Media storage is set for explosive growth in the next few years. Recent changes in the way the post-production industry works, entertains, and communicates—many of them brought about or accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic—are now, in turn, changing how media is stored and shared.
One of the most clear-cut post-production industry trends has been the rising adoption of cloud-based solutions for remote workflows, cloud storage, and cloud computation, Tom Coughlin, digital storage analyst and president of Coughlin Associates, told Avid in a webinar. Media teams have continued to work collaboratively from different locations, even once lockdown restrictions relaxed. That initial rush to go remote will impact post production far into the future, and post houses and departments need to plan for further changes to work-from-anywhere workflows going forward.
The question may no longer simply be whether organizations need to upgrade internal tiered media storage but how to dovetail existing on-prem resources with a blend of cloud-based service providers to get the best combination of flexibility, security, and value.
Future-Proofing Distributed Post-Production Workflows
As Coughlin notes, remote production and post-production workflows have driven up demand for media storage in the cloud, cloud-based collaborative review and approval workflows, and cloud-based rendering and content distribution.
Furthermore, the greater blending of production and post through remote production work and the increased use of post-in-production technologies such as LED walls and real-time green screen replacement mean post teams and production teams need new solutions to collaborate well.
Cloud Media Storage and Costs
All of this change has brought about massive growth in the capacity of the data centers that deliver all of this online storage as well as in the diversity of online storage provider options. The smorgasbord of choices can lead to some decision paralysis, as post-production teams need to weigh the pros and cons of each solution against a unique set of shifting needs.
One way to simplify a cloud-based media storage strategy is to use the cloud as an archival or backup solution only. This reduces the often pricey egress costs associated with downloading large amounts of media. However, it also reduces the transformative power of cloud workflows to just another storage container.
One caveat to all this growth is that cloud-based media storage solutions are still more expensive than maintaining local storage in house. Post houses need to discern whether transferring storage needs from capital expenditure to operational expenditure—such as shifting a lump sum to a monthly subscription—is better for cash flow constraints as more daily editorial activities move to the cloud.
Another facet to the adoption of cloud-based post-production workflows is the replacement of local hardware in exchange for more powerful virtual machines hosted in the cloud. They can be dynamically configured, spun up, and deployed as needed for the customer workflow.
The use of Virtual Desktop Interfaces has also increased dramatically, enabling secure remote access to on-premises networked storage. Once in-house staff were deployed to home offices during the pandemic, they needed access to existing storage and files. These kinds of connections offer the benefits of working from a thin client machine at home, while all of the heavy lifting with regard to media storage performance and rendering happens back at the office.
As there are so many different cloud vendors, each with competing feature sets, post houses may find their best fit with a blend of solutions. Some cloud providers deliver better rendering, some better AI-driven metadata extraction, and some lower egress costs.
The challenge comes in managing different media storage requirements hosted in different clouds while trying to reduce duplication costs and transfer fees. Cost-effective media management and project asset tracking will be pivotal to running an efficient and cost-effective remote post team without the simplicity of one centralized on-premises, networked storage solution.
Embracing More Is More: Higher Everything Workflows
Another post-production industry trend highlighted by Coughlin that never seems to leave is the ever-onward march toward more: more pixels, more gigabytes, more codecs.
Higher resolutions, higher frames rates, and higher dynamic range video formats have pushed the demands placed on storage across the board, both in terms of performance and capacity. For some post houses and departments, this might necessitate a wholesale upgrade of existing centralized hardware and infrastructure—for example, to accommodate the leap from HD to 4K and beyond. For others, it might require multiple lower-capacity, higher-performance storage solutions that can be distributed to remote contributors to be used locally.
Cloud Burst Expansion
One opportunity that the elastic nature of the cloud provides is the ability to quickly expand storage needs when your on-premises storage is maxed out; moving some assets to the cloud to free up local capacity is a practice commonly called cloud bursting. This backstop also helps post teams avoid overprovisioning their local storage and leaving it sitting idle, as they can readily expand as the situation requires.
Cloud bursting may well save some businesses money compared with buying large amounts of local storage, if their storage needs are relatively dynamic—and it comes in handy when more remotely connected creative artists quickly have to join to meet shrinking deadlines.
When deciding how to tackle higher performance video files as well as remote access to those files on networked storage, it's imperative to have a connection with low and predictable latency and an uninterrupted stream of video data. It's one thing to video call through a crummy online connection, but it's an exercise in frustration to get critical creative work done while dealing with lag or dropped frames. These requirements set post-production media storage in a league of its own.
The Future of Work from Anywhere
As these post-production industry trends accelerate in the years to come, post businesses will come to rely on having long-term, remote-first strategies in place. Planning now can help you benefit from the operational nimbleness cloud-based solutions provide while maintaining access to your existing on-premises networked storage through a secure and productive connection—ensuring vital creative work can continue unhindered.