Remote, Virtualized, Cloud—Huh?! Making Sense of Remote Solutions for Media Production

Production teams are scrambling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, trying to quickly adopt remote workflows so they can keep their projects moving while also abiding by social distancing guidelines. But how can production professionals know which remote post-production solution is best for their needs? To help you pick the option that’s right for you, here’s a brief overview of the three main categories of remote post-production solutions as well as some pointers on when you might want to choose one over the other.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Remote Post-Production Solution

When you’re trying to figure out how to work remotely, chances are pretty good that the first question that flashes into your mind is: “How do I even know what I need in the first place?” To answer that question, you’ll want to consider three key factors: scale, collaboration, and security. Determining your team’s requirements in each of these areas will point the way to the right solution.

For example, a large post-production company that is working on a major motion picture and has a globally distributed team will probably place a premium on effective collaboration, and security is likely to be a high priority as well. A smaller post house with a lean budget and a crew of between ten and twenty people can probably get the job done with a more straightforward solution with basic collaboration features, and security may be less of an urgent priority.

While there are several important aspects that you must consider when choosing the right option for working remotely, the good news is that there’s a solution for everybody. Here’s a look at the top three technologies for remote post-production, their advantages and constraints, and who will likely benefit from them the most.

1. Remote Access

If you’re looking for a band-aid solution to get you back to work as quickly as possible, remote access is a good pick. This technology lets you connect to your computer at work via remote desktop software, allowing you to access media and continue to edit as you did before. Remote desktop technology streams your work computer desktop straight to your computer at home, giving you the full ability to use your editing tools as if you were right there in the studio. It’s also a solid choice if you have a lean budget and can’t spend a lot of money on technology right now.

That said, there are some limitations to remote desktop software that you should know about before moving ahead with it. Because this solution was originally designed for office workers who needed to access their files and email from home, it wasn’t created with the needs of post-production professionals in mind. As a result, post-production teams may find it a bit clunky to use. Remote desktop technology is not optimized for video editing, and it doesn’t support collaboration all that well compared to virtualization or the cloud. You may also need to make sure you have sufficient internet connectivity at each of your locations in order to work well using remote desktop technology.

This option is best for: independent post-production pros and smaller post houses that need a simple, low-cost solution for accessing their systems and storage from remote locations.  

2. Virtualized Environments

If you need to scale and collaboration is also a priority, virtualization is an intermediary solution that may fit the bill. Virtualization creates an environment that feels very much like the one you are used to at your post or broadcast facility. This is made possible by running all of your software on a on a virtual machine, enabling everyone on your team to go in and access it at the same time. You can work more quickly and play back media more seamlessly in a virtualized environment than you would using remote desktop software, assuming you have the right internet connectivity. This environment uses PCoIP connectivity that is optimized for media productions.

Your production team can collaborate more effectively and flexibly, at scale, with these building blocks in place. This can come in handy if you’re editing a motion picture, for example, and you have ten team members who all need to collaborate on the same project at the same time. Virtualization also supports co-location quite well, meaning these team members can work from anywhere—whether that’s New York, California, or an entirely different location—in a more sophisticated fashion.

If security is a concern for your post-production company, then that may be another reason to consider a virtualized solution. All of your media assets are still housed within your data center but, because your post-production systems are virtualized, your storage has an additional layer of protection. Virtualization provides you with a similar level of security that you would have on your other IT systems, allowing your team to work more securely from remote locations.

This option is best for: medium to large production companies or broadcasters, often with teams of 25 people or more, that need to scale their capacity for remote production.

3. The Cloud

The cloud is by far the most seamless and sophisticated option for production teams that cannot compromise on efficiency or collaboration. In a cloud scenario, all of your media and your editing tools are available directly in the cloud. Your editors can access media, play it back, edit it, and collaborate with one another from literally any location in the world. They can archive media, access high-speed and high-quality playback, make real-time edits, and gain full accessibility to their workloads in the cloud. This option also provides robust security, helping to prevent unauthorized parties or opportunistic attackers from accessing your media files.

A fully cloud solution comes with a bigger price tag than its remote desktop or virtualized counterparts, and it also requires sufficient bandwidth to work well. However, it can also be thought of as a valuable long-term investment. Cloud technology strengthens your business continuity posture, allowing your production team to remain resilient and keep working remotely right through crises like the one we’re experiencing now. Since the cloud frees you from having to maintain your own data center, it also removes the administrative overhead that you might have to contend with in a remote desktop or virtualized scenario.

Ultimately, the cloud empowers your team to work efficiently and stay on track with its projects from any location at all—no matter what challenges or disruptions may come your way. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to go all in on the cloud at once. Some post-production teams dip a toe into the water with a hybrid solution. For example, they might store media in the cloud but still do their editing locally. That way, they can access some of the cloud’s benefits and see how well it meets their needs without having to put a dent in their operating expenditures budget.

This option is best for: medium or large production houses or broadcasters, particularly those that are working on large studio productions or have global teams, that require a sophisticated solution for remote productivity and collaboration.

There’s a Remote Post-Production Solution for Everyone

Although it’s a difficult moment for post-production teams as they struggle to figure out how they can work well from remote locations on short notice, the good news is that there’s a remote post-production solution for every type of team, no matter the budget involved. With a little research and preparation, you can pick the option that’s best for your team and spin up your new remote locations. Once you’re in a position to begin thinking about your long-term plans for remote work, you can build upon the solution you’ve already chosen to create a stronger foundation for the future. That way, the next time an emergency or a crisis arises, you’ll be better able to minimize any disruption and stay productive no matter where your team is located.

Collaborate From Anywhere

If you’re moving to a remote workflow, we’re here to help.

How Your Production Team Can Successfully Transition to a Remote Work Environment

Almost overnight, the global coronavirus outbreak has upended the media and entertainment industry. With public health now an urgent priority, media companies have to shift their workflows to remote working models or just suspend their operations altogether while they try to figure out next steps. This is an unprecedented challenge—there’s no getting around it. But with a little legwork, production teams can successfully transition their workflows to a remote work environment. Here’s how.


How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has Upended Production Workflows

The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profoundly disruptive impact on production workflows. State and local governments, citing public health concerns, have in many cases told businesses that their employees must work from home effective immediately. As a result, media companies have to pivot to a remote work setup on the spot in order to keep everyone in the team safe, all while their content creation teams up and running.

Some productions have been put on pause while the studios adapt to this new reality—Netflix, Apple TV+, and Marvel Studios are among the production companies who’ve already made announcements to that effect. Smaller shops have also had to temporarily close their studios and facilities as well. Production pros are trying to figure out how to access the media stored in on-prem storage systems, how to remotely share and review content, how to communicate and collaborate, and so on. News teams have to navigate all of these challenges while also getting time-sensitive and, in some cases, life-saving information to the public.

It’s a heavy lift, to be sure. But if your production shop finds itself in this difficult position, there are some steps you can take to ease the transition.


1. Set Up Remote Access for Your Team

Short term needs will, of course, take priority for the time being. As you transition to remote workflows, you may not maintain 100% capacity, but you should be able to get 50-70% of your productivity back within a few days to a week. First, you have to figure out how you’re going to access your content without a lot of technical hurdles. A simple solution like remote desktop access can allow you to access computers in your facility from remote locations. Although there are some limitations to this approach, for many roles and tasks it is adequate.  With remote access, you can edit content almost as effectively as if you were still back in your edit suite.


2. Make Sure You Have Enough Bandwidth

At this point, you’re also going to want to confirm that you have sufficient bandwidth in place for remote workers, to enable remote access. Some companies are making Wi-Fi service available for free in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, so that may be one option worth exploring for tasks that require lower bandwidth.


3. Confirm That You Have the Proper Software Licenses

Although you might assume that the software licenses you already have automatically let you use the software remotely, that’s not always the case. Some software companies require you to have special licenses for remote access, so don’t forget to confirm that you have the right licenses in place. Licensing can be a major headache at a time when production teams are scrambling to keep their projects going, which is why Avid is providing free temporary licenses for active commercial license-holders to access their creative tools remotely.


4. Consider How Your Team Will Collaborate

After you have remote access set up, you’ll want to consider how you collaborate as a team when everyone’s working remotely. How can editors and assistants share content with each other and with producers and other stakeholders, for example? When team members can no longer provide feedback in person, it’s not as easy to have that seamless collaboration that you’re used to. To overcome this obstacle, you might want to set up a chat session so your team members can still collaborate from their new locations.


5. Anticipate and Address Remote Workflow Challenges

Even with these building blocks in place, your team is still going to run into some challenges. If someone hits play on a timeline and a producer wants to know whether the audio is in sync with the video, for example, it’s going to be a bit trickier to confirm that everything’s lined up perfectly. For this reason, some production teams find it helpful to virtualize their entire production environment so they can work more efficiently from any location.

Although it sounds like a major undertaking, virtualization doesn’t necessarily require a major overhaul of your equipment. You can often reconfigure your existing software and hardware to enable remote workflows, helping your team get back on the job in a relatively short amount of time.

Some production teams use hybrid workflows, streaming content to a laptop in a remote location instead of going to the facility where the media is physically located. Depending on your needs, one of the above options—simple remote desktop access, virtualization, or hybrid workflows—may be the best choice for getting back up and running.


Down the Line, Production Workflows Will Become More Resilient

In the long run, of course, production companies will need to create a business continuity plan that helps them make this transition much more quickly the next time a crisis arises, whether that’s a localized event like an earthquake or a global pandemic like the one we’re experiencing now. The cloud offers intriguing possibilities for riding out just those sorts of scenarios—and with the current crisis illustrating its utility, production companies that have been hesitant to embrace the cloud are considering it with fresh eyes.

For the time being, the tips we’ve shared above should help your team get back up and running. The next step: protecting your business against further disruption.

Collaborate From Anywhere

If you’re moving to a remote workflow, we’re here to help.