JULY 23, 2020

Debunking 3 Myths about Cloud-Based Services for Post Production

Editing video remotely using cloud-based services

Change is hard. But often a difficult transition pays off—learning to edit via NLEs was an adjustment, for example, but it brought about new efficiencies and helped democratize the film industry. Brace for another shift: Unlocking the potential of cloud-based services could spell big changes for post production.

“The cloud” as a term can feel a little amorphous, but it describes using networked computing power accessed through an internet connection. Some of the positives of a system like this might be clear at first glance: the cloud seamlessly enables remote collaboration, scalable computing power, and a digital-first media production workflow.

That’s why it was somewhat surprising that a 2020 DPP study found 70 percent of respondents simply didn’t trust cloud services. Of course, there are valid concerns with any technology, but many cloud-based fears go away with a closer look.

Here are three myths about the cloud that could be preventing you from revolutionizing your workflows, and why they may not reflect the current reality of cloud-based services.

Myth #1: It’s a Security Nightmare

A few high-profile leaks in the past decade have major media companies on high alert when it comes to security, and understandably so. But these vulnerabilities generally aren’t related to an issue with the cloud itself. Take the case of some leaked Netflix programming: a post house simply had an old computer with a security flaw on their own system, and it happened to be connected to the internet.

Traditional workflows’ reliance on shuffling media around presents its own security nightmares. The more media that’s transferred between departments and subcontractors, the more vulnerabilities.

The cloud can reduce opportunities for problems by flipping the script. Workflows are brought to the media rather than the other way around. Think of it like this: Instead of multiple targets with varying degrees of security, bad actors only have one target—and that target has far better protection.

The security that comes with a product like Microsoft Azure is decidedly robust. Major Hollywood studios already use the cloud for post production on some of their films. If companies of that magnitude are comfortable with the level of security they’re getting, that’s a sign of strength.

Myth #2: Connectivity and Performance Issues Are Rampant

When you’re working with massive post files, you don’t need another layer of possible disruption in the form of an unreliable connection, or a system that you think you can’t manually control.

But this isn’t the age of dial-up (or even broadband). Chances are that most major post houses have already invested in fiber infrastructure that can deliver reliable gigabit connections. The foundation to support a cloud-based media production workflow is there, but post houses are still working out the best way to use these new workflows.

After all, not every worker is guaranteed to be on a fiber line. While this isn’t ideal, it is workable, particularly with protocols like PC-over-IP. Because the cloud is constantly making backups of the work being done, in the event of a disrupted connection, the cloud simply begins uploading from the local machine where it left off before the connection dropped out.

In fact, plenty of productions have gotten into the habit of finishing post work remotely, especially as COVID-19 closed many offices. Opus Post Production, Israel’s biggest post house, chose an interesting setup, using HP computers configured as virtual machines and running Media Composer over Teradici’s Zero Client. The process of shifting to a somewhat remote edit process has been smooth for Opus largely because it had already been experimenting with remote processes for years.

Opus is an example of a house that prepped for having to go remote. The novel coronavirus pandemic has thrown into stark relief just how well that kind of planning can pay off.

Myth #3: It’s Too Expensive

It’s true that the cloud doesn’t guarantee an immediate expenditure shrinkage. The central question regarding cloud services and expenses for most major post-production houses, though, has shifted from “Can you afford to use the cloud?” to “Can you afford not to?”

This is a calculation each post house has to make for itself. Cloud-based technology may require investments in infrastructure, such as a dedicated line to ensure uninterrupted data flow, so weigh the possible investment against all of your costs toward cooling and electricity bills, software and hardware updates, and the resources required to maintain all that infrastructure. Cloud-based services can reduce many of those costs, since you only pay for what you use.

It’s near impossible to work on a modern major film production without using some form of cloud-based services. Shoots and reshoots happen in various locations at different times, and all of the footage needs to be accessible to multiple parties regardless of where they are. Projects with tight deadlines can’t afford the time delay of shipping drives. To that end, you’re likely already using a hybrid approach that uploads footage to a central server only certain people can access. Making more of your process dependent on the cloud is a chance to introduce more efficiencies.

Not every company has the resources of a major studio. However, sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option for most post houses. The cloud calls.

  • 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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