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Buying Into theCloud's Silver Lining

With management looking for new ways to trim production costs and broadcasters trying to speed more content to more platforms, both are increasingly turning to cloud-based production systems that allow creators and journalists to quickly upload, share and create content.

“The capability of extending real- time editorial collaboration to anyone, anywhere you can get a 4G signal or a broadband connection, is a very appealing idea for broadcasters,” says Jim Frantzreb, senior market segment manager for media enterprise at Avid Technology, which is offering an Interplay Sphere cloud-based distributed production system. “It allows you to have more reporters and editors who can do pretty much everything without going back to the station,” making it possible to “expand your brand and audience.”

Systems for sharing content over networks and cloudbased products for storing, accessing or distributing content are nothing new, of course. But interest in cloudbased distributed production systems has skyrocketed as several newer products have come into the market.

Cost savings vary widely, depending on services required, the type of production, the number of people involved and the in-house infrastructure a user might have. But cloud video production platform Aframe and some other providers work on a subscription model that allows a producer to avoid investing significant upfront capital costs in servers and other equipment.

Aframe has signed up 42 companies with some 3,500 users in the U.S. since it launched its product here last year. Other companies that have launched or are developing cloud-based production systems include Panasonic, Signiant, Adobe and Production Minds.

In addition to broadcast news and sports, these systems are particularly useful for genres such as documentaries and reality shows that involve large amounts of footage, or for movies or TV series with production teams in different locations, notes Mark Overington, president of North America at Aframe, which is partnering with Panasonic to offer a cloud-based production system in the U.S.

Ingest, Store, Transfer, Repeat

On a very basic, but useful level, these cloud-based systems can significantly reduce the time and cost required to ingest and store content. The Product Factory recently used Signiant’s Media Shuttle cloud-based product to significantly speed up the transfer of huge files for an animated children’s series from India to the U.S., says Ian Hamilton, CTO and co-founder of Signiant.

Signiant signed a deal with Rogers Communications in Canada to use Media Shuttle for both broadcast productions and VOD, Hamilton adds. “The speed and simplicity has made it very popular with broadcasters and production companies,” he says.

Cloud-based systems are also producing a major change in the way television companies and content producers approach their workfl ows and manage their assets to handle the complexities of multiplatform content distribution.

Overington notes that a number of clients were attracted to the simple appeal of being able to access content from multiple locations. For example, during the upstate New York shooting of the indie film The Birder’s Guide to Everything, post house Sixteen19 processed and uploaded dailies to Aframe, which provided 20 people with access to an H.264 proxy copy of the dailies. That allowed one coproducer to view dailies while working in Qatar.

This can significantly cut the costs of storage and help control the production budget because producers can very quickly see if some scenes need to be reshot or actors might need to change how they approached a role.

But Overington also notes that Aframe has been surprised by “the number of companies using us as cloudbased media-asset management.”

One client is storing a finished product on Aframe and using the system as a distribution and sales platform enabling clients to access material and see if they want to purchase it, Overington explains.

Avid’s Frantzreb also stresses that these systems make it easier to access content and manage workflows, two key components of any media assetmanagement system.

“This is one of the key selling points,” Frantzreb says. “It provides a unifying capability, not only for people to more easily access content, but also for production processes. They can be used to tremendously simplify and rationalize workflows in a way that saves money.”

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