The Secret Life of an Engineer
As February approached, we were all busy putting our backs into our spring office decoration project. Its a long time overdue they said, will the clients mind the noise they asked, little did we know what was about to hit us all.
For a while one of the more talked about topics in Post Production has been Remote Access and without knowing the extent of things to come we had started to change our business in ways we did not really appreciate and that would enable some very important things just around the corner.
When we were all finally told to stay home, it was with the full and certain knowledge that staying home and carrying on, was not going to be as easy for us as for lots and lots of conventional office staff. Hell, we have Terabyte's of data to access in different locations at the same time and hours of HD video to edit, assess and deliver every day of the week. So fortunately, before this occurred, we had decided on a plan to carry on.
As systems became available in the office, we disconnected, labelled and boxed up, then moved them out to WFH locations in all sorts of spare bedrooms, basements, sheds, kennels and nameless small rooms. Our office became a very wide place very quickly, spread across half of Glasgow and further afield. Whey hey they said, it works they commented, some even said stuff about working in their slippers. But of course, it all did work, editors could still edit, graphicers could still graphic and sound designers could still make a noise, but that was only part of the story of course. What about the workflow???
So how do we make it all run smoothly?
In short, the office essentially became just a data transfer centre for operations with different systems supporting various parts of the workflow we have always used. A significant investment in Virtualised Server Equipment (VMware) has empowered and enabled most of what we are now able to achieve in isolation. There are some things that nobody can still do but using all sorts of innovative back room systems has enabled operations to continue very much in the same way across geographical divides.
Once we had shipped the key workstation out, the big issue was to get the media distributed around our WFH staff. Taxi man was just not going to work in this situation and the answer for us was Media Shuttle, a SECURE, ACCELERATED internet file transfer system, favoured by the BBC for ALL their delivery. Implemented across our workflow this soon enabled reception of rushes from mobile clients to sharing of AVID Media content and Projects between our remote staff
So, to give an example whats happening to rushes once they are uploaded by a client?
Weve automated the ingest of rushes to the fileservers servers, because we dont know when you will be able to achieve this process, and we dont have staff in attendance in the office at this time. A product called Content Agent looks for new material in defined locations and seamlessly ingests it into NEXIS. From there, these rushes are distributed and shipped out to WFH users with Media Shuttle ready to edit. Of course, once we have your assets, most process can be performed by our staff remotely - from dailies to just backing up for a future project. In just one example of remote work, we helped Channel 4 with their rushes for "A day int the life of Coronavirus Britain" edited in London well worth a catch up.
Once we have processed received rushes weve got a great advantage of having AVID Media Central UX for producers, directors and edit producers, giving them a way of viewing and logging rushes at home. AVID Project rushes can be reviews remotely via a web browser and prepared for ongoing edit sessions.
The next question was how do our clients see what we are doing and since we cannot have clients attending edit sessions were using HD streaming equipment on the WFH edit system, so clients can view the broadcast output of our systems during the day. Either drop in and view or arrange a time to review sessions its up to you how you care to work.
Next we considered our dry hire sessions and using HP Remote Desktop we are all able to use Media Composer systems IN DALINTOBER HALL remotely from virtually any location - given a reasonable internet connection. This enables virtually all of the usual multi suite abilities we normally offer in the office, with logging via Media Central UX and remotely streamed output from the AVID offlines, we are all nearly back in Dalintober.
We moved 2 of our 3 Pro-Tools audio suites out to WFH. Not sure if Kevin's partner Audrey is enjoying the new acoustic panels that we had earmarked for the refurb of Dub 3 but its not as though theyll be having anyone visit any time soon!
Ian's Baselight also took a drive down the road as well and is using a tandem remote machine at his home, linked up to an HD streaming system for remote viewing by the client. The clients dont need to download anything just know what a traffic cone (VLC) application looks like and open a link! He completed 3 from 5 of the BBC drama "The Nest" for Studio Lambert, all done with the Grading sessions viewed LIVE in Oslo by the director. As long as the local wine merchant continues to deliver, I suspect he will never want to leave his house again.
On-Liners Graham and Harry also have their online grading systems, again with remote secure viewing available. More equipment for them to squeeze into their spare rooms but at least the central heating can be turned down while they are working. Again, remote shipping of media is being handle using Media Shuttle.
Graphics are also using Media Shuttle to share and synchronise generated VFX & content for projects, over 100 individual sequences in our latest major drama series, rendering handled back in at base remotely. Nick, John and Mariusz have totally embraced Microsoft Teams so grateful that Sharon gave them a crash course before the lockdown.
David is manning the main office he has been amazing and able to do our tech reviews and QCs in the standard fashion and we are able to provide LIVE HD streams of finished AS11 deliveries, for review and sign off which has been a bit of a saviour for some clients - not to mention the reduced need for risk assessments for them to comply with freelancers visiting our office.
So, in summary, we ARE still and still CAN;
All the things we always did, not necessarily in the same order or the same place as before, but with just the same enthusiasm, quality, care and attention as before.
Just remember to remember those techie boys and girls in their dark rooms now and again. A tin of beer or the odd white wine always helps.