Content Insider: Creative Production is in the Cloud

This year?s NAB in Las Vegas, NV gave us two "Ah Ha" moments. First, there are no real centralizing movie, TV show production enclaves anymore. The industry may make its money on good ideas creatively executed, but the industry?s spirits rest in huge – and we mean huge – storage libraries spread around the country, around the globe.

But before we discuss what was new, better, ready for use tomorrow, we need to do a little clean-up from the first two days.

The Other – Tools

Previews – Like showing the previews of an upcoming movie, Apple showed off the very best features of the newest version of Final Cut Pro which will be available later this summer.

Apple's Final Cut Pro X shown running on a MacBook Pro
Apple’s Final Cut Pro X shown running on a MacBook Pro

Apple, in their typical fashion, showed without showing the next generation of Final Cut Pro. They called it a sneak peak because even though it has been rebuilt from the ground up, it shows that the fruit company is going to continue to be a big player in professional content production.

Typically, it was a beautifully orchestrated event that got you all excited but you couldn?t really put your finger on what got your motor running other than the price – only $299. Compared to the $500 – $3,000+ systems that were introduced, you probably wouldn?t do all your movie work with Final Cut Pro unless you worked for Disney because their biggest shareholder is…

Like the rest of Tellywood, you?ll have to see what is finally delivered mid-year; but it?s going to be good enough for a whole lot of event videographers and Indies. But when it comes to the money shot, Avid isn?t rolling over–even though Apple?s Schiller took a swipe at Avid during their event. 

Of course, Apple slapped Adobe as well ? and sidestepped Autodesk.

Avid?s CEO Greenfield reminded the show attendees that Avid continues to be committed to the professional who use NLE (nonlinear editing) products to make a living. Avid finally showed off a new, enhanced version of Media Composer, previewed a family of 3D tools and showed they know how the pros work with some exciting workflow/storage solutions. 


Apple Movie Theater

Apple's Movie Theater video editing software caught a lot of attention on NABWhile the iPad and other tablets were in abundance at NAB for people to show off videos of their solutions and features, no one claimed that these were the production systems of tomorrow. A couple of news announcements said sales were off, giving a wide range of reasons including marketshare theft by tablets. But the game/movie personal devices are a long way from being used to produce serious movies, TV shows.

While a couple of reports were published during the week saying personal computers are a fading breed, none of the solutions folks – even Apple – showed you how you could now do your post production on a tablet.

Oh sure, they used them to show videos/movies of their work, but that work was done on "real" computers – all the clips showed by Apple and other companies were heavily edited and brought up to broadcast-grade standard, and then playing with the timeline and simple color edits can only be described as a "walk in a park." Real World results from raw footage tends to be "a bit different."

Folks who make their living doing this creative, delivery work admit they play games and watch TV/movies on an iPad (it is still the only serious one), but when they get to work they want nothing to stand in their way, nothing to slow them down.

Real women (and men) use real tools!

Real Digital

Nearly all of the new cameras/systems were digital (tapeless). That?s probably a great thing since:

  • The leading pro tape manufacturing facility was located in northern Japan and is not in service for "awhile."  Cinematographers and production people have suddenly started hording tape… just in case.
  • The new breed of production people have only seen tape – and film – in old-time movies.  For them, it?s
    digital from the first shot to watching the closing credits.

One of the best attended sessions by both grey-templed pros and the up-and-comers was the NAB super session, "Digital Rebels." O.K., they didn?t talk about the physical production of films but you clearly understood that they could – if they had to – make a small-budget indie movie as well as a barn-buster.

Rebels with a Cause

One of the best attended sessions put on by NAB this year was their Digital Rebel Super Session.  Hosted by Adobe?s Senior VP, John Loiacono, the panel included Tyler Nelson (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) and Jacob Rosenberg (Avatar, August Evening).

Tyler who helped edit "The Social Network," Edwards in the midst of the epic remake of "Godzilla" and Rosenberg with "Avatar" to his credit; all had earned their stripes, spending long hours in front of a NLE system monitor. They all thought grabbing a decent camera and learn-by-doing with the editing/authoring stuff was probably worth as much – if not more – than their time in film school.

The key for success wasn?t the talent or technical expertise, but the flow of cash to market the movie and get it
into distribution. They didn?t mention YouTube and a lot of luck but?

To the Cloud

Video production is taking off in a different way.. similar to the way how Super 8 came to create a lot of filmmakers of todayBig system sellers talk to big system buyers. You know – Panasonic, Avid, others talked with Warner, ABC, WGN. But grab a shot of the show – and the industry – it?s not all about IMAX, multi-widescreen, 3D/HD epics. It’s about revolution in broadcast (TV).

You may think of the broadcast/movie industry?s show in terms of the large companies and big booths, but the folks who make it run successfully are really the little guys.  The niche specialists who do one or a few things really well are where most people spend their time.

The Tellywood you see in the old movies doesn?t exist anymore – if it ever did. There are the houses where the funds are kept. There are even stages with one-dimension sets.

The real work though is done by specialists across town, across country, half-way around the globe.

Raw green screen digital content is mated with digitally produced/enhanced background. That goes to enhancement people to editing, authoring, music dubbing, special effects, editing/authoring and so on and so forth.< br />
The entire process takes weeks, months. Can?t imagine what it was like when animators produced cell after cell after? Sure, pre-Internet there were loosely associated clusters of offices around town that worked together on a project. Then a new group was formed for the next movie, and so it went.

There was a time when they also used hard drives and FedEx to produce a movie. Now the backbone of the industry small/medium-sized hardware/software companies you see at NAB and groups of experts spread around the globe.

The show seems to be as much about these teams getting together and meeting during the week as seeing what?s new, unique. The iNet makes the industry possible today. How else could the best talent be brought together to produce the TV shows, movies?

We?re not big fans of it, but the cloud makes it efficient, effective and economic; and it seems to work.

Virtual Production

Creative services by Aspera - How one project can be created using resources on four continents

Creative services by Aspera – How one project can be created using resources on four continents
Creative services by Aspera – How one project can be created using resources on four continents

Today’s TV and movie production is managed by a core group of people who manage the creative work of specialists around the globe. Indies will still do it in their bedrooms/living rooms, but the big stuff that people focus on stealing will be done by virtual organizations. 

How else could people in Culver City work with people in the old garment district of NYC with specialists in Wellington, NZ, an FX team in Ottawa, the post group in Belfast,  the digital musicians in Chicago and the dubbing experts in New Delhi with…

We never really realized it until we walked the floor, attended a couple of the how-to sessions this year, but TV
show/movie companies, content production, isn?t a real company but a virtual team of companies. The organizations that make it possible are really less than glamorous, sexy.

Cloud-hosted workflow companies like Blue Diamond, Aspera, Isilon, EditShare, Prime Focus, Dot Hill and similar firms do all the heavy lifting. The ultimate movie or TV show usually doesn?t exist as a single "in the can" entity anymore.

The gold copy that sits in a locked, humidity-controlled room in NYC or Culver City is all but a distant memory – except of course for the fantastic libraries that are mined for profits from time to time.

In many instances, the "authorized" final product only exists in storage farms at EMC, IBM, Hitachi, NetApps.

The smaller producers and Indie producers also find the flexibility, economy and safety/security of shared cloud services to be the way to go by having their content, backup and archive spread across storage servers at Amazon, Microsoft, Google and a growing number of cloud service providers. 

It?s the way they?re getting ready for the next phase of the industry?video-on-demand, entertainment on the viewer?s terms, not the programming committee.

Securing the Cloud

Securing The CloudThe toughest part of the content production process is ensuring that solid security solutions are used. It’s all about protecting the financial and talent investment people because it directly impacts the investment ordinary folks are willing to make to watch the stuff. 

The toughest challenge facing the Tellywood and Indie crowd isn?t finishing the project. It?s keeping it safe, secure from the cyberthieves. When pirates steal creative work, the entire marketplace suffers.

Of course, next year we?re going to spend more time in the small booths in the back of the halls? that’s where the real stuff is located.