by Mark Purvis
It was good to be back at IBC, which had a real sense of business being done
and genuine excitement for the future of our industry. No-one will have missed
the big theme trending on the showfloor and conference which was the move to
Cloud. All of the major public cloud vendors – GCP, AWS and Azure were at
the Amsterdam RAI in force – as were the CTOs of all the major Studios. High
on their agenda is the wholesale move of creation to distribution workflows to
Cloud as outlined in the MovieLabs’ 2030 Vision.
We were proud to have played a small but significant role in demonstrating,
with AWS,camera to cloud workflows, where we also had a chance to learn how our cloud-based platform Origami plugs into the future of media content creation to meet MovieLabs’ Vision.
Built on the philosophy that creativity should fuel technology, Origami is one of
a growing suite of technologies designed to reduce the technical constraints for
feature film and TV drama so creatives can focus on what’s important.
If it wasn’t clear already then IBC2022 underlined the seismic changes that
have accelerated over the last couple of years: We are moving forward fast as an
industry into Cloud as the logical evolutionary step.
Let’s consider where the industry has come from:
The traditional method for making film and TV, spanning nearly a century, was
for film negative to be processed in a lab and for sound and picture to be
assembled, laboriously (remember Steenbecks?), and synced in editorial.
Twenty years ago, the digital intermediate process greatly enhanced this by
allowing greater manipulation of footage across editorial and VFX before
conform, grade and final master but post production remained a rigidly linear
workflow. It could be no other way. The technology had reached its limits.
Not any more. The transition of the entire postproduction chain to the Cloud is
in full sway and represents a paradigm shift from Post 2.0.
You can call it nonlinear if you like but a more accurate term for Post 3.0 is
collaborative. Once media is in the Cloud everyone can access it simultaneously
and work on different aspects of post in parallel. This not only speeds
production by smoothing away inefficiencies in moving media from A to Z but
it enriches the potential for creative collaboration.
This is exactly what we were demonstrating with AWS at IBC.
Using Cloud for post is far from new - the industry has been using servers held
in data centres off premises for aspects of the post workflow for well over a
decade. VFX was among the first areas of production to use bursts of Cloud
compute to speed rendering. More recently, Camera to Cloud using tools like
QTake enable early viewing of footage in proxy form.
The difference between that way of working and Post 3.0 is that you can now
send Original Camera Negative (OCN) to the Cloud and work with optimised
images as soon as it is captured - irrespective of where your creatives might be.
Traditionally the DI has been done on premises with dedicated hardware but the
move to Cloud means you can all but divest your machine room with all the
headache of capex, maintenance and heat/power costs that entails.
This game-changing advance could not come a moment too soon. The sheer
volume of content being commissioned by studios and streamers together with
the heightened demand to hit a succession of tight deadlines presents several
challenges to facilities.
The first is that with so much content coming down the pipe there are not
enough vendors to actually deal with it in any local market. Consequently, the
post production work on tentpole features and major episodic TV needs to be
spread internationally. The challenge is how to ensure that file sharing and
communication is seamless.
A second issue is that even when you go from facility to facility the experience
is inconsistent. This is even the case locally when hiring multiple shops in
London, for example, let alone exporting that model across territories where
some vendors won’t have the experience of delivering into Hollywood.
We are seeing a lot of facilities having to step up and deliver on expectations of
quality they might not have had manage before.
These are the challenges that Origami is designed to address. Origami being a suite of tools for post-production, with the first product released to the market Phoenix, automating the delivery of VFX files
We’re not the first to automate VFX and DI/Drama pulls but Phoenix, running on Origami, is the first to take advantage of the scalability and global reach that Cloud brings. A unique feature of Origami is it goes to your media, eliminating unnecessary replication and then delivering to the defined vendor, keeping with the Movie Labs 2030 Vision. You simply submit your cut file of choice (EDL, ALE, XML), which Phoenix converts to ACES-compliant Open EXR files (or DPX for legacy workflows) and delivers to designated stakeholders as and when needed.
There are not enough skilled people and not enough hours in the day to cater for
the scale and speed of today’s production output. Trying to do this manually
will burn time and money.
Cloud-native tools like Origami erase those inefficiencies and frees talent to do
tasks they actually want to do – creating art.
Just because you can work in the Cloud doesn’t mean your workflow or the
tools that you use need to change. Also demonstrating Cloud capabilities with
AWS at IBC were Moxion, Pixitmedia, Filmlight, Adobe, Autodesk,
Blackmagic Design, Qtake, Colorfront and more. Editors and colorists, for
example, can still work as they did before but linking high resolution media and
masterfiles in the Cloud will open up new creative opportunities. This includes
the opportunity to work in parallel with other departments and the opportunity
to introduce AI/ML to enhance production. Already highly repetitive manual
tasks like rotoscoping are being driven by AI tools in the Cloud.
Enabling parallel workflows will accelerate production. With Origami, Mission
Digital is a part of this pan-industry forward momentum.