and technical maintenance on our different sites.
Avid: What was the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your productions and how did you react?
SG: The shutdown was brutal, and the time we had to anticipate it was very, very short. We were able to bring home a few stand-alone Avid machines, so we could finish with a hard drive on location. But all other productions had to reinvent the process.
That process was reinvented in a hurry, but at the same time it had sort of been in the works for more than a year. The idea had already been in our heads, since we had replaced our ISIS servers with NEXIS, that we could benefit from that functionality.
We couldn't put in place outside access to FTV, hence this solution that we have put in place with you to meet our emergency needs, without really changing the habits of our technicians and editors, so they could access their applications at home. And also without needing each editor to have a workstation that includes a computer, I would say, with certain capabilities. We just needed to have, basically, a network and a relatively new computer, we'll say, to be able to work.
I don't recall the time frame exactly, but in, I would say, a week or a week and a half, we were able to start working together on a proof of concept that allowed us to test whether it fit our needs. So it allowed us to validate first if it technically worked, second if it was able to meet our finishing and production needs to feed our antennas, and third without totally changing the applications for our editors. We were running behind and we didn't have time to train the editors. They needed to be operational very quickly to be able to edit.
Avid: How did they get to adapt to Avid | Edit On Demand?
Philippe Vaidie: To let our editors get used to it, what we did when they first connected to Edit On Demand was give them a workspace with media and projects that were already done and allow them to play with it for a few days, in general letting them play with the media to make edits and see how they managed. We also gave them some time before editing to recreate their settings on each of the machines they were going to use.
We even had—and this is important—quite a few editors who were skeptical at the beginning, and after their first experience they called us to say, "Listen, if you have another edit for me, no problem, I'm ready."
Avid: How did you convince editors who were hesitant to shift to a new technology?
PV: We had to convince a certain number of users who were convinced the computer they had at home would not allow them to edit. I remember one user, an editor, told me, "I have a machine that is essentially a desktop tool, I've already tried to install editing software to do simple things and it doesn't work." And in fact, because his computer simply becomes a remote control for a more powerful computer, there was no problem. He was finally able to edit from home.
Avid: Is this technological shift the first step towards a hybrid model?
SG: That's exactly what it is. I think today we are exactly as you said, thinking about this solution as a step towards a hybrid model—to do projects onsite, because we need to be able to have people onsite, as well as with the directors and producers, and that's something we can't give up. But we also have requests to be able to edit without being in person. So a hybrid solution is certainly, in any case, the result of these five, six weeks experiencing a new solution that will certainly allow us to be able to meet the future needs of FTV.
Avid: What would you give as advice to people who need a remote solution like this one?
SG: I would say the advice we can give is to do what we are doing right now with Philippe: we spend a lot of time doing demonstrations. Because today remote editing is still a scary concept. By giving demonstrations to users, producers, agencies, or production unions, you allow them to see that in the end it doesn't change anything. The display is the same, the fluidity of the image is the same, and this, I think, breaks the remote editing taboo.
What is also important in the system is the possibility for a producer or director to ingest their own media. I think this is also a plus, because today the director or producer sends us their hard drive or their media, and we ingest. I think the only person who knows and masters these media perfectly is the director.
Avid: Are you considering extending data storage temporarily for specific events in the future?
SG: Certainly. This can be one of the solutions to respond to one-time sports or cultural events. Instead of renting and installing, as we are doing today, a whole system of servers and editing stations, we can now simplify by installing fiber and placing some workstations. From there we have access to post production where and when we want, practically. We can certainly address these production needs for one-time events, not like now with long-term fixed resources. But for events like the Olympics, the Tour de France, the French Open, maybe we can respond to those needs later, I think.
Avid: Will you adapt the production tools to meet those needs?
SG: We are going to think about what we need to provide, I would say, like portable elements. Right now, we didn't have time because basically we had to stay at home and couldn't go out. But going forward, I would say, we could simply plan to have a small flycase, and tell the editors, "You leave with the small flycase, and in the small flycase there is a PC workstation, 17- or 21-inch screen, two small speakers..." And that way you can work anywhere comfortably.
Avid: To sum up, do you think we have workflow simplification with Edit On Demand?
SG: Absolutely. The workflow simplification comes from sharing the image and timeline live. That's a real productivity improvement, absolutely.
PV: I would like to add that there is another thing that was ultimately quite important for us. This is the variable dimension of Avid | Edit On Demand. Being able to start with a certain number of PCs and then, depending on our needs, increase this number for users; this allowed us to work much more calmly.
SG: In any case, I think that you have been there with a solution that worked and allowed us to save costs and leap into something that we had planned would take maybe a year and a half or two years—and we did it in five weeks.