SMPTE Tech Summit at NAB: Distributive Creativity in the Cloud

“Computers are like a bicycle for our minds,” Steve Jobs once said. “If that’s the case, then the cloud is a jetliner,” said Josh Rizzo, VP technology for Hula Post Production and moderator of SMPTE’s “Distributive Creativity” panel at NAB on the use of the cloud by the entertainment industry. Rizzo started off by making two overarching points: First, the entertainment industry is moving from expression to experience. Second, anything that can be built can be hacked, but the cloud is more secure than many options.

The cloud is secure because there is a large population working on cloud security, and the security being used is changed and updated often.

Ramy Katrib, founder and CEO of of DigitalFilm Tree, described ‘cloud’ as the ability to store, compute, and network, all in the same place. He was enthralled when his engineers discovered OpenStack six months ago. “It is like Amazon and Microsoft, but cooler,” he said. OpenStack is hardware agnostic, software defined, highly scalable, open source, and has no vendor lock-in, he noted.

DigitalFilm Tree’s metadata management strategy is to grab everything, put it in one location, and develop metadata management strategies as they organically develop during work. Katrib described files as living organisms that build relationships with other files through metadata-related associations, preserve themselves within a cloud community of files, and duplicate and evolve.

For Matthew Schneider, director of technology at Technicolor PostWorks New York facility, his client is both the person or organization and the network, desktop, or workstation. The way his company communicates with both types of clients can impact his client-vendor relationship.

The rapid decline in the cost of production and post resources is changing the flow and the volume of the work. Schneider discussed one client’s non-fiction shoot that had a 700:1 shooting ratio. That amounted to 100TB of camera original data, requiring 2,100 hours to ingest the data, and 268 eight-hour shifts (or 134 business days of double shifts) to work on the data; all for eight 44 minute episodes.

Joe Beirne, CTO of Technicolor PostWorks, made two points: First, the workplace is often the worst place to do work. Utilizing the cloud allows distributed workplaces. Second, the industry has turned promiscuous copying into accepted practice, even though it is counter to security concerns. The cloud allows the production to limit copies without compromising access or security.

During Q&A, audience-member Michael Schroder from Microsoft asked the panel what is missing for cloud and workflow solutions that the entertainment industry needs. Rules for metadata creation, search, and control, said Katrib. He singled out the need for automated metadata capture within the camera. Schneider said that Avid made some interesting announcements yesterday that could shape the development metadata rules. Avid apparently announced that they have created tools to allow users to make all of their data and metadata created in their Avid system available to third parties for application development.

Schneider re-raised the idea the clients will slowly adjust to the idea of a secure cloud. He noted that TurboTax is like a cloud application. Your most personal information is protected by a user ID and password, he noted. People have adjusted to that, and will adjust to cloud use.

Rizzo wanted everyone to understand that when talking about public and private clouds, the word ‘public’ in public cloud is a misnomer. It is not like a public restroom that anyone can use. It is a managed cloud run by a private company for use by paying clients.

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