HPA Tech Retreat: Panel Ponders New Era of Post Production

In what was perhaps the most forward-looking panel yet to appear onstage at the HPA Tech Retreat, a group of six professionals from across the post-production industry made the case Thursday afternoon that the future of post would be more distributed, more accessible, and very much dependent on cloud technologies. The “Virtual/Distributed Post” panel, moderated by Creative COW‘s Debra Kaufman, featured individuals working to develop and deploy technologies that break the mold of traditional post-production facilities.

Rather than thinking of post-production as a serial process, the panelists agreed, where one step follows the next, it is time to start thinking of production as a parallel process, where many things can happen at once.

“We need to stop thinking of ourselves as technologists, and think about the user,” said David Peto, founder of Aframe. “They’re used to using Facebook and Gmail, they’re used to having instant access to everything.”

Jennifer Goldstein Barnes of DAX, agreed. “Our organization is looking to be that thing that gets it all up into the cloud, so that people can start accessing it and start working with it. You’ve got to get it all into a place where everyone can access it.”

The panelists shared a vision of a future workflow where media assets are stored in a cloud, and the difficult computing tasks that constitute modern post-production are handled remotely by a server rather than locally by a workstation. This approach would offer greater flexibility, easier scalability, and higher efficiencies, they said.

Yet while the panelists were sanguine about the coming changes, they admitted that barriers still remain, not all of them technological. Guillaume Aubuchon, of DigitalFilm Tree, conceded that there is some resistance to the new ideas, and that many producers are apprehensive about the new workflow. “We’re only five or ten years removed from film workflow,” he said. “Many people just got their brains around file-based workflows, so the transition to cloud-based seems overwhelming.”

There was skepticism from some of the audience as well, several of whom asked questions or voiced concerns about content security, though the panelists were unanimous in their opinion that content in the cloud was actually far more secure than content housed on local physical media.

The cloud offers better control, the ability to vary levels of access, a better way to back up the assets, and most importantly, a detailed picture of who is accessing what, and when. In this vision of the future, post-production is no longer one step in a process of creating a film or television show, but a central node in a broad network of content creation.

The mood of the panel was neatly summed up by Bill Feightner, an award-winning image expert and the current CTO of Colorfront. “I don’t think we do post anymore,” Feightner said. “We are part of the production process.”