Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to work in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Those two phases of my career crossed paths a few months ago at the Infinity Festival Hollywood, a multi-day event that celebrates cutting-edge storytelling enabled by innovative technology – like the tools we make here at Avid. Our company tag line, “Powering Greater Creators,” isn’t just some throwaway phrase. It’s a great way to emphasize that world-renowned artists rely on tools like Avid Media Composer and Pro Tools to create their magic each and every day.
Among the panel discussions I watched at the Infinity Festival was one called “Igniting Creative with Virtualized Workflows,” which focused on the ways cloud-based toolsets are profoundly altering the way movies, TV programs, games, and other media are being produced. One of the panelists was Ray Thompson, Avid’s Senior Director of Partners and Alliances.
Along with thought leaders from AWS, HP, Verizon, and Epic Games, Ray spoke about the untethering of production workflows from physical infrastructure to leverage the power of cloud computing in new and exciting ways. By extending production toolsets beyond the walls of soundstages and editing bays through virtualization, content creators can:
- Work more efficiently.
- Save money.
- Grow the content pipeline.
- Access remote talent.
- Enable new methods to tell stories.
Game developers and filmmakers have known about the benefits of virtual production for several years now. Virtualized post technologies, such as the Avid | Edit On Demand SaaS-based editing system, are just now starting to deliver their own unique benefits.
Avid | Edit On Demand provides access to Avid Media Composer editing and Avid NEXIS real-time shared storage through a fully virtualized post-production environment in the cloud. “Avid | Edit On Demand auto provisions everything you need to have a full environment set up in about an hour and a half, and then get started editing and collaborating in the cloud with other editors regardless of where they are located,” Ray told the audience at the panel discussion.
John McVay is Director of Strategic Alliances at HP, which recently acquired Teradici and now offers HP Anywhere, the enterprise software platform formerly known as Teradici CAS. John pointed out that technologies such as HP Anywhere and Avid | Edit On Demand are redefining where production work can be accomplished. It’s no longer about where you are, but rather what digital workspaces you can access. Cloud computing lets producers quickly spin up virtualized editing workstations that provide real-time performance and an experience that closely matches the one editors were used to before the COVID shutdown.
The virtualization trend had actually begun before the pandemic, but the shutdown forced the Media & Entertainment industry to accelerate the curve, according to Katrina King, worldwide strategy leader for content production at AWS. “As we are moving out of the pandemic, we're starting to see an acknowledgement of the viability of these virtualized workflows. People are wanting to benefit from this new normal, where we work hybrid sometimes, in the office sometimes. But we're also seeing a lot of companies starting to divest themselves of square footage in brick-and-mortar facilities, being able to reduce costs operationally in that way to really embrace virtualization.”
It wasn’t that long ago that constraints in bandwidth and network speed were limiting factors in migrating production workflows to the cloud. While there are still challenges when it comes to working remotely with higher-resolution formats, much of the heavy lifting may be behind us. Gains in LTE performance and the continuing rollout of 5G have much to do with that progress, but so does the work of innovators like Avid. As Ray pointed out, the cloudification of post production is a complex challenge that involves much more than software development. You're actually creating an experience that didn’t exist before, he said. “In a SaaS offering, you need to be able to auto provision the resources needed. The user has to be able to log in, grab a seat, spin up the editor, and then as the project demands, they want to be able to easily add more storage or more editors to the project. And that means having a back end that can facilitate that—and scale.”
All of the panelists in the virtualized workflow session at Infinity Festival Hollywood agree that the industry is at an inflection point, but that there is still a way to go to realize all of the potential benefits of cloud computing. The day when film and television studios can do everything in the cloud is coming, however, even if a bit slowly. According to the “2022 Global Film & Video Production Report” from research firm Altman Solon, 40% of current productions are using some form of virtualized technology today, a number that is expected to increase to just 50% within the next two years.
“We’re getting there, and it’s becoming extremely real,” concluded Ray. “People are having their eyes opened to the experience, and they’re embracing it and planning for it moving forward.