Pandemic Hastens M&E Industry Adoption of Cloud Workflows

ETC program director Erik Weaver introduced a live Equinix/ETC@USC webinar on “The Future of Media & Entertainment in a Time of Radical Change.” The opening keynote address on cloud workflows, moderated by film/TV media workflow engineer Michael Kammes, featured Microsoft Azure chief technology officer of media & entertainment Hanno Basse and Avid chief executive & president Jeff Rosica. Kammes opened the conversation by asking Basse and Rosica to describe how their companies are experiencing the move into the cloud.

Avid‘s Rosica noted that, as a conservative industry, media & entertainment companies have been moving to the cloud at a careful pace. “This crisis showed that we can do it,” he said. “Over the last six weeks, many companies adopted workflows for remote working via cloud.”

At Microsoft Azure, Basse agreed, adding that the industry has been working on cloud solutions for a long time. “A lot of structural issues had slowed it down, but with the pandemic, we’re really seeing this pivot,” he said. “It’s accelerated the rollout of many things that had already been planned.”

Kammes asked what the limiting factors have been. “There’s a lot of money on the line in our business,” said Rosica. “People also have high expectations.” Basse added that, on the technological side, people were worried about latency and security issues.

Kammes asked what kinds of productions should be looking into cloud solutions. “I could make an argument for relying on the cloud in almost every workflow we do,” said Rosica. “The cloud unlocks so many things.” Basse agreed, noting that, “it will go from studios driving the change to small productions.”

He pointed out that there’s already remote collaboration for the front-end, with scripts, pitches and storyboards, and the backend, with post production. “The piece in the middle — physical production — is on hold now,” he said. “Making a safe environment will mean reducing the number of people on the set, so we’ll have to figure out how to do that with the cloud. The tools aren’t all there today, but that’s the vision we’re working on, for all kinds of content and productions.”

Kammes noted that being able to grade in the cloud, especially considering the advent of HDR, is still very difficult — and that Pro Tools also isn’t being done in the cloud. “Certain things are still best suited to on-premises,” he said. Rosica agreed. “There isn’t a solution today,” he said, but noted that “American Idol” is doing mixing from home, leveraging the cloud to share files.

“In that case, the cloud is being used to break up projects or do tracking,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll be fully running Pro Tools but it will be used behind scenes, and the state of the art will move forward quickly as people want to do it.”

Basse stated that there are current solutions, such as working with proxy files. “We see these workflows today are fine,” he said. “Demand has a way of delivering solutions that didn’t seem workable a few years — or a few weeks — ago. There are no insurmountable technical hurdles here to prevent these things from happening.”