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Working in the cloud allows creative people to be creative

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

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.


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