HPA Tech Retreat: Pitfalls and Epiphanies in Cloud Production

Walden Pond CEO and former Warner Bros. exec Wendy Aylsworth led an HPA Tech Retreat panel on how companies are finding benefits working in the cloud due to increased bandwidth and Wi-Fi reliability. Cloud productions aren’t just about collaboration, but also are creating new levels of automation from pre-production through post. Despite the new benefits — and adoption by a host of users — early proponents still have pain points, said Ayslworth, who brought together the panelists to discuss the pros and cons of their experiences.

Avalanche’s Joshua Kolden is the architect behind C4 (Cinema Content Creation Cloud), an open-source framework for production in the cloud. “With C4, we’ve been talking how essential an absolute identification of assets is, which allows us to address it in a way that can’t be broken because it doesn’t rely on URLs or other changeable addressing systems,” he said. “The next big piece of the open source framework for cloud production is workflows.”

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SyncOnSet chief executive Alex LoVerde spoke about his cloud solution for Web and mobile, which “enables productions of all sizes to manage assets, continuity and accounting for costumes, props, set dressing, makeup, hair and locations.” LoVerde noted how keeping such data in the cloud, as opposed to maintaining it as paper records, increases security. “Cloud computing is really helping in the space,” he said. He showed a slide of a physical continuity binder, which is full of photos and printed notes about wardrobe in a movie’s every scene.

“What is the data security and control over the digital devices used to take and print photos used in the binder?” he asked. “How do you control who goes into the binder beyond a sticky note that says, Please keep out? This is critical data. What happens if it gets lost? Or if someone takes photo of one of the photos in the binder and puts it on Twitter?” His company’s software provides control over user access, limits devices and offers digital watermarking.

Avid solution integration architect Gurparkash Saini talked about his company’s Pro Tools audio cloud collaboration that relies on the AWS platform. The software lets users create sessions, where collaborators can be invited in to access only shared tracks. Other features include global and track based automatic or manual sync of changes, in-app Instant Chat & Notifictions with transaction log, and online/offline working using local project caches. Avid’s cloud collaboration platform currently has approximately 600 projects at any given time.

Pixvana CTO Scott Squires focused on his company’s creation of 360-degree videos. “We knew that the many ways we could leverage the cloud would be important for our company,” he said. “For 360 videos, we use anywhere from six to 24 digital cameras and lenses, so you deal with a lot of footage, shooting 30 to 60 fps, greater than HD quality. That’s a large data upload and if you lose any camera, you lose the shot.”

Stitching is another data-intensive task, typically done in 4K. “The creation of 360 videos also uses computational photography, vision algorithms, all of which are compute intensive and can be offered in the cloud,” he said, noting that his company is also building a post production pipeline to take advantage of the cloud.