Dell EMC’s Burns Predicts Advance of Innovative Tech Trends

Dell EMC chief technology officer for media & entertainment Thomas Burns noted the “specific superpower” of natural disasters in driving change. “The entire industry experiences this all together and forces everyone to change at the same time,” he explained during yesterday’s Equinix/ETC webinar. “Although the tools may be lesser resolution, the talent and the viewers don’t mind. We have a free pass to experiment that we wouldn’t otherwise.” That observation, he said, is relevant to the changes the M&E industry is undergoing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dell EMC‘s Burns related the metaphor of a pendulum clock’s “escapement” mechanism, which breaks up analog time into individual “ticks.” “Information is news of a difference,” he said. “Every time there’s a tick, it’s an inflection point away from the stasis of received wisdom of how things should be done.” But, he continued, “that’s only useful in an event like a pandemic, when everyone experiences these things all together.”

He pointed to the 2011 tsunami that destroyed Sony’s manufacturing facility for then-cutting edge HDCAM SR tapes. “Everyone knew that tape-based editing, color correction and mastering were best,” he said. “After the tsunami, some were able to get a hold of old tapes, but everyone else had to adopt file-based workflows.”

At the time, file-based workflows were considered “a science project for students and hobbyists,” but the need to move forward meant that most in the industry showed “no hesitation in using non-professional technologies that could be massaged into the needs and restraints of professional media.” “My point,” he said, “is that when an event forces everyone to adapt, the usual cultural concerns about change go away.”

At the 2020 HPA Tech Retreat, the “Lost Lederhosen” project was a live on-stage production relying on a hybrid cloud solution — in front of 800 Hollywood professionals. “Participants proved live on stage that we could do a complicated hybrid cloud production workflow,” he said. “Attendees saw how to put together a cloud workflow. In doing that, we advanced cloud production several years forward.”

He noted that FilmLight Baselight color grading and Pro Tools were used remotely, with other tools on-prem. “One thing this proved is that scaling the control plane functionalities over a distributed collaborative environment was the toughest thing to do,” he added.

He ended by bringing up the topic of disruptive innovation, first described in 1995 at Harvard Business School by Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen. “The idea is that the things that eat your business start off as toys,” said Burns, who pointed out inexpensive devices using Lidar to scan for volumetric capture, including Intel RealSense ($199) and even a feature in the recently released Apple iPad Pro.

Last, Burns showed a map of the U.S. that highlighted “the best neighborhoods for collaboration.” “Latency is an issue,” he said. “And proximity does matter.”