Post production won't simply go back to the way it was before 2020. The massive shift to remote work after pandemic lockdowns has revealed that this way of working actually carries benefits.
As a result, not all post professionals want to return to on-prem work. Post houses and facilities will need to adjust how they meet the changing needs of staff and clients alike from both inside and outside the facility.
Among the priorities that need to be confronted is the digital lifeblood of post work: media storage solutions. Remote work requires adopting remote-friendly storage solutions like the cloud, but what cloud deployment model options will post houses need? Different choices have their own perks and considerations that will affect post teams for the coming years.
Option 1: On-Prem Hardware Converted to a Private Data Center
The need to quickly pivot to remote solutions in 2020 meant that plenty of on-prem hardware in post houses and facilities was left unused, gathering dust. This option would change that, thanks to the ability to push on-prem media storage solutions into the cloud and turn them into a private data center.
Before, server racks would sit in climate-controlled rooms, accessed only by the professionals within the four walls of a post house. Networking that storage to the cloud would make a post house's media accessible to on-site workers and clients through PC over IP (PCoIP) technology or accelerated file transfer links.
The most notable benefit of using on-prem hardware as a private data center is that it makes use of what a facility already has. Unlike pursuing a cloud-based media storage model (more on that in a moment), it wouldn't require too much business or workflow restructuring. Granted, some technical restructuring may be required in order to set up and design the cloud environment—but, critically, any complexity isn't collaborator- or client-facing, thanks to the ease of connecting to the private data center via technology like PCoIP.
Plan Ahead — And for the Long Term
Pursuing this model, however, does require some forethought. Even beyond the technological setup, the model still isn't as simple as networking your home with a Wi-Fi router. It requires time and investment, either with existing or external IT personnel—first to check if your on-prem hardware and software can even function as a private data center and later to assess what updates, additional racks, and installation are needed.
Teams should also consider the capacity of the private cloud. It's not enough to assess what is needed now; what will your post team's needs look like five years down the road? If a post house sees further success—more clients, more staff—its storage needs will expand. Active projects, archiving, and redundancy will take up that space; planning for that possibility well in advance safeguards future business and helps prevent technical difficulties or mad scrambles to adjust.
A post house's role may change slightly as well. Running private cloud deployment models invites the need for more security and technical support. This is especially true if the house allows clients, rather than just employees, to access it. Entertainment companies need assurances that their media is safe, and post teams have to address technical hiccups quickly to avoid compromising deadlines.
Some may choose to shift responsibility for these considerations by instead renting a private server working with a third-party service. However, those who choose to commit to creating their own cloud may see that these new changes help them avoid a major overhaul to their business, workflow, and cloud deployment models.
Option 2: Cloud-Based Media Storage
With cloud-based post-production workflows shifting from "nice to have" to "essential" during the pandemic, the most widely discussed media storage option for the future is one exclusively driven by the cloud.
There would be no server room and no racks. Instead, everything would be in the cloud or synced to it through a cloud service provider (CSP) or a turnkey solution like Avid | Edit On Demand, offering Avid NEXIS cloud storage.
Unlike with a private server using on-prem hardware, this setup can significantly reduce maintenance, support, and updates—all of which are handled by a CSP. It doesn't ask teams to try and anticipate storage size five years in advance, since cloud-based media storage is scalable. That makes it well-suited for a future of ever-larger video files, and it allows post organizations to take on projects as they come without any headache. Financially, the model offers a shift from capital expenditure to operating expenditure thanks to the pay-as-you-go nature of a CSP.
Consider Your Storage Tier Needs
As with pursuing an on-prem private data server model, a cloud-based model does require some considerations. Although its scalability does simplify things, budget and storage don't just become afterthoughts. CSP cost structures break down into ranged tiers, which vary from provider to provider. What's more, tiers are usually defined by storage size, access, and data movement, meaning that organizational decisions should factor in a project's entire storage life span and what needs allot to which tier.
Meanwhile, the longer-term costs of media storage can bump up the total cost of ownership over time. Similarly, a workflow needs to be set up for access, synching, and bin locking so that any growing pains don't result in lost work—or worse.
If all those considerations are addressed, however, the cloud deployment model offers something critical for the future of post production: the ability for anyone to work from anywhere with ease.
Option 3: Hybrid Storage Models
For all of their respective benefits, the frank reality is that the coming years likely won't see the industry break down exclusively into either of the above models. Currently, there is no one-size-fits-all deployment model.
Instead, most existing facilities will likely pursue a hybrid model. Perhaps on-prem storage will be kept for those who want to work in the office but also made available remotely for those working from home. Or, perhaps high-performance tasks will be kept on prem while burst capacity is relegated to the cloud.
Whatever the case, the years ahead will require post teams to tailor their choice of model to their unique needs for workload, security, and scalability. It's not about what looks best on paper, but what works best for you.