Cinnafilm 6.6.19

Category Archives: Cloud-based Workflows

Envoi’s end-to-end cloud solution for data migration, post 

Envoi has launched a cloud-based data, migration and post production workflow solution at the AWS M&E Symposium on June 18  in Los Angeles. Enabled by Cantemo and Teradici PCoIP technology, Envoi is offering this as a media “production-to-payment” platform.

Envoi is a cloud-based content management, distribution and monetization platform, giving broadcasters and video content providers a complete secure end-to-end video management and distribution system. Available on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace, Envoi is designed to provide simple and efficient data migration to the cloud and between services in the workflow.

Thanks to a partnership with Cantemo, Envoi has been integrated with Cantemo’s media asset management solution, Cantemo Portal and its cloud video management hub, Cantemo Iconik. Iconik makes it easy to collaborate on media, regardless of geographic location. Advanced Artificial Intelligence simplifies content discovery by improving metadata collection. By combining Envoi with Cantemo Portal, media companies of virtually all sizes can now monetize their video libraries within 48 hours.

Envoi also enables post in the cloud with the integration of Iconik with Teradici-enabled workstations on AWS. These workstations are configured to support a wide range of editing and post production tools. By supporting the entire post process on AWS, Envoi says it is providing a solution that increases the security, performance and collaboration potential within the creative process. Delivering the solution through AWS Marketplace simplifies procurement, delivery and deployment for Envoi’s customers.

 

AWS at NAB with a variety of partners, cloud workflows

During NAB 2019, Amazon Web Services (AWS) showcased advances for content creation, media supply chains and content distribution that improve agility and enhance quality across video workflows. Demonstrations included enhanced live and on-demand video workflows, such as next-gen transcoding, studio in the cloud, content protection, low latency and personalization. The company also highlighted cloud-based machine learning capabilities for content redaction, highlight creation, video clipping, live subtitling and metadata extraction.

AWS was joined by 12 technology partners in showing solutions that help users create, protect, distribute and monetize streaming video content. More than 60 Amazon Partner members across the show floor demonstrated media solutions built on AWS and interoperable with AWS services to deliver scalable video workflows.

Here are some workflows highlighted:
• Studio in the cloud – Users can deploy a creative studio in the cloud for visual effects, animation and editing workloads. They can scale rendering, virtual workstations and data storage globally with AWS Thinkbox Deadline, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances and AWS Cloud storage options such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon FSx and more.
• Next-generation transcoding – AWS Elemental MediaConvert spotlighted advanced features for file-based video processing. Support for IMF inputs and CMAF output simplifies video delivery, and integrated Quality-Defined Variable Bitrate (QVBR) rate control enables high-quality video while lowering bitrates, storage and bandwidth requirements.
• Cloud DVR services – AWS Elemental MediaPackage enables an end-to-end cloud DVR workflow that lets content providers deliver DVR-like experiences, such as catch-up and start-over functionality for viewing on mobile and other over-the-top (OTT) devices.

AWS also highlighted intelligent workflows and automated capabilities:
• Media-to-cloud migration – Media asset management tools integrate with AWS Elemental MediaConvert, Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront to accelerate migration of large-scale video archives into the cloud. Built-in metadata tools improve search and management for massive media archives.
• Smart language workflows – AWS Elemental Media Services and Amazon Machine Learning work together to automate realtime transcription, caption creation and multi-language subtitling and dubbing, as well as creation of video clips based on caption text.
• Deep media archive – The new Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive storage class is a low-cost cloud storage offering that enables customers to eliminate digital tape from their media infrastructures. It is ideally suited to cold media archives and to second copy and disaster recovery needs.

Cinnafilm 6.6.19

Adobe’s new Content-Aware fill in AE is magic, plus other CC updates

By Brady Betzel

NAB is just under a week away, and we are here to share some of Adobe’s latest Creative Cloud offerings. And there are a few updates worth mentioning, such as a freeform project panel in Premiere Pro, AI-driven Auto Ducking for Ambience for Audition and addition of a Twitch extension for Character Animator. But, in my opinion, the Adobe After Effects updates are what this year’s release will be remembered by.


Content Aware: Here is the before and after. Our main image is the mask.

There is a new expression editor in After Effects, so us old pseudo-website designers can now feel at home with highlighting, line numbers and more. There are also performance improvements, such as faster project loading times and new deBayering support for Metal on macOS. But the first prize ribbon goes to the Content-Aware fill for video powered by Adobe Sensei, the company’s AI technology. It’s one of those voodoo features that when you use it, you will be blown away. If you have ever used Mocha Pro by BorisFX then you have had a similar tool known as the “Object Removal” tool. Essentially, you draw around the object you want to remove, such as a camera shadow or boom mic, hit the magic button and your object will be removed with a new background in its place. This will save users hours of manual work.

Freeform Project panel in Premiere.

Here are some details on other new features:

● Freeform Project panel in Premiere Pro— Arrange assets visually and save layouts for shot selects, production tasks, brainstorming story ideas, and assembly edits.
● Rulers and Guides—Work with familiar Adobe design tools inside Premiere Pro, making it easier to align titling, animate effects, and ensure consistency across deliverables.
● Punch and Roll in Audition—The new feature provides efficient production workflows in both Waveform and Multitrack for longform recording, including voiceover and audiobook creators.
● Surprise viewers in Twitch Live-Streaming Triggers with Character Animator Extension—Livestream performances are enhanced where audiences engage with characters in real-time with on-the-fly costume changes, impromptu dance moves, and signature gestures and poses—a new way to interact and even monetize using Bits to trigger actions.
● Auto Ducking for ambient sound in Audition and Premiere Pro — Also powered by Adobe Sensei, Auto Ducking now allows for dynamic adjustments to ambient sounds against spoken dialog. Keyframed adjustments can be manually fine-tuned to retain creative control over a mix.
● Adobe Stock now offers 10 million professional-quality, curated, royalty-free HD and 4K video footage and Motion Graphics templates from leading agencies and independent editors to use for editorial content, establishing shots or filling gaps in a project.
● Premiere Rush, introduced late last year, offers a mobile-to-desktop workflow integrated with Premiere Pro for on-the-go editing and video assembly. Built-in camera functionality in Premiere Rush helps you take pro-quality video on your mobile devices.

The new features for Adobe Creative Cloud are now available with the latest version of Creative Cloud.


Autodesk cloud-enabled tools now work with BeBop post platform

Autodesk has enabled use of its software in the cloud — including 3DS Max, Arnold, Flame and Maya — and BeBop Technology will deploy the tools on its cloud-based post platform. The BeBop platform enables processing-heavy post projects, such as visual effects and editing, in the cloud on powerful and highly secure virtualized desktops. Creatives can process, render, manage and deliver media files from anywhere on BeBop using any computer and as small as a 20Mbps Internet connection.

The ongoing deployment of Autodesk software on the BeBop platform mirrors the ways BeBop and Adobe work closely together to optimize the experience of Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers. Adobe applications have been available natively on BeBop since April 2018.

Autodesk software users will now also gain access to BeBop Rocket Uploader, which enables ingestion of large media files at incredibly high speeds for a predictable monthly fee with no volume limits. Additionally, BeBop Over the Shoulder (OTS) enables secure and affordable remote collaboration, review and approval sessions in real-time. BeBop runs on all of the major public clouds, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure.


Post in the cloud company BeBop adds three tech pros

BeBop Technology, a provider of secure software solutions for moving media workflows to the cloud, has added three to its management team: director of business development Michael Kammes, VP of product management Patrick Cooper and Director of technical sales Nathaniel Bonini.

Michael Kammes joins BeBop from the media technology reseller and integrator Key Code Media, where he was director of technology. In his new position, he will leverage his experience with creative technology and tools providers to accelerate growth and provide strategic perspective across marketing, sales and partnerships. In addition to his experience as an integrator, Kammes brings more than 15 years of experience in technology consulting for the media and entertainment industry. His 5 Things web series breaks down technology and techniques. Kammes is a graduate of Columbia College in Chicago.

Cooper joins BeBop from Nokia, where he served as product manager and technical lead for tools and workflows. As part of Nokia’s Ozo camera team, he was instrumental in developing software and hardware products and designing workflows for virtual reality pros. Cooper also led film restoration and theatrical feature image processing projects at Lowry Digital and was a key contributor to the creation of its Academy Award-winning motion picture imaging technology. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California.

Bonini brings more than 30 years of experience as a technologist for cinema and broadcast. He joins BeBop from Meredith Corporation and Time Inc., where he served as director of video engineering. Throughout his career Bonini has provided crucial technology guidance as a digital cinema consultant, worked in numerous on-set and post roles, was director of integration for AbelCine and CTO for Madstone Films. He is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology.

BeBop’s cloud technology solutions include its flagship post production platform. It provides robust and secure virtualized desktops capable of processing-heavy tasks such as editing and visual effects, as well as “over the shoulder” collaboration, review and approval. Creatives can use industry-standard tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud on BeBop using their existing software licenses, and collaborate, process images, render, review and approve, ingest, manage and deliver media files from anywhere in the world using any computer with a 20mbps Internet connection.

Image Caption: Michael Kammes, Nathaniel Bonini, Patrick Cooper.


Review: Foundry’s Athera cloud platform

By David Cox

I’ve been thinking for a while that there are two types of post houses — those that know what cloud technology can do for them, and those whose days are numbered. That isn’t to say that the use of cloud technology is essential to the survival of a post house, but if they haven’t evaluated the possibilities of it they’re probably living in the past. In such a fast-moving business, that’s not a good place to be.

The term “cloud computing” suffers a bit from being hijacked by know-nothing marketeers and has become a bit vague in meaning. It’s quite simple though: it just means a computer (or storage) owned and maintained by someone else, housed somewhere else and used remotely. The advantage is that a post house can reduce its destructive fixed overheads by owning fewer computers and thus save money on installation and upkeep. Cloud computers can be used as and when they are needed. This allows scaling up and down in proportion to workload.

Over the last few years, several providers have created global datacenters containing upwards of 50,000 servers per site, entirely for the use of anyone who wants to “remote in.” Amazon and Google are the two biggest providers, but as anyone who has tried to harness their power for post production can confirm, they’re not simple to understand or configure. Amazon alone has hundreds of different computer “instance” types, and accessing them requires navigating through a sea of unintelligible jargon. You must know your Elastic Beanstalks from your EC2, EKS and Lambda. And make sure you’ve worked out how to connect your S3, EFS and Glacier. Software licensing can also be tricky.

The truth is, these incredible cloud installations are for cleverer people than those of us that just like to make pretty pictures. They are more for the sort that like to build neural networks and don’t go outside very much. What our industry needs is some clever company to make a nice shiny front end that allows us to harness that power using the tools we know and love, and just make it all a bit simpler. Enter Athera, from Foundry. That’s exactly what they’ve done.

What is Athera?

Athera is a platform hosted on Google Cloud infrastructure that presents a user with icons for apps such as Nuke and Houdini. Access to each app is via short-term (30-day) rental. When an available app icon is clicked, a cloud computer is commanded into action, pre-installed with the chosen app. From then on, the app is used just as if locally installed. Of course, the app is actually running on a high-performance computer located in a secure and nicely cooled datacenter environment. Provided the user has a vaguely decent Internet connection, they’re good to go, because only the user interface is being transmitted across the network, not the actual raw image data.

Apps available on Athera include Foundry’s products, plus a few others. Nuke is represented in its base form, plus a Nuke X variant, Nuke Studio, and a combination of Nuke X and Cara VR. Also available are the Mari texture painting suite, Katana look-creating app and Modo CGI modeling software.

Athera also offers access to non-Foundry products like CGI software Houdini and Blender, as well as the Gaffer management tool.

NukeIn my first test, I rustled up an instance of Nuke Studio and one of Blender. The first thing I wanted to test was the GPU speed, as this can be somewhat variable for many cloud computer types (usually between zero and not much). I was pleasantly surprised as the rendering speed was close to that of a local Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, which is pretty decent. I was also pleased to see that user preferences were maintained between sessions.

One thing that particularly impressed me was how I could call up multiple apps together and Athera would effectively build a network in the background to link them all up. Frames rendered out of Blender were instantly available in the cloud-hosted Nuke Studio, even though it was running on a different machine. This suggests the Athera infrastructure is well thought out because multi-machine, networked pipelines with attached storage are constructed with just a few clicks and without really thinking about it.

Access to the Athera apps is either by web browser or via a local client software called “Orbit.” In web browser mode, each app opens in its own browser tab. With Orbit, each app appears in a dedicated local window. Orbit boasts lower latency and the ability to use local hardware such as multiple monitors. Latency, which would show itself as a frustrating delay between control input and visual feedback, was impressively low, even when using the web browser interface. Generally, it was easy to forget that the app being used was not installed locally.

Getting files in and out was also straightforward. A Dropbox account can be directly linked, although a Google or Amazon S3 storage “bucket” is preferred for speed. There is also a hosted app called “Toolbox,” which is effectively a file browser to allow the management of files and folders.

The Athera platform also contains management and reporting features. A manager can set up projects and users, setting out which apps and projects a user has access to. Quotas can be set, and full reports are given as to who did what, when and with which app.

Athera’s pricing is laid out on their website and it’s interesting to drill into the costs and make comparisons. A user buys access to apps in 30-day blocks. Personally, I would like to see shorter blocks at some point to increase up/down scale flexibility. That said, render-only instances for many of the apps can be accessed on a per-second billing basis. The 30-day block comes with a “fair use” policy of 200 hours. This is a hard limit, which equates to around nine and a half hours per day for five-day weeks (which is technically known in post production as part time).

Figuring Out Cost
Blender is a good place to start analyzing cost because it’s open source (free) software, so the $244 Athera cost to run for 30 days/200 hours must be for hardware only. This equates to $1.22 per hour, which, compared to direct cloud computer usage, is pretty good value for the GPU-backed machine on offer.

Modo

Another way of comparing the amount of $244 a month would be to say that a new computer costing $5,800 depreciates at roughly this monthly rate if depreciated over two years. That is to say, if a computer of that value is kept for two years before being replaced, it effectively loses roughly $241 per month in value. If depreciated over three years, the figure is $80 per month less. Of course, that’s just comparing the cost of depreciation. Cost of ownership must also include the costs of updating, maintaining, powering, cooling, insuring, housing and repairing if (when!) it breaks down. If a cloud computer breaks down, Google has a few thousand waiting in the wings. In general, the base hardware cost seems quite competitive.

Of course, Blender is not really the juicy stuff. Access to a base Nuke, complete with workstation, is $685 per 30 days / 200 hours. Nuke X is $1,025. There are also “power” options for around 20% more, where a significantly more powerful machine is provided. Compared to running a local machine with purchased or rented software, these prices are very interesting. But when the ability to scale up and down with workload is factored in, especially being able to scale down to nothing during quiet times, the case for Athera becomes quite compelling.

Another helpful factor is that a single 30-day access block to a particular app can be shared between multiple users — as long as only one user has control of the app at a time. This is subject to the fair use limitation.

There is an issue if commercial (licensed) plug-ins are needed. For the time being, these can’t be used on Athera due to the obvious licensing issues relating to their installation on a different cloud machine each time. Hopefully, plugin developers will become alive to the possibilities of pay-per-use licensing, as a platform like Athera could be the perfect storefront.

Mari

Security
One of the biggest concerns about using remote computing is that of security. This concern tends to be more perceptual than real. The truth is that a Google datacenter is likely to have significantly more security than an average post company’s machine room. Also, they will be employing the best in the security business. But if material being worked on leaks out into the public, telling a client, “But I just sent it to Google and figured it would be fine,” isn’t going to sound great. Realistically, the most likely concern for security is the sending of data to and from a datacenter. A security breach inside the datacenter is very unlikely. As ever, a post producer has to remain vigilant.

Summing Up
I think Foundry has been very smart and forward thinking to create a platform that is able to support more than just Foundry products in the cloud. It would have been understandable if they just made it a storefront for alternative ways of using a Nuke (etc), but they clearly see a bigger picture. Using a platform like Athera, post infrastructure can be assembled and disassembled on demand to allow post producers to match their overheads to their workload.

Athera enables smart post producers to build a highly scalable post environment with access to a global pool of creative talent who can log in and contribute from anywhere with little more than a modest computer and internet connection.

I hate the term game-changer — it’s another term so abused by know-nothing marketeers who have otherwise run out of ideas — but Athera, or at least what this sort of platform promises to provide, is most certainly a game-changer. Especially if more apps from different manufacturers can be included.


David Cox is a VFX compositor and colorist with 20-plus years of experience. He started his career with MPC and The Mill before forming his own London-based post facility. Cox recently created interactive projects with full body motion sensors and 4D/AR experiences.


Embracing production in the cloud

By Igor Boshoer

Cloud technology is set to revolutionize film production. That is if studios can be convinced. But since this century-old industry is reluctant to change, these new technologies and promising innovation trends are integrating at a slower pace.

Tried-and-true production methods are steadily becoming outdated. Bringing innovation, a cloud platform offers accessibility to both small and large studios. In the not-so-distant future, what may now be merely a competitive edge will become industry standard practices. But until then, some studios are apprehensive. And the reasons are mostly myth.

The Need for Transition
Core video production applications, computing, storage and other IT services are moving to the cloud at a rapid pace. A variety of industries and businesses — not just film — are being challenged by new customer expectations, which are heavily influenced by consumer applications powered by the cloud.

In visual effects, film and XR, application vendors such as Autodesk, Avere and Aspera are all updating their software to support these cloud workflows. Studios are recognizing that more focus should be placed on creating high-quality content, and far less on in-house software development and infrastructure maintenance. But to grow the topline and stand apart from the competition, it’s imperative for our industry to be proactive and re-imagine the workflow. Cloud providers offer a much faster pace with this innovation than what a studio can internally provide.

In the grand scheme of things, the industry wants to make studio operations more efficient, cost-effective and quantifiable to better serve their customers. And by taking advantage of cloud-based services, studios can increase agility, while decreasing their cost and risk.

Common Misconceptions of the Cloud
Many believe the cloud to be insecure. But there are many very successful and striving startups, even in the finance and healthcare industries. Our industry’s MPAA regulations are much less stringently regulated than their industry’s HIPPA compliance. To the contrary, the cloud providers offer vastly stronger securities than a studio’s very own internal security measures.

Some studios are reluctant because the transfer of mass amounts of data into a cloud platform can prove challenging. But there are still ways to speed up these transfers, including the use of caching and custom UDP-based transport protocols. While this reluctance is valid, it’s still entirely manageable.

Studios also assume that cloud technology is expensive. It is… however, when you truly break down the costs to maintain infrastructure — adding internal storage, hardware setup, multi-year equipment leases, not to mention the ongoing support team — it, in fact, proves more expensive. While the cloud appears costly, it actually saves money and lets you quantify the cost of production. Moreover, studios can scale resources as production demands fluctuate, instead of relying on the typical static, in-house model.

How the Cloud Better Serves Customers
While some are still apprehensive of cloud-based integration, studios that have shifted production pipelines to cloud-based platforms — and embraced it — are finding positive results and success. The cloud can serve customers in a variety of ways. It can deliver a richer, more consistent and personalized experience for a studio’s content creators, as well as offer a collaborative community.

The latest digital technologies are guaranteed to reshape economics, production, and distribution of the entertainment industry. But to be on their game and remain competitive, studios must adapt to these new Internet and computer technologies.

If our industry is willing to push itself through these myths and preconceived assumptions, cloud technology can indeed revolutionize film production. When that begins to happen, more and more studios will adopt this competitive edge, and it will make for an exciting shift.


Igor Boshoer is a media technologist with feature film VFX credits, including The Revenant and The Wolf of Wall Street. His experience building studio technology inspired his company, Linc, a studio platform as a service. He also hosts the monthly media technology meetup Filmologic in the Bay Area.