JANUARY 20, 2022

What Goes Into Managing a Virtual Post Pipeline?


Times are changing quickly when it comes to how the video production and post-production pipelines are managed. Emerging hybrid business models and the rise of remote work have led to more and more virtual approaches—tools that enable you to work from anywhere without loss of creativity, collaboration, or time.

In order to maximize the benefits of a hybrid or virtual production model, it's important to understand how to streamline the virtual post pipeline. That means minimizing disruptions to maximize productivity and creativity. For those who have not yet adopted remote elements into their workflow, however, a simple question needs to be asked: how do you do that?

In conjunction with our eBook, Exploring the Potential of a Completely Virtual Post House, here's a look at what a virtual post pipeline would look like, and the considerations decision-makers will need to know in order to get the most out of the model.

The Virtual Post Pipeline in Action

A virtual post ecosystem first starts on set, since no matter how remote things get, projects will still be shot in physical locations and soundstages. The pipeline begins with a digital intermediate technician (DIT) ingesting full camera cards on internet-enabled workstation carts. After locally transcoding a proxy, footage can be uploaded to a cloud storage location shared among the editorial team, which the DIT would have access to.

From there, the assistant editor (AE) is told that dailies are ready in the cloud. Capable of being anywhere else in the world, the AE fires up their preferred monitor and a zero client—a low-performance computer with no OS or local storage. Then, using PCoIP software, they can spin up a virtual machine running through a cloud service provider to prep media for editorial.

After the dailies are prepped, the lead editor can begin collaborating remotely with their geographically dispersed team, sharing bins and files in the cloud while communicating through a service like Zoom. With that and a screen-sharing tool, the editor would also be in touch with the director to review scenes and cuts.

Meanwhile, access to shared storage would be given to VFX for rendering and mastering. Then, as the project nears completion, producers and studio executives would also get access to stream the films so they can share their thoughts before the project is officially done and approved.

Key Ways to Minimize Workflow Disruption

Presenting a virtual pipeline sequentially, like above, may make it appear to be an inherently seamless process. However, like any pipeline, it's susceptible to disruptions—technical or otherwise. For a remote workflow to reach its potential, those need to be minimized. Hardware, software, storage, and connectivity all have to prop up the process smoothly.

Among the most important means of accomplishing that is bandwidth. Without proper connectivity, every component—PCoIP, cloud storage, screen sharing, and file transfers—will be affected, interrupting the effective flow required for a virtual post pipeline. With looming deadlines, slow file transfers or spotty screen sharing resolution can cause tremendous headaches.

Ethernet connections, not Wi-Fi, should be favored since its more stable bandwidth is capable of reaching the download speeds ideal for post: around 20 Mbps per screen and 35 Mbps for full-screen playback.

Latency—the time between issuing a command on your computer and it being executed—should also be minimized. That can be achieved by the use of zero clients. However, it also can be accomplished by being selective about the data centers you use. All cloud service providers have data centers scattered around the world. The closer someone is to a center, the less latency they experience. Taking the initiative to make sure all post professionals have their at-home setup connected to the nearest center can enable the recommended 50–60 milliseconds of latency.

Proper cloud storage management is also important. Cloud service providers break down their offerings into storage tiers, which are categorized by how much media is stored, how often it's accessed, and how it moves. The fastest and most available tier costs the most, while the slowest archived tier costs the least. To ensure there are no snags in the media management process, decision-makers have to make firm decisions before production about what tier of storage to use when.

Lastly, a turnkey solution like Avid | Edit On Demand can also help by bundling several components of a remote post ecosystem, including access to Media Composer virtual machines, a FileCatalyst file transfer solution, and storage scalable up to 200 TB.

How a Virtual Pipeline Can Maximize Creativity

Streamlining a virtual pipeline is not just a matter of technical efficiency, but also creative potential. Remote collaboration over Slack, Zoom, or Evercast isn't about achieving technical goals, after all. It's about realizing the creative pursuits of a project. If everything is running smoothly, it means creators can spend less time worrying about technical interruptions and focus more on being creative.

As Tim Claman, Avid's SVP and general manager of video, post and storage solutions, says that's what a virtual or hybrid workflow should aspire to.

"Every minute you're doing something that's not creative—uploading, downloading, importing, exporting—takes away from the time you have to be creative," he said. "That's where we want to end up: a future where the participants in the content creation process can work fluidly and concurrently together, on the same program at the same time. They're focused on their role and their creative value—not the nuts and bolts."

Perfecting the virtual pipeline makes space for creativity in another way, too. It makes it all the easier to not just connect existing collaborators but enable one of the most significant benefits of the remote model: finding new talent from anywhere in the world, easily onboarding them, and making decentralized work a smooth process.

Imagine a virtual pipeline that makes it easy for an assistant editor to be recruited from Tokyo, connected to a lead editor in London, and collaborating with a director in New York. A smooth technical process can make that possible, bringing new waves of creative remote collaboration to the industry.

Give Your Post Teams Space to Create

A virtual pipeline—even in hybrid form—offers the remarkable opportunity to bring talent together in ways like never before. It can only work, however, if every effort is made to ensure the process is as seamless as possible.

That requires taking steps to eliminate any disruptions to the technical side of the process—whether with better bandwidth, zero clients, or cloud-based solutions. Not only that, but it also requires trying to make the nuts and bolts of post production as invisible as possible to give creators the space to do what they do best: create.

See how Avid | Edit On Demand can benefit your business.

Learn more

Exploring the Potential of a Completely Virtual Post House Ebook

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  • alexander-huls-headshot

    I’m a writer based in Toronto. My work has appeared in The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, The Atlantic and others.

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