Paul Chapman, SIM International

Fireside Chat—SIM International and the Story Behind One World: Together At Home

In this webinar, Michael Cioni welcomes SIM International’s VP of Engineering & Technology, Paul Chapman. After 21 years at Fotokem, Paul joined SIM around three years ago and has been working on automation or “joining things together” as he puts it, for a long time. Though these days, he’s using less wire and gaffer tape, and leaning more into the technology that keeps things moving.

A self-titled “software person”, the computer science skills Paul has been building on since his teens are now being put to use across SIM International’s five locations—LA, New York, Atlanta, Vancouver, and Toronto—to create rapid-turnaround, highly-automated solutions to production and post-production challenges. The company’s portfolio contains a five-star lineup of award-winning shows, from The Handmaid’s Tale and Game of Thrones, to Schitt’s Creek and The Good Doctor.

So with a showreel like this, Paul’s views on rapid adoption and adaptation are definitely worth hearing. Especially when you know that SIM International was instrumental in bringing the monumentally successful One World: Together At Home project to life. Check out what he and Michael have to share in the video below.

Editor’s note: Each section of the video is linked for easy viewing in new tabs. If you’d rather stay on this page, we’ve included start times so you can manually scrub in the embedded player.

At 6:50, we kick off with a discussion of what Michael Cioni describes as “Worfklow Glue.” Michael freely admits that theory and context are things he loves—particularly when it comes down to the glue that attaches workflow components together. But you might be surprised to find out that Paul and Michael have a less-conventional idea about what workflow really looks like.

As Michael describes it, it’s less the larger elements of the work, like dailies, edits, color, etc, but more the connections between them. These are the elements that make the “flow” in workflow. So if you’re missing the fluidity, he argues, then you’re missing the opportunity to improve.

After this, the chat turns to the One World: Together At Home project (09:10) which Paul and Michael use to illustrate how the theory of remote collaboration quickly became real when SIM International was charged with setting up a live virtual concert to raise funds for pandemic research and disaster relief. As you can imagine, being tasked in March to produce a live, multi-national virtual concert on April 18 was not without challenges. And for context, remember that lockdown was relatively new at that time, so people were already dealing with a sudden and stressful shift in working models.

As Paul puts it, “I was still working out the details of my home office…then all of a sudden we’re scrambling to get the facility working remote, and this huge project lands on our doorstep.”

Which takes us, at 11:51, to automation, and how Paul turned to to solve a number of the problems that SIM International found themselves facing.

As he notes, “No one manufacturer these days can fully anticipate what we might need, so I think a lot of the work we end up doing is customizing their tools to do exactly what we do need.”

Michael adds that perhaps the best way to use a product isn’t always the way that you’re taught to use it, which draws the topic to the largest part of this chat and that’s how APIs and customization can improve your workflows in ways that the developer may not have thought of. Especially when you’re facing edge cases for the first time.

Given that Michael and Paul are both technology specialists, this topic goes quite deep into specifics of API and programming, before returning to workflow at the 31:50 mark.

But you can’t have a discussion around a global live-streaming project without touching on the subject of internet quality—which happens at 36:51. Paul shares his views on what “good enough” looks like for a professional home internet experience.

In general terms, he recommends hardline connections between workstation and router to avoid packet loss during low-latency tasks and offers some recommendations on how you can improve your home network performance.

But if you’re more interested in how well the One World concert performed, you’ll find details of this at 43:59. As Paul somewhat understates it, “It was an interesting weekend, that’s for sure.”

And SIM International shows no signs of resting on its laurels, with several new projects coming out that will all benefit from the cloud-based workflows that Paul and the team built for One World: Together At Home.

Given how busy things are right now, we’re particularly grateful for the time and experience that Paul shared with us in this webinar. We’d like to thank him and the team at SIM International for being so generous.

And if that’s got you thinking of topics you’d like us to consider for our future webinars, feel free to drop them in the comments section below. 

Laurence Grayson

After a career spanning [mumble] years and roles that include creative lead, video producer, tech journalist, designer, and envelope stuffer, Laurence is now the managing editor for Insider. This has made him enormously happy, but he's British, so it's very hard to tell.

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