For the first episode of our Workflow From Home video series, we’re taking a look at how teams can set up a cloud-based editorial workflow.
This video should help editorial teams who are used to working together in a brick-and-mortar setup with onsite shared storage, like an AVID NEXUS, quickly become familiar with cloud workflows.
The good news is that there are dozens of tools and technologies that have emerged in the remote collaboration space. Our focus is on several readily available (and hopefully easy to understand) solutions that will help you see what cloud workflows are already capable of.
Before we dive into the nuts and bolts, I want to point out that the entire Frame.io team is working from home, and has been for almost a month. I’m writing, shooting, and editing this entire series from my house. But I’m still collaborating with about a dozen of my teammates scattered across the country.
Luckily for us, we’ve built an incredible cloud collaboration platform.
For this series, we’re leaning heavily on all Frame.io’s features and tools. As soon as original camera files are pulled from the camera, they’re uploaded directly to Frame.io with the Watchfolders desktop app, and then imported directly into FCP X using our native integration. Our design team is using our After Effects panel to seamlessly deliver titles and animations, and conform and color is happening with our native Resolve integration.
Beyond just the post workflow, we’re editing scripts remotely in Quip, staying connected in Slack, and gathering feedback on the edits inside Frame.io.
One of the reasons we’re sharing this series is to demonstrate firsthand how much you can centralize your creative process inside Frame.io, even when your whole team is working from home.
Now, let’s dive into what a cloud workflow really looks like.
Hybrid vs Pure Cloud Workflows
When you’re considering options for working from home, the first important thing to understand is the two main categories cloud workflows.
A Pure Cloud Workflow leverages the cloud for most of—or the entire—workflow process.
A Hybrid Cloud Workflow leverages the cloud for some key portions of the workflow, but leans on local storage and compute resources for others.
How are those different in practice?
A hybrid workflow uses the cloud to store some, but not all, assets and project files. This usually requires above-average internet speeds, as the bandwidth requirements for pushing and pulling full size files to and from the cloud are significant.
Hybrid workflows also require a more powerful computer workstation, because computation must be done locally. While this can increase on-site infrastructure requirements, it does all for partial air-gaps where such security measures are required.
Pure cloud workflows, on the other hand, require that remote users have total access to all material directly from the cloud. Surprisingly, this works with fairly average, or sometimes even below average, internet speeds (we’ll get into this later).
Pure cloud workflows are also possible with average computer workstation (or even a laptop). Obviously this decreases onsite infrastructure requirements, but it’s not ideal for workflows that require air gaps.
Existing cloud workflows
One of the workflows that DI and sound facilities are already utilizing is to limit their onsite workforce to as few people as possible. This usually means keeping some employees at a local facility, while all clients and collaborators are remote.
This means that facilities may be able to keep their vaults going, as high speed networks allow you to access your centralized media. This can be an ideal foundation for customizing a secure hybrid or pure-cloud workflow.
When it comes to security, you need to look for tools that are TPN certified, which means that it’s certified by the Trusted Partners Network. You’re also looking for compliances with SOC-2 Type 2, which basically means there was a known third-party audit to document all the safeguards of a tool in terms of confidentiality, privacy, availability, and security.
It’s also important to have the option for session-based watermarking or forensic watermarking. This security feature helps keep assets secure when they are shared inside and outside your organization.
Security is a top priority for Frame.io, and we’ve made it a cornerstone to the platform, earning us several top international awards for cyber security.
A big question that everyone is probably asking themselves is, “Do I even have the bandwidth necessary to do this?”
This is a good question to ask. Thankfully, it’s easy to answer! There’s even a formula determine whether a hybrid cloud workflow is even best for you.
First, test your bandwidth at speedtest.net. Average home internet speeds should yield about 100 megabits per second download and about 20 megabits per second upload. That’s roughly 12.5 megabytes per second down, and 2.5 megabytes per second up.
So what does that mean? Is that enough to work from home?
Well, that depends. The next question to ask is what codec are you working with? Most collaborative edit teams are editing on the AVID platform with either DNxHD 36 or DNxHR LB or on the Final Cut X or Premiere platforms using ProRes LT or ProRes HQ.
If you’re working with 1080p material in DNxHD or LB, the bitrates average about 35 megabits per second. If you have above average high speed internet like I do (Spectrum Ultimate), your connection should deliver multiple minutes of footage per minute of download.
Based on my home internet bandwidth, I’m able to download approximately one minute of footage about every 7 or 8 seconds. An entire hour of DNxHD will download in under 10 minutes. For ProRes LT, I can download one minute of footage e about every 15 to 20 seconds. An hour of ProRes LT will download in under 20 minutes.
So when it comes to typical HD dailies, higher bandwidth connections will let you download about 50 hours of DNxHD media or about 30 hours of ProRes LT over a typical working day.
In an ideal scenario, you have access to a facility vault mainframe and can get an off-the-shelf hard drive to transfer your media onto and use at home to work remotely. But in the event you don’t have access to a working vault, or you’re preparing to work from home, consumer home internet bitrates are capable of downloading close to a hundred hours of efficiently encoded dailies in 24 hours.
The most important datapoint for anyone exploring a hybrid cloud workflow is that your internet download speeds exceed the bandwidth of your network. Generally, that should be the case.
If you’re looking for an even more efficient way to work, and haven’t rendered all your material, you could explore transcoding to HEVC instead of DNx or ProRes. HEVC runs roughly three times smaller than DNx or ProRes for the same visual quality, so you can download 200 hours of media encoded in HEVC in about eight hours. That means that network speeds aren’t necessarily the barrier they used to be.
The barrier to HEVC is native support. Some NLEs chew through it without issue, but others do not. So a test is in order. If you’d like some HEVC files to test, you can download some here.
When it comes to working with media, Frame.io is unique in that it’s designed to support all AVID DNx codecs, all Apple ProRes codecs, as well as H.264 and HEVC natively within the platform.
Frame.io can act as a high speed media shuttle tool and you can drag-and-drop and securely shuttle any type of file to any number of recipients. In addition to moving assets, you also can play them natively in Frame.io as AVID or ProRes files. That opens up an opportunity for you to use one asset in multiple ways.
For example, if you uploaded all the AVID DNx edit media, because it works natively in Frame.io, a director or producer could review, comment, and share an AVID asset as if it were a web daily.
This saves on storage space, reduces the total number of assets, reduces upload time, and centralizes your media into one place. For optimum efficiency, you don’t need to render an additional set of smaller web files for viewing cloud dailies because Frame.io will take AVID or ProRes files and automatically transcode them in the background to make them streamable on all devices.
So the same AVID DNx file that can be sent to an editor to cut with is the same file that can be streamed easily on any mobile device in several smaller resolutions.
Let’s say that you want to view this asset when traveling and you won’t have internet access to your mobile device. You could make it offline and watch it without a network connection.
If you want to edit locally with the same asset, you can click on the DNx file, select DOWNLOAD, choose “Original”, and you’d have access to the original MXF data.
If you have a department using Final Cut or Premiere, which doesn’t use AVID MXF media, you could choose to download the 1080 AVC file, and could edit directly with that asset instead of needing to create an entirely different file for departments that prefer Quicktime MOV files.
All of these functions can be performed with a single asset uploaded into Frame.io in the cloud, which makes the media management required to serve multiple departments much more flexible.
Preparing assets for the cloud
Every production deals with different types of media, levels of storage volume requirements, and varying numbers of collaborators.
Some tools already have built-in solutions for cloud editing that fall into the Pure Cloud Workflow category.
Teradici is an excellent solution for people with a pure cloud workflow. It allows a remote real-time, low latency review, because in a pure cloud-based edit system, both your NLE and your media are living in the cloud. Your local computer is simply an access point to those resources.
To log into Teradici, you will need the IP address of the system you are trying to access and security credentials. Note that if you’re using it in Avid, you’ll need Media Composer Cloud VM or Media Composer Ultimate.
The beauty of a pure cloud system is once you have accessed your workstation (whether AVID or Nuke or Premiere), the NLE workflow is the same as if you were at your place of work.
That said, most IT/Engineering teams use disc imaging at large post houses to quickly install new edit stations as and when required. Make sure to use the latest image when virtualizing so the media is correctly referenced in the appropriate folders. If that isn’t possible, there will be additional setup time to locate and link the media.
A pro for Teradici is that it’s platform agnostic. It works on Windows or Mac (since your “computer” at home is really just an access terminal with little to no on-board processing required. It also works well and with low latency on home wireless connections).
One potential drawback is that it may require IT/Engineering setup support, which is a bit of a challenge when you’re working from home. And low latency doesn’t mean no latency, which increases by one to four frames of audio sync over standard home wireless networks.
Summary and key takeaways
So here’s a little recap of the key points we’ve just covered.
- Remote workflows can now be designed to serve all aspects of post-production from editorial to final delivery—which starts by centralizing the source.
- When moving a team to a remote workflow, you’ll need to first determine whether you want to work in a completely cloud-based environment or if you need a hybrid environment that allows you to access local storage.
- Frame.io works natively with Avid DNx and Apple ProRes codecs, which makes it simple to not only manage and move assets but also to use Frame.io as a high speed transmitter, transcoder, and remote dailies viewing solution.
- Hybrid cloud workflows may require higher powered workstations (and faster internet speeds) than pure cloud-based workflows due to the need for processing locally, but it’s easy to test your internet bandwidth to determine if it’s adequate for a remote workflow.
If you found this information helpful, please let us know! We’re trying to explore a number of solutions for professionals who are interested in a workflow from home and we’d love to hear from you.
Let us know what you want us to cover more of and share your questions. We’re all in this together and hope some of the information here is useful to the community.
Watch the entire series and find other resources on our Remote Work resource page.