George Kilpatrick, Vice President of Product Strategy with Technicolor, summarizes the current status of cloud computing in the moviemaking industry, discusses Technicolor’s cloud computing offerings to aid film production, and highlights some of the issues that will need to be addressed to increase the use of cloud computing in movie production.
Kilpatrick: If we’d had this conversation a couple of years ago we would have been very much in the experimentation phase. It is still early days for the use of cloud in media and entertainment but there has been a lot of experimentation on the studio side and the supplier side, and even by distributors. We are now seeing live cloud productions. That said, there is still a degree of nervousness on the production side, among those who own the content. Some of it is for good reasons. Some of it is less so.
There is an education process underway. The full power of what cloud can bring to help production has yet to be realized. For example, helping remote production, and international collaboration across the world, being able to access content from anywhere so you can do the various operations that are needed in production. Uptake has been slow to date, but the pace in increasing.
Kilpatrick: We have to be careful how we define cloud. For private cloud, which is what Technicolor owns, you are absolutely right. We have our own storage and our own network that we can keep secure. We have multiple live productions in many parts of the world, some that have already been delivered, some that are ongoing, and I can only see that expanding.
On the public cloud side, there is work in that area using the famous names we know, including Google, Azure, and AWS. But for actual full production on an open cloud it is very early days. In part that is because there is still nervousness from a number of bodies like the Motion Picture Association of America, the security body, with fully embracing the cloud today. We are moving in the right direction, and Technicolor is very keen to exploit all that these public cloud providers have to offer. Think of the scale of these companies and the investment they are making. We really need to work with them.
Kilpatrick: There are some parts of the production ecosystem that are absolutely using public cloud. For example, dailies type solutions. We can talk about our own dailies solution, Rush, that absolutely relies on public cloud, but it is a small part of the whole production supply chain.
Kilpatrick: The industry is familiar with facilities, those of Technicolor and its competitors, where tapes are brought in from set and ingested into storage in that facility and teams work on those files to do the editing, compositing, finishing, etc.
What we are trying to get away from this facilities-based approach and use the cloud to make it a virtual production environment, where it will not matter where you work and where you film. People want to exploit various tax breaks, or film in exotic locations, but there is not necessarily going to be a facility in those locations.
So, we want to free up the creatives to get the advantages of a service in the cloud. Once they have delivered their content we want to be able to offer them the same level of Technicolor expertise, but from the cloud. They will then be able to effectively collaborate on a global basis with the best talent wherever it is but using the facilities the cloud can support. They will be able to review content and do all the things you would expect a creative to be able to do to produce great content, but without having to be near that facility.
Kilpatrick: Technicolor Pulse is a digital production platform, which has some core elements that are all cloud-based. For example, the administration, storage and security are central to the platform but it allows various other platforms and application to sit on it and integrate with it through a Restful API, which is a fairly normal cloud-based architecture that people would recognize.
We use that to especially focus on VFX-heavy film, theatrical and broadcast productions, because we have seen a huge upsurge in those and clearly we have a lot of investment in that area in our own companies within Technicolor, for example MPC, The Mill and Mr. X.
Part of the process in production is the VFX pull where we are sending out VFX frames to our VFX houses for their process to begin, be they Technicolor or a third party. Clearly the choice of VFX house is up to the production to choose, and we are agnostic. We license this product to anyone who needs to use it for a particular production.
This means that the creatives have the flexibility to choose who they feel is best to do any particular job. Pulse co-ordinates and controls the flow of content, the original camera files and the transcoded files we send out to VFX houses. It controls the metadata and ensures that the production has full visibility of what is happening on a day-to-day basis and can then feed that into the last parts of the production process, the conform, and the finishing. That is basically what Pulse does.
Kilpatrick: Technicolor Pulse is a 24/7 platform, so there could be somebody in South Africa uploading content from a set. They don’t have to wait for US hours or UK hours. That is true for the original camera files, and it is true for processes further down the line, like the VFX pulls I have described.
That can happen at any time and means greater flexibility. You can work around the clock. You can get visibility of anything at any time. You don’t have to wait for the US West Coast to wake up. That creates confidence and scheduling advantages and cost reduction in many cases for a production, because you are saving time and hopefully some of the overhead every show has by providing that 24/7 capability.
Kilpatrick: We see a great advantage in integrating the two. Streaming dailies are produced from the output of the digital front-end team working on set with the production. We produce those first rushes or dailies to allow executives and the production to do their reviews.
I believe that process will always be needed, but in the light of what I have just said, if you are doing a production halfway across the world, you want to get access and you want to have the best possible platform that you can.
You need to be able to play these clips maybe on a tablet, or on a PC in your hotel room, and as a result you need to have a well-designed platform that is easy to use, easy to train people on but also that is based on a public cloud so you can gain access anywhere in the world. You need to do it securely because this is high value content.
That is what Rush does. There are other products in the market but what we would ultimately like to do is provide that service and link it into Pulse so that the meta data for a particular shot can be linked to its original camera file and, further into the process, to the VFX frames that are provided as part of the production process.
Kilpatrick: I think in the production space and the distribution space there will be many suppliers exhibiting products utilizing cloud techniques. Technicolor is very excited about this and we will be showing our ecosystem of tools and services to show how a production is made.
We will be showing the end-to-end process from camera through to distribution and how cloud technologies can make the process easier, quicker, cheaper, and hopefully free up the creative.
Technicolor is very keen to support the creative process and remove the overhead and the difficulty of administering a project allowing creative more time to think about what they really want to do, which is to take great shots and make a great story.
That is what we are showing at NAB and I hope people will come and engage and talk to use about it and tell us about their particular problems and how we can fix them together, because we are on a learning curve as well and we would like to hear from them.