Experts Address 5G and the Cloud for Post, Visual Effects

At NAB in Las Vegas, BeBop Technology director of technical sales Nathaniel Bonini described how his company provides virtual versions of the post-production tools artists are used to working with, but in the cloud. That includes tools from Autodesk and, in a new partnership, Avid among others. Cloud-based virtual post and VFX tools give post houses and VFX facilities tremendous efficiencies, including the ability to scale up and down. StratusCore is another company that creates an entire virtualized workstation in the cloud.

“We provide a virtual workplace,” explained StratusCore co-founder/chief executive Denise Muyco. “We create a friction-free virtualized workstation with collaboration and storage. The expectations of the clients and the artists are met.”

Moderated by 30 Ninjas partner Lewis Smithingham, an NAB 2019 panel considered some of the new developments impacting production and post in the cloud. Muyco noted that 5G is one new technology with a potentially great impact. “VFX is mostly in post, but with the lines blurred between pre-production, production and post, 5G will help artists collaborate from wherever they are,” she said.

Smithingham pointed out that, when it comes to 5G, “the hype machine is in overdrive.” At Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, director of the video division Ralf Schäfer pointed out that 5G is about mobile connectivity. “Cost will be a significant factor in its adoption,” he said. “But 5G is not competitive with wireline technology, which offers speeds comparable to 5G. One millisecond of latency is radio-to-radio, but the rest of the network has to catch up. 5G’s main effect will be more mobile bandwidth and the expanded capacity for additional devices.”

The Molecule’s chief executive/visual effects supervisor Chris Healer demonstrated how his VFX company could use 5G. In a scene from the TV show “Elementary,” elements were shot in New York and London then married with composites created in Los Angeles. “5G would have been great if the crew in London shooting backplates could have had better communication with the other crews,” he said. “We could have sent back live comps, which would have helped them to adjust the shots to make them perfect. Without real-time feedback, you don’t know for sure how it’s going to work.”

“Cloud computing and 5G aren’t the same thing,” Healer pointed out. “But 5G enables cloud computing to work better.” Bonini mentioned, “One benefit of working in the cloud is to bring all the assets and elements into storage where any workstation could see it. You can toss the work from London to New York to Los Angeles and back seamlessly without moving from data center to data center.”

Muyco said this kind of work “comes down to workflow — and is also a mindset.” Healer agreed, saying that his company is working on a way to turn VFX into a workflow analogous to Google Docs. “I can log into a shot and we can both work on portions of it and see it,” he said. “Finding those little gaps and spackling it together is what will work. It’ll take three to five years to rewrite all the software.”