JANUARY 27, 2022

Rethinking Remote Collaboration for a Distributed Editorial Team

A remote editor works on a video proj-1862x1040

Nearly two years into adopting widespread remote post production, spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it turns out that setting up a post team with the right hardware and storage solutions to do their jobs from home may have been the easy part. Replicating the efficiency of in-person collaboration, on the other hand, has proved a bit trickier.

Most productions use two different types of remote collaboration during the post process: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous workflows allow multiple users to work with the same media at the same time. Different stakeholders—an editor, a VFX artist, a sound designer, a director—can all look at project files at the same time. This is the closest the industry has gotten to the traditional in-person editing session. Asynchronous workflows, on the other hand, have different users complete tasks locally before uploading their work to the cloud for a director, producer, or another post-production stakeholder to comment on at their own pace.

While remote post production means no longer being able to have those over-the-shoulder editing sessions, here are three best practices to help recreate that level of collaboration and lose as little efficiency as possible while navigating a brave new remote world.

Consider the Cloud

Transitioning to a full cloud environment can be daunting; however, if any part of your review process is synchronous, it'll benefit from having all stakeholders look at the media as it's being worked on. That doesn't mean the lion's share of the work has to be done in the cloud, teams are more likely to get that classic over-the-shoulder feeling from allowing multiple users to make changes than they are from simply sharing one person's screen on a video call. Screensharing can work, but it removes stakeholders' ability to take a hands-on approach.

Even a hybrid cloud system will work well for asynchronous review—as long as you have the right mirroring in place. By having a cloud mirror of your project's bins and assets as they're organized locally, you can remove efficiency-dragging confusion and still reap the benefits of automatic backup.

Get Everyone Working on Hardware with Similar Specs

Workflows are at their smoothest when displays and equipment are all calibrated within the same range. Even if it's not always possible for all remote employees to use the exact same hardware, matching up specs and calibration before a remote review session can head off a lot of miscommunication.

If, during a remote color session, your colorist is using a top-of-the-line LG or BenQ monitor but your DP only has access to their MacBook Pro, you may want to just have a quick virtual review for first-look, and ensure that the DP has access to a monitor of equal caliber for the final look if the two can't be in the same place.

Balance Asynchronous and Synchronous Tasks

Synchronous review should be reserved for tasks where efficiency is paramount, and changes need to be made and reviewed at the same time—e.g., a first-look color pass, VFX design, or long, in-depth editorial discussions. These should be tasks that require the input of multiple (possibly conflicting) stakeholders; in many situations, it's just quicker to talk through a decision and give everyone a chance to follow up with questions in real time.

However, a huge swath of post-production work happens independently. This is where asynchronous review can also maximize efficiency. For instance, software plugins can offer the ability to annotate with incredible precision and specificity. For minor, discrete changes or situations where it's better to have a written record for the artist to refer to, asynchronous review offers both freedom and clarity. A director can take the time they need to make notes as clear as possible, while the artist implementing those notes gets to work on them in isolation.

Remote collaboration will always require a degree of flexibility—whether that's shifting more reviews to an asynchronous workflow or investing in the hardware and software solutions necessary for full synchronous review on other workflows. The good news is that a truly amazing array of tools have popped up in the last 18 months to help you reach the balance works best for your business.

Hear what customers have to say about remote production in the Post Café podcast.

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  • Oriana Schwindt Headshot

    Oriana Schwindt is a freelance writer based in New York. She primarily covers the TV industry, dabbling also in travel and culture.

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