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Remote, Virtualized, Cloud—Huh?! Making Sense of Remote Solutions for Post Production

Rose de Fremery

February 21, 2021

This story was originally published in March 2020, at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. With remote post-production solutions still a pressing concern nearly a year later, this story has ben updated with new information.

In the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, production teams scrambled to quickly adopt remote workflows to keep their projects moving while also abiding by social distancing guidelines. Despite promising developments, the end is not yet in sight, and remote workflows we thought would last for a few months are now pushing a year.

For teams seeking to trade up on the band-aid solutions they put in place at the outset of the pandemic, or for those considering how to take advantage of remote or distributed teams even after we go back to normal, there's one big question: which remote video editing solution is best for their needs? To help you pick the option that’s right for you, here’s a brief overview of the three main categories of remote video editing solutions as well as some pointers on when you might want to choose one over the other.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Remote video editing Solution

When you’re trying to figure out how to edit video remotely, chances are pretty good that the first question that comes to your mind is: “What do I need in the first place?” To answer that question, you’ll want to consider three key factors: scale, collaboration, and security. Determining your team’s requirements in each of these areas will point the way to the right solution.

For example, a large post-production company that is working on a major motion picture and has a globally distributed team will probably place a premium on effective collaboration, and security is likely to be a high priority as well. A smaller post house with a lean budget and a crew of between ten and twenty people can probably get the job done with a more straightforward solution with basic collaboration features, and security requirements might not be quite as stringent.

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While there are several important aspects that you must consider when choosing the right option for working remotely, the good news is that there’s a solution for everybody. Here’s a look at the top three technologies for remote video editing, their advantages and constraints, and who will likely benefit from them the most.

1. Remote Access

Basic remote access was a decent band-aid solution for teams trying to get back to work as quickly as possible when quarantines first began. This technology lets you connect to your computer at work via remote desktop software, allowing you to access media and continue to edit as you did before. Remote desktop technology streams your work computer desktop straight to your computer at home, giving you the ability to use your editing tools as if you were right there in the studio. It’s also a solid choice if you have a lean budget and can’t spend a lot of money on technology right now.

That said, there are some limitations to remote desktop software that make it more of an occasional fix than a long-term solution. Because this solution was originally designed for office workers who needed to access their files and email from home, it wasn’t created with the needs of post-production professionals in mind. As a result, post-production teams may find that latency and syncing issues make it a bit too clunky to use all the time. Remote desktop technology is not optimized for video editing, and it doesn’t support collaboration all that well compared to virtualization or the cloud. You may also need to make sure you have sufficient internet connectivity at each of your locations in order to work well using remote desktop technology.

This option is best for: independent post-production pros and smaller post houses that need a simple, low-cost solution for periodically accessing their systems and storage from remote locations.

2. Virtualized Environments

If you need to scale and collaboration is also a priority, virtualization is an intermediary solution that may fit the bill. Virtualization creates an environment that feels very much like the one you are used to at your post or broadcast facility. This is made possible by running all of your software on a virtual machine, enabling everyone on your team to go in and access it at the same time. You can work more quickly and play back media more seamlessly in a virtualized environment than you would using remote desktop software, assuming you have the right internet connectivity. This environment uses PCoIP connectivity that is optimized for media productions.

Your production team can collaborate more effectively and flexibly, at scale, with these building blocks in place. This can come in handy if you’re editing a motion picture, for example, and you have ten team members who all need to collaborate on the same project at the same time. Virtualization also supports co-location quite well, meaning these team members can work from multiple locations in a more sophisticated fashion. In a world where shooting might take place in New Zealand, post in California, and VFX in London, the benefits of distributed teams all having access to media will certainly outlast the current pandemic.

If security is a concern for your post-production team, then that may be another reason to consider a virtualized solution. All of your media assets are still housed within your data center but, because your post-production systems are virtualized, your storage has an additional layer of protection. Virtualization provides you with a similar level of security that you would have on your other IT systems, allowing your team to work more securely from remote locations.

This option is best for: medium to large production companies or broadcasters, often with teams of 25 people or more, that need to scale their capacity for remote production.

3. The Cloud

The cloud is by far the most seamless and sophisticated option for production teams that cannot compromise on efficiency or collaboration. In a cloud scenario, all of your media and your editing tools are available directly in the cloud. Your editors can access media, play it back, edit it, and collaborate with one another from literally any location in the world. They can archive media, access high-speed and high-quality playback, make real-time edits, and gain full accessibility to their workloads in the cloud. This option also provides robust security, helping to prevent unauthorized parties or opportunistic attackers from accessing your media files.

A fully cloud solution comes with a bigger price tag than its remote desktop or virtualized counterparts, and it also requires sufficient bandwidth to work well. However, it can also be thought of as a valuable long-term investment. Cloud technology strengthens your business continuity posture, allowing your production team to remain resilient and keep working through crises as big as the pandemic or as mundane as accidental data loss. Since the cloud frees you from having to maintain your own data center, it also removes the administrative overhead that you might have to contend with in a remote desktop or virtualized scenario.

Ultimately, the cloud empowers your team to work efficiently and stay on track with its projects from any location at all—no matter what challenges or disruptions may come your way. It’s also worth noting that few teams go all in on the cloud at once. Most post-production houses dip a toe into the water with a hybrid solution. For example, they might use SaaS-based cloud services to supplement on-prem capacity in advance of a big project, or to connect in-facility and remote team members. That way, they can access some of the cloud’s benefits without a complete workflow overhaul, and while still sweating out existing investments.

This option is best for: medium or large production houses or broadcasters, particularly those that are working on large studio productions or have global teams, that require a sophisticated solution for remote productivity and collaboration.

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There’s a Remote video editing Solution for Everyone

Although the last year has been a real struggle for post production, the good news is that there’s a remote video editing solution for every type of team, no matter the budget involved. With a little research and preparation, you can pick the option that’s best for your team—or if you’re thinking about your long-term plans for remote work, you can build upon the solution you’ve already chosen to create a stronger foundation for the future. That way, the next time an emergency or a crisis arises, you’ll be better able to minimize any disruption and you can take advantage of the ability to stay productive no matter where your team is located.

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Rose de Fremery
Rose de Fremery
Rose is a freelance writer specializing in B2B technology, living at the intersection of digital culture and creativity.

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