Editing ascends to the Cloud

  • By Adrian Pennington

Editing ascends to the Cloud

Creative collaborative workflows connecting pools of geo-distributed teams is becoming the new norm in postproduction - by Adrian Pennington...

On the back of both the significant changes to operational paradigms brought about by the pandemic and an increasingly heavy demand for off-site, remote and distributed production video editors need to work on collaborative projects in disparate locations, and yet still retain the reliability, operational speed and quality associated with traditional editing suites. 

The answer is in the Cloud. 

“Cloud editing, or editing in the Cloud, has firmly transcended the level of being a purely technical discussion,” says Andrew Wierzan. VP Product, pixitmedia. “Where it was once a question of ‘could it work?’ we are now in the realm of ‘will it work for my business?’ 

While there are many offerings from SaaS, IaaS, Managed Services, and Roll-Your-Own, media, organisations must be mindful of being locked into a platform long-term. For creative businesses to remain cost effective, agile, leverage the next wave of technological developments, and adapt to continually changing market conditions, this can be easily overlooked,” says Wierzan. 

He says, Cloud is proven to be capable of delivering performance far in excess of what many on-premise facilities would be willing to invest in. Aside from the challenge of latency from the datacentre to the creative, the limiting factor is often how Cloud is integrated into the overall workflow or pipeline.  

“Hybrid must be a key focus for creative organizations and technology vendors alike. The winners will be those who respect the creative process, and deliver solutions that benefit the overall creative process. pixitmedia have been enabling creative organisations to embrace cloud now for a number of years, in a hybrid, cost-efficient and open way. We utilise the performance of pixstors unified experience across on-premise, hybrid and cloud, and with our data management software ngenea, users can take on cloud with no vendor lock in, bandwidth or capacity tax.  Our solutions give our customers the freedom to rapidly integrate with other pipeline and workflow software, applications and Cloud.” 

For Editshare, Cloud editing is synonymous with creative, premium quality editing using storage and compute resources in the cloud, controlled from a convenient location using a remote desktop interface like Teradici. 

“It is a hugely powerful enabler for genuinely distributed, collaborative workflows,” says CTO Stephen Tallamy. “It also offers potential economies and reduction in environmental impact.”

At NAB, Editshare launched FLEX, the framework by which editors can use their preferred software - Adobe, Apple, Avid, Blackmagic and more - on virtual workstations in the AWS cloud. 

“Processing resources are spooled up as required, for example if you need a complex render accomplished quickly. High quality proxies minimise the need to transfer large, full-resolution files,” explains Tallamy. “Customers maintain full control over their working environment and content security, while gaining all the benefits of remote working and editing in the cloud.”

Any collaborative workflow can take advantage of the cloud, he says. There are some limitations around calibrated monitoring for high-end grading so that might best be served by a hybrid model, but certainly cloud editing delivers real advantages in ‘work anywhere’, as well as reducing physical and carbon footprints, and in the shift towards an opex financial model, where the costs of each project can be clearly defined. It also allows you to very quickly spin up additional resources when you need to meet a temporary demand. 

“If the raw material is stored in the cloud, it makes sense to process it there, too, rather than introduce the inefficiencies, costs and security risks of downloading it to remote edit workstations.”

LucidLink is a fully native cloud storage system (Cloud Network Attached Storage/ NAS) built on S3 object storage that enables collaborative distributed workflows for creative teams working with Adobe Premiere and other leading NLEs.  

LucidLink Filespaces - winner of a NAB 2022 Award for best Cloud Computing and Storage product is a cloud-native file system specifically designed for high-latency environments such as media projects to increase performance, reduce data movement costs, and governance. 

Users can easily stream data directly from the cloud, eliminating the need to download or synchronize. LucidLink is at the forefront of cloud services and storage, offering a secure file system specifically built for modern cloud-computing environments. With LucidLink, any application, process, or workflow can benefit from low-cost and elastic storage.  

Its growing list of users includes Final Pixel, a virtual production studio which is unusual in owning no physical stage infrastructure. 

Dominic Maher, Technical Artist, Final Pixel explains, “There’s simply no comparison in terms of cost between using physical servers versus a cloud NAS solution like LucidLink, but LucidLink also has the performance of a full cloud NAS solution with the cost of object storage. That combination is a no-brainer.” 

Final Pixel’s work ranges from creating internal presentations with massive video files to creating final pixel assets at every stage from pre-viz to post. 

Maher says, “VP is very iterative in the sense that instead of working on shots sequentially, you do lots of different things in parallel and maybe sometimes out of sequence. LucidLink fits into that perfectly because the whole process is so transparent. We’re all working remotely from assets stored in the cloud, but with LucidLink it’s like there is a drive attached to your machine.” 

Accepting that Cloud production and remote editing are now a universal part of content creation, the impact on workflows risks being undermined by widespread use of inefficient methods. 

A survey carried out by Caretta Research and sponsored by cloud editing tools developer Blackbird, suggests 90% of video professionals have adopted cloud production and remote editing in their workflows, with collaborative working and client review and approval as the top use cases. 

However, most remote editing is still implemented using “old-school, inefficient and slow workflows - with 65% of users moving original high-res media files around the internet to support remote editing workflows. 

Many others are moving proxy files, or remoting back to an edit workstation in a facility, “a model that is wasteful of expensive resources,” says the report author, Robert Ambrose, Caretta Research’s Co-founder and MD. 

“From our experience talking with hundreds of industry professionals, we’re seeing a distinct shift from cloud-enabled workflows to cloud-native workflows. This study shows just that the flexibility of working remotely has unlocked new value and savings but has often been compromised by adapting legacy ways of working. 

“We’re now seeing the adoption of workflows and tools that are optimised for cloud, avoiding the cost and security issues of constantly moving content around.” 

Blackbird of course has a vested interest in this finding since it claims its cloud native technology is less demanding on needing to send high bit rate data back and forth across the internet. This is a more efficient use of bandwidth, it maintains, doesn’t require any dedicated hardware other than a standard workstation and internet connection, and reduces the carbon output. 

Users who have adopted cloud video workflows and remote editing recognise a number of important operational and financial benefits. Top of the list is the ability to work faster: freed from the constraints of being in a particular facility, users able to work flexible are more productive. In turn this translates to cost efficiencies, an important benefit for most users. Additional benefits of cloud workflows ranked highly by users include access to more powerful features, and more-resilient operations, avoiding dependency on physical locations and on-premise infrastructure. 

Users of cloud-native tools are far more likely to use them for fast-turnaround workflows, concludes the report, including creating clips and highlights for digital platforms and social media, and managing real-time editing of live content like sports. 

With its roots back in the 1990s, Blackbird can lay claim to being the first browser based editor, and certainly the one that has gained most commercial traction with customers including Whisper, Cheddar News and Sky News Arabia.  

It is not the only one though. A Norwegian startup CuttingRoom claims to have launched the first cloud-native browser-based editing and publishing tool for video pros. It’s a SaaS solution with an interface that incorporates all the expected elements of a source/sequence/timeline editing package. 

CuttingRoom allows for Adobe After Effects templates to be integrated, facilitates closed-caption search and metadata management and can integrate with MAM systems like Vimond, Mimir, Iconik and Wolftech. 

In terms of technical specifications, CuttingRoom can ingest both live and recorded video, stills and audio in a range of formats, which can be published in a variety of bitrates, aspect ratios and containers. Rendering is undertaken concurrently, delivering outputs quickly with a consistent performance that is maintained regardless of load. 

CuttingRoom is headed by the co-founders of video streaming provider Vimond Media Solutions, Glenn S. Pedersen and Helge Høibraaten.

They estimate that editing with their tech can be 25x faster than traditional approaches.

That’s because both editing and rendering can be done simultaneously, with outputs delivered to any location. 

Pedersen said: “Editing professionals are being stretched too thin; called upon to work with a variety of tools and deal with a range of technical tasks which distract them from their central purpose: delivering creative, engaging content. CuttingRoom doesn’t just streamline this, it makes it accessible from anywhere in the world, to anyone, working in groups of whatever size they need.” 

Høibraaten elaborates: “We’re delivering a complete workflow. Editors have everything they need to work together - with all files, assets and timelines maintained centrally and accessible simultaneously.

“The result is the ability to deliver beautiful, consistent content in an editing environment that guarantees reliability, speed and consistency - with nothing more needed than a license, a browser and a 5Mbps connection.” 

For comparison, Blackbird says its “frame accurate, renderless browser editor” operates on bandwidth from just 2Mbps. 

Aimed at collaborative post-production projects using Resolve, Blackmagic Cloud is a subscription service for which users pay $5 per month to create and host a shared library that can be used by creatives working on the same project. Video and audio editors, colourists, VFX artists etc. can all access the Resolve project files through Blackmagic Cloud, from any location.  

When the project is finished, the work can be exported and the project closed, with no more payment required. Blackmagic will also refund any of the $5 that hasn’t been used. To make it easier to get the project files into the cloud, Blackmagic has created three storage devices, to be used in conjunction with Blackmagic Cloud. The cloud functions are built into the new hardware and into the major components of DaVinci Resolve. The first device is the Blackmagic Cloud Pod, which is $395. Customers record onto USB-C flash disks and use the Blackmagic Cloud Pod to make the disk available on the cloud. Blackmagic Cloud Pod doesn’t have any storage internally and has two USB-C ports so it can host two separate USB disks on the network at the same time. 

The Blackmagic Cloud Store Mini, which is available with 8TB of flash memory. Blackmagic Cloud Store Mini costs $2,995. The Blackmagic Cloud Store which is available in 20TB, 80TB and 320TB models, will be available later this year, from $9,595.