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Work/life balance: Remote post-production advances save costs, ‘more hours editing, less behind the wheel’

By Shaun Lim

Among the many technology firsts displayed at the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, OBS Cloud, a collaboration between Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and Alibaba Cloud, could prove to be the most instructive in predicting how media production teams will operate in a world that continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides allowing content to be remotely distributed to Rights-Holding Broadcasters (RHBs), OBS Cloud also decreased the footprint required on the ground. From any location around the world, and with a stable Internet connection, any member of the production team could engage in remote post-production via the flexibility of the cloud platform.

However, as COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to increase around the world, and as many organisations begin to contemplate a return to the physical workplace, surely remote work cannot be the long-term approach for one of the most important elements in the video production process.

Or could it?

From the start of COVID-19 restrictions around the globe, and within a very short period of time, production teams of all sizes creating news, primetime shows, films and other content have proved that they can succeed at doing their jobs from anywhere, said Michael Krulik, Video Product Evangelist at Avid.

He told APB+, “Out of necessity, innovation came very quickly, both in how creators got their work done and how companies like Avid adjusted to support them.

“What we quickly discovered is how our industry can absolutely work effectively from remote locations, to the point where many aren’t planning to go back on premises.”

In a highly competitive media landscape where both traditional and non-traditional players compete for the attention of increasingly distracted viewers, remote work may in fact, be a necessity to drive cost efficiency. 

Moreover, and perhaps contrary to conventional belief, productivity will not be adversely impacted, as Krulik highlighted: “Many see [remote work] as an opportunity to boost productivity – more hours editing, less behind the wheel, and less stress about the potential to contract COVID-19.

“The move to full-time remote or a hybrid model is going to expand beyond the pandemic because people are finding out that they can get their work done while also finding a new work/life balance.”

Remote post-production starts at home

For some employees, one of the most frustrating aspects of working from home is an unreliable Internet connection that hampers their ability to work effectively and without interruption.

With the need to reduce latency issues when remotely editing, and to have the best experience when collaborating with team members, high-bandwidth connectivity is non-negotiable and an imperative.

“A lot of editing decisions are based on time and there can’t be a delay when you hit play,” said Krulik. “Fortunately, the quality of bandwidth commonly available today allows remote workers to replicate a professional edit setup at home.”

As for how a typical remote production setup at home looks like, he provided a description: “It might include a workstation connected to local drives provided by the network or audio, or just a standard workstation with remote access to an NLE (non-linear editing system) at the facility, whereby a standard edit bay may have a complete setup with an audio mixing board and sound monitoring to edit in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound.

“An online edit bay may also be configured for optimal colour monitoring and finishing to ensure the colour and highest quality of the images and footages coming through the post pipeline. There are also different controls that enable production teams to do 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound in the rooms they have.”

As attested earlier in this article, the increasing deployment of cloud is likely to shape the future of remote production, and by extension, remote post production. The key, according to Krulik, is to enable teams to collaborate in the cloud in a way that is “virtually indistinguishable” from on-premise editing. 

Avid’s Edit On Demand software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, for instance, puts Avid Media Composer cloud editing and Avid NEXIS cloud storage into the hands of highly distributed production teams so they can collaborate from anywhere. 

Krulik added, “The resource becomes fully available very rapidly – in fact, post-production teams on their own can set up a virtualised workflow in a matter of hours to allow editors and other contributors to collaborate from anywhere, and then shut it down when a project is completed.”

What other key considerations should be taken into account when designing a remote post-production workflow?

“That will depend on the specific roles of team members in the production environment, with the capabilities and permission of producers, loggers and special effects supervisors varying greatly,” said Krulik.

Start by asking yourself these key questions, he recommended. “Do they all need to be working off the same shared storage environment, and do they need to be able to just send sequences and bins back and forth to a facility? Perhaps, the most crucial consideration in order to get started is to ensure the bandwidth needed to make sure all team members can work effectively and efficiently, no matter where they’re located.”

As the pandemic continues to change the way the world works, including those in the broadcast and media industry, the concept of post-production being carried out from the confines of one’s home does not appear to be such a remote possibility after all.

Question: What will the New Normal in post-production be … post-Covid pandemic? Will working and collaborating in the cloud become “virtually indistinguishable” from on-premise editing?What are your thoughts? APB+ welcomes your views and predictions. Kindly send them to maven@editecintl.com

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