Like so many organizations, media and entertainment (M&E) companies are adapting rapidly to shifting infrastructure.
In most industries, workforce dispersion due to the pandemic has been a major recent factor. In the case of M&E, the content boom driven by streaming, along with the globalization and atomization of the industry were already driving the need for off-premise ways of content creation and delivery. From an IT point of view, the net result is that media and entertainment workflows are rapidly becoming hybrid and multi-cloud-centric. The cloud enables greater efficiency and better economics for production and distribution workflows. Yet amidst all this change, it’s critical not to overlook the need to modernize connectivity to ensure sustainable success in the cloud.
What’s Driving M&E’s Digital Transformation?
Traditionally, the development to distribution process has involved many distinct, separate stages. However, these stages in many cases are starting to merge. MovieLabs’ recent white paper, “The Evolution of Media Creation” spells out how virtual production technologies like in-camera VFX, photorealistic real-time engine (RTE) pipelines and LED Screens are merging early pre-production phases and pushing the creative process to be even more iterative and data-intensive.
At the same time, due to the pursuit of incentives and lower labor costs, production has globalized and atomized. Both project locations and a sprawl of industry players are spread across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically expanded the impact of this trend by enforcing a remote work constraint to workflows. All of this is driving digital ways of collaborating.
Today, companies with dispersed personnel face enlarged workloads of such data-intensive animated and visual effects dependent content, still in need of rendering and distribution. And due to recent shooting constraints and the growth of streaming, they also face robust slates of content in development that are headed for technologically advanced production.
The Need for Performance, Scale, Presence, Security and Privacy
The sheer level of data intensity of these new work processes is important to underscore. The increase in visual effects workloads brings with it massive data transfers to allow teams to work together on shared files from multiple locations. Time is of the essence to enable collaborative workflows, but so is quality. Without quality of experience of shared media, collaboration breaks down, leading to costly delays, logistical complications, and needless rework. So digital collaboration requires high performance at scale. With studio-owned properties being created, shared, and reworked in collaboration with numerous companies and vendors located all over the map, a reimagined roadmap for end-to-end data flow and collaboration must be undeniably secure, automated and economical.
The Cloud Enables New M&E Workflows
To borrow from a movie trailer intro (cue ominous music): “In a world where greater data intensity, increasing time to market pressure, and the demands of remote collaboration meet, one IT technology stands alone: The Cloud.”
Cloud storage offers production entities immediate cost savings with daily access to Terabytes of raw footage stored within easy reach of distributed end users. Cloud computing uniquely offers the accessibility and scalability needed to offer rendering services to visual effects and animation companies who find themselves at capacity in many cases, due to technologically intensive processes implemented during the pandemic. The cloud also reduces overhead costs by up to 75%, as on-premise hardware uses diminish.
The cloud also offers other key business model advantages: flexible consumption and as-a-service ease of use. Since many companies in the M&E space are small to medium-sized businesses, they lack the heavy IT staffing required to create DIY technology solutions. The need to consume readily available solutions from the marketplace adds to an already rich and dispersed tapestry of vendors in need of interconnectivity.
A multi-vendor, and multi-workflow production ecosystem can further benefit from use of a multi-cloud strategy, enabling software-defined workflows, per MovieLabs’ follow up prediction for a fully interconnected cloud-based future for M&E.
There is one area, however, which hasn’t caught up to the level of cloud infrastructure, which could have a significant negative impact.
Traditional Connectivity is a Transformation Blocker
While the cloud delivers agility, unlimited scale, flexible consumption, privacy, and security, traditional network connectivity for cloud architectures places an unpalatable menu of options on the digital operations craft table. There have been two primary choices available to tie cloud architectures together, both of which come burdened with significant technical and business challenges:
- Traditional telecom services. The advantage of these services is that they are private, secure, and have predictable performance at scale. However, traditional telco connectivity is difficult and slow to procure and provision, and is non-agile. They require long-term commitment up front, in spite of the very real possibility of changing needs, as projects stop and start.. That commitment is configured based on peak capacity need, and burdensome to impossible to downgrade. This leads to significant waste in both spending and operational energies.
- Internet transit. The ongoing dependency of the entertainment industry on sneakernet and mail services like FedEx is due chiefly to the limitations of the public internet. The inherent lack of security requires implementation of VPN overlays and endpoint security add-ons, which in turn exacerbate the Internet’s unpredictable performance. Even the long awaited 5G and 6G won’t be up to the task of elastically and securely transferring the Terabytes of data commonly exchanged by those working with raw footage and masters for TV and film.
Finally, managing a mix of these types of connectivity services requires staffing that many M&E companies, by design, don’t have. Quite often, networking and cloud services are not even line items in a production budget. Historically, productions tend to cast networking infrastructure and IT into a somewhat invisible role in the lifecycle of a production. Although new networking and cloud services can and are implemented, they are ultimately led by teams and operational requirements who can’t afford to pull focus from the creative work at hand. Traditional connectivity acts as a blocker to any digital transformation, putting cloud architecture, technical agility, and business health at risk.
PacketFabric: Award-Winning M&E Cloud Connectivity
What’s needed to make M&E cloud adoption successful is connectivity that acts like the cloud.
Modern cloud connectivity needs to be massively scalable to handle high data requirements. It needs to deliver private, secure, predictable performance. It also needs composability–the flexibility to change how bandwidth is allocated across many destinations, even from a single port. It should offer an agile business model: on-demand, and programmable ways to consume, from month-to-month to long-term contracts.
This is precisely what we built at PacketFabric. Our M&E customers include a global, Oscar winning VFX house, three studio conglomerates and a top tier streaming platform. And the critics (read: M&E technology leaders) have taken notice. In fact, we’ve recently been awarded a Lumiere Award by the Advanced Imaging Society (AIS) for our M&E Connectivity solution. According to AIS, PacketFabric’s network is “changing the game for visual effects and distribution in traditional and virtual production and broadcast.” Watch our virtual acceptance below.
A Storm of Demand is Gathering
The content boom driven by the rise of streaming and consumer media is well known. And it’s about to get even more intense in the coming year.
The pandemic brought a large proportion of in-person production to halt. As a result of the related increase in virtual production and visual effects (VFX), plus a large-scale shift to animation to fill the content demand gap, means that rendering demand is already at an all time high.
As the pandemic lifts, projects put on hold will resume, and the demand for data-intensive virtual production will spike even further. The pandemic also has given rise to a new generation of creatives who are used to working in a cloud-only mode. A perfect storm is on the horizon, and M&E cloud architectures should be ready. Without the right connectivity at the core of cloud architecture, that storm could end up swamping your business.
Due to recent events, MovieLabs’ 2030 Vision has been moved up years. Not only is PacketFabric ready to meet emerging connectivity demands of today, but it provides seamless and cloud-like connectivity, ensuring that a fully cloud-based M&E will soon be here to stay.
To learn more, check out our white paper on Connectivity, the Cloud and the Creative Process. If you’d like to find out more about PacketFabric’s automated, cloud-scale connectivity, visit our platform page and check out our service offerings. If you know you’re ready to start exploring, request a demo.