Cloud control

How the cloud is helping to empower the production industry
Cloud control, Cloud in TV production, Analysis, Content management

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From standard web offerings such as Dropbox to more bespoke applications, the cloud is helping to empower the production industry

The cloud is the latest technological curveball changing the way we live and work. Storing pictures, music and documents online in virtual online locations has become commonplace.
Less than three years ago we were all carrying around USB sticks with our files, now we’re logging into our personal clouds and accessing more information than we previously could
have imagined.

The cloud technology industry is predicted to grow five times by 2020 and business es will be driving that. It is revolutionising the way people do business, and broadcasting is also on that journey. Services provided through the internet are now altering the way TV content is produced.

A multitude of software and services have emerged offering producers more and more choice in how to manage their production through the various stages.

From pre-production right through to post-production, services provided through the cloud are being used more and more often. Simple storage requirements all the way through to the most complex service demands are being met by the cloud.

Facilities such as Dropbox, We Transfer and Avid Everywhere are being used across the content production and broadcast industry and are rapidly evolving to cope with the demands of the industry.

There is an ever increasing demand to speed up the production process and for resources to be used in the most effective way possible – and cloud services meet these demands.

Production and post-house Gorilla is using cloud services on three different levels explains managing director Rich Moss.

“Client review, logging rushes and cutting on the cloud are the three sections that we think about the cloud in,” he says. For Gorilla, which works with Sky, the BBC and the UK’s Channel 4, cloud technology first entered the production process to allow clients to review the work as early as possible.

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“Historically you get to the point on an edit and the commissioner would come in and see it.
“That can often be a waste of time and energy particularly as we’re doing loads of international programmes now. Rather than make a DVD and put it in the post we can now upload our files to YouTube or Vimeo saving everyone time and energy,” Moss adds.

As well as allowing clients the chance to give additional feedback and see work more often through the editing process, cloud technology is actually becoming central to the editing process itself.

By using technology, such as Forscene, Gorilla productions can now have all the rushes in one place. That means that logging, transcribing and even editing are all being done from the cloud.

“I can’t think of a production now that doesn’t want to host their rushes in the cloud. To be able to log, view and transcribe, go through music details and watch rough cuts and get comments from commissioners really quickly is great. In terms of people editing in the cloud we are pretty much doing that now,” Moss continues.

In the future he believes that cameramen will be posting their rushes in full resolution into the cloud. “The amount of media being used is increasing rather than decreasing”, he adds.

Companies such as Fourscene are directly targeting the market and as well as new entrants to the market, established players such as Avid are also closely examining the cloud. The editing software giant is considering how to interact the cloud into its central offering.
One of its latest developments, Avid Everywhere, will see cloud services being offered in the edit environment.

While on the one hand, the use of cloud for storage is hugely advantageous for companies such as Gorilla, there are also concerns about whether it cuts the use of post-houses out of the picture. Storage is a key part of how post houses operate and the cloud could be a threat to that.

At the moment, Gorilla’s use of the cloud is typical of how many production companies are using the cloud in countries where there internet service is robust and the appropriate bandwidth is available. However, even in the UK there are complaints about the fact that internet speeds need to be quicker for the industry to be able to truly adopt cloud services.

Previously, production companies were wary of adopting the cloud because of its virtual nature and particularly because of the large amounts of data that is transferred from one place to another. Broadcasting is a data heavy industry which relies on robust forms of infrastructure to move all of the content around.

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Areas of production which have been quick to adopt new technology are news and live broadcasts. News producers require information constantly and the cloud also provides the added benefit of allowing people to work from the same rushes simultaneously.

Jon Collins principal analyst with Inter Orbis believes that journalism will change with increased use of cloud services. “Snippets of videos that people are making themselves and how that can be harnessed will be a major change to journalism. You can’t just send all those clips to a big edit suite in the sky, it needs to be organised.”

Collins believes that cloud technology will enable news broadcasters to use citizen journalism to optimise their own content.

However he also believes the industry may have been right to be cautious initially. So many of the technological advances rely on strong infrastructure and planning, he explains. “The success of a cloud based approach boils down to technology architecture.”

Unrealistic expectations about how quickly information can be transferred from one place to another means that the right planning often suffers.

If the planning and forward thinking is put in place there are numerous benefits from using services provided over the internet, Collins explains. They include faster transmission times and flexibility.

The key is ensuring that implementation of the technology is that it is constantly evolving. “We still think that we should be building applications like we did in the 70s and there are often plans for two years of implementation, but the technology world is moving much faster than two year cycles.”

The evolution of the technology is not the only factor deciding on the uptake of cloud technology in broadcast production.

Collins is clear that the robustness of the internet is also crucial for the adoption of cloud technology. He believes that 4G could “further transform the way that we think about and use video.”

4G offers twice the wireless speeds and with it slowly being adopted in the Middle East this could lead to further adoption of cloud technology. The advantage of 4G is that rather than relying on satellites to upload time sensitive content such as news or sports, 4G can do that much more quickly.

To date, the adoption of cloud services in the Middle East has been relatively slow with a trend to continue using internal servers. In some areas of business there has been a lack of understanding of what cloud technology offers – partly because there are so many services on offer. However, there are signs that businesses are starting to show some interest in the model.

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A recent report from the International Data Corporation identified the growth of cloud computing in the region. Telco operators are increasingly looking to fill the gap which has been identified in the market. While the services are becoming more established the cost of using cloud services in the region remains very expensive.

As well cost considerations, some producers are still nervous about the security of their content. Across the globe there have been security concerns about the use of cloud technology. The main concerns revolve around work being easily accessed by third parties, data security and data loss.

Any of those are risks are weighed up very carefully in production. However, for some the benefits of using the cloud outweigh the risks involved.

Rich Moss explains: “In practical terms we’re not going to worry too much about security on the cloud. It is the same level of security as you have in your building.”

Collins echoes that view. “Security in terms of back up security and anti-virus in general as well as physical security to send to providers are more secure than you can do yourself because their business depends on it. They provide lockable things and they provide security guards”, he explains.

Rather than concerns about the security of content – Collins believes the debate is actually around privacy. If a piece of software is built on top of an American server and whether they can look inside the server. Moss also explains that from his point of view security is a legal tick-box about where the servers are located.

Despite security concerns and uncertainty about how the cloud technology will pan out, even in countries where the cloud is being used more regularly, there are question marks about its use in broadcasting. Its evolution in the Middle East depends on affordability, infrastructure and appropriate technology being introduced into the market.

Internationally the broadcast industry has already been slow to take up the opportunities offered by cloud technology. However, cloud technology is increasingly becoming part of everyday life and inevitably will become part of the broadcasting landscape.

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