In industry circles, the topic of “the cloud” has been broached with doses of both curiosity and skepticism for years. Few post houses are ready to take the full leap to a native cloud approach to post production—and, in many cases, it wouldn’t be practical. But questions around security, performance, and cost have started to dwindle as post teams realize they can blend the cloud with traditional media storage.
A hybrid cloud storage model offers advantages that are critical in today’s post environment: it readily addresses challenges of scale, remote collaboration, redundancy, and security. But what does hybrid storage look like, and how is it best suited for a post-production workflow?
WHAT IS A HYBRID CLOUD STORAGE MODEL?
This model does what it says on the tin: certain media assets are stored on the premises, while certain assets are stored in the cloud. For example, you might choose to have online storage on prem and a small amount of nearline on prem for parking recently completed projects, while moving archive assets—say, older than 90 days—to the cloud. A hybrid model could also enable a hybrid workflow, where some elements of post, such as rendering, are done in the cloud, while others, including some of the editing and review processes, are still done at a post house’s physical offices.
In a hybrid model, you’ve still got your own servers and machines to manage, but you’ve allocated certain workflows to the cloud. The extent of what’s done in-facility versus remotely can shift depending on the post house and project, but regardless, hybrid storage enables more flexible working environments for post production.
The hybrid cloud storage model has four strengths to offer that a solely on-prem storage model cannot:
1. SCALE FOR BURST CAPACITY
A well-diversified post house won’t need to bring every person or machine on deck for every project. But there will be times when your on-prem capabilities simply aren’t enough, and a new project will require a nimble storage solution that you can ramp up or down as needed. This is where SaaS-based cloud services come into play: providing the additional computing power and remote access via PCoIP so that editors have secure and reliable access to the same editorial workflows they would otherwise use on-prem machines for. If your on-prem and cloud storage keeps your files on the same system and both storage instances are properly synced, the experience for your team will be seamless.
The best part? Rather than having to purchase and install machines over days or weeks, you can be up and running in the cloud within hours. The cloud also lets you pay just for what you use.
Burst capacity looms particularly large these days. The pandemic interrupted production, but the demand for finished content is still increasing. As the industry swings back into production, it will have to contend with a tremendous backlog of content waiting to go through post. The post houses that can quickly scale operations to handle this backlog will have a massive edge over the competition.
2. ENABLE REMOTE COLLABORATION
Remote editing is perhaps the most valuable feature of the cloud. With the right technology, post can happen from almost anywhere.
Although certain parts of the post-production workflow are solitary affairs, film and TV are inherently collaborative. Employing a cloud approach can bridge the geographical gaps. Feedback is instant, for one thing, and notes can be implemented immediately. Various departments get to see exactly what’s being done at all times, which can inspire a more cohesive creative approach overall, on top of simply making the process more efficient.
A hybrid cloud storage model makes it possible to bring in the best post-production talent, even if they’re thousands of miles away. Post teams can still have it both ways, though, with people working on files on-prem alongside remote team members working on the same project. This is where a hybrid approach can really sing: those who want to be (or must be) off-site can do so without sacrificing the connectivity that collaboration requires.
3. STREAMLINE REVIEW AND APPROVAL
Of course, editing can’t be completed without review and approval. There’s still plenty of value to be found in on-prem R&A, particularly in the thick of the edit process. But an increasingly decentralized post-production workflow is pushing post professionals to adjust to remote collaboration—and that includes R&A.
Instead of having to export and host on a separate, secure screener site or physically bring in executives and producers to screen, a cloud solution will allow remote access to media that needs fast approval. Plenty of productions already had to come up with workarounds for off-site producers; having these materials in the cloud simply streamlines the process. It helps teams avoid waiting for physical media to arrive, those well-known “I can’t access this?” messages, and the lag between physical R&A for off-site execs—no more ad hoc approval emails.
4. BETTER MANAGE COSTS
While an investment in cloud storage can be similar to on-prem, that cost is broken up monthly, quarterly, or annually rather than being a significant up-front expenditure. If this sounds like a distinction without a difference, keep an open mind—shifting this line item from capex to an operational cost can have its advantages if you need to scale quickly. This model also saves post houses from overprovisioning on-prem hardware, which then sits underutilized much of the time. With a hybrid model, you can pay for just what you need at any given time, rather than provisioning for peak capacity (not to mention covering the cost of housing, powering, and servicing underutilized hardware).
As the industry shifts more toward flexible, hybrid work environments, the cloud will become all the more indispensable. Technology will continue to enable new storage opportunities that post teams need—the only question is whether they embrace the cloud head on or opt to weave it into parts of the workflow.