Tag Archives: Signiant

Hecho Studios: Mobilizing talent and pipeline to keep working

By Ryan Curtis

When Hecho first learned of the possibility of a shutdown due to COVID-19, we started putting together a game plan to maintain the level of production quality and collaboration that we are all used to, but this time remotely. Working closely with our chief content officer Tom Dunlap, our post production workflow manager Nathan Fleming and senior editor Stevo Chang, we first identified the editors, animators, colorists, Flame artists, footage researchers and other post-related talent who work with us regularly. We then built a standing army of remote talent who were ready to embrace the new normal and get to work.

Ryan Curtis

It was a formidable challenge to get the remote editorial stations up and running. We had a relatively short notice that we were going to have to finalize and enact a WFH game plan in LA. In order to keep productions running smoothly, we teamed with our equipment vendor, VFX Technologies, to give our IT team the ability to remote in and fully outfit each work station with software. They also scheduled a driver to make contact-free drop offs at the homes of our artists. We’ve deployed over 15 iMacs for editorial, animation and finishing needs. We can scale as needed, and only need two to three days’ notice to get a new artist fully set up at home with the appropriate tools. Our remote edit bay workstations are mainly iMac Pros, running the Adobe suite of tools, Maxon Cinema 4D, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Flame.

We have outfitted each member of our team with Signiant, which allows for rapid speed file transfers for larger files. If an artist’s home internet is not up to snuff for their project, we have been boosting their internet speeds. To maintain file integrity, we are rolling out the same file structure as you would find on our server, allowing us to archive projects back to the server remotely once delivered. We’ve also designated key people who can access the in-office stations and server virtually, retrieve assets and migrate them to remote teams to refresh existing campaigns.

The need to review during each phase of production has never been stronger. We tested a wide variety of review solutions, and have currently settled on the following:

• For Animation/Design-Based Projects:
Frankie – Export-based interactive reviews
• For Editorial Projects:
Evercast – Live plug and play sessions
Wiredrive (often times paired with Google Hangouts or Zoom)
• For Finishing:
Vimeo Review – Export-based color reviews
Streambox – Live color collaboration (paired with Google Hangouts or Zoom)
Frankie – Export-based interactive reviews
Wiredrive for deliverables (often times paired with Google Hangouts or Zoom)

Our collective of talent remains our contracted veteran Hecho crew, well over 50 people who know our shorthand and in-office workflows and can easily be onboarded to our new remote workflow. If needed to satisfy a specific creative challenge, we bring in new talent and quickly onboard them into the Hecho family.

In terms of how we deal with approvals, it depends on the team and the project. If you have a dedicated team to a project it can be even more efficient than working in the office. Overcommunication is key, and transparency with feedback and workflows is paramount to a successful project. However, in many cases, efficiencies can be lost and projects currently move about 20 percent slower than if we were in the office. To combat this, some teams have structured a little differently as it can be hard to wrangle busy individuals with fast deadlines remotely. So having approved backup approvers on board has been immensely helpful to keep projects moving along on time. And without clients in the bay, we lean even more on our post producers to funnel all questions and feedback from clients, ensuring clear back and forth with artists.

NFL #stayhomestaystrong

Challenges Solved
Aside from the lack of in-person interaction and the efficiencies of quick catch ups in the hall or in the bay, the biggest challenge has been home internet speeds. This affects everything else that’s involved with a WFH set up. In some cases we had to actually upgrade current ISP contracts in order to reach an acceptable baseline for getting work done: streaming reviews, file sharing, etc.

The other challenge was quickly testing/evaluating new tools and then getting everybody up to speed on how to use them. Evercast was probably the trickiest new product because it involves live streaming from an editor’s machine (using Adobe Premiere) while multiple “reviewers” watch them work in real time. As you can imagine, there are many factors that can affect live streaming: CPU of the streaming computer, bitrate you’re streaming, etc. Luckily, once we had gone through a couple setups and reviews (trial and error) things got much easier. Also the team at Evercast (thanks Brad, Tyrel, and Robert!) were great in helping us figure out some of the issues we ran into early on.

Our First WFH Projects
For our first COVID-19 response project, we worked with agency 72andSunny and the NFL to share the uplifting message #Stayhomestaystrong. Behind the scenes, our post team produced a complete offline to online workflow in record time and went from brief to live in six days while everyone transitioned to working entirely remotely. #Stayhomestaystrong also helped bring in $35 million in donations toward COVID relief groups. Credits include editors Amanda Tuttle, Andrew Leggett, assistant editors: Max Pankow, Stephen Shirk, animator Lawrence Wyatt, Flame artists Rachel Moorer, Gurvand Tanneau and Paul Song and post producer Song Cho.

Stay INspired

Another project we worked with 72andSunny on was COVID-19 response ad, Pinterest Stay INspired, involving heavy motion graphics and a large number of assets, which ranged from stock photos, raw video files from remote shoots and licensed UGC assets. The designers, motion graphics artists, writers and clients used a Google Slides deck to link thumbnail images directly to the stock photo or UGC asset. Notes were sent directly to their emails via tags in the comments section of the slides.

Our team shared storyboards, frequently jumped on video conference calls and even sent recorded hand gestures to indicate the kind of motion graphic movement they were looking for. Credits for this one include editor/motion designer: Stevo Chang, motion designer Sierra Hunkins, associate editor Josh Copeland and post producer Cho, once again.

What We Learned
WFH reinforced the need for the utmost transparency in team structures and the need for super-clear communication. Each and every member of our team has needed to embrace the change and take on new challenges and responsibilities. What worked before in office, doesn’t necessarily work in a remote situation.

The shutdown also forced us to discover new technologies, like Evercast, and we likely wouldn’t have signed up for Signiant for a while. Moving forward, these tools have both been great additions to what we can offer our clients. These new technologies also open up future opportunities for us to work with clients we didn’t have access to before (out of state and overseas). We can do live remote sessions without the client having to physically be in a bay which is a game changer.


Ryan Curtis is head of post production at two-time Emmy-nominated Hecho Studios, part of MDC’s Constellation collective of companies.

Signiant expands Latin American efforts, hires JP Garza

Signiant has hired JP Garza to lead its expansion in Latin America. As a 25-year veteran of the media and entertainment industry, Garza has worked at building the presence of companies like Sony, HP, Harris, Omneon and Ooyala across the region. He will be based Miami which will serve as Signiant’s hub into all corners of Latin America.

Signiant offers intelligent file transfer software and its own cloud-native SaaS platform. Customers include studios, broadcasters, sports leagues and teams, gaming companies, streaming providers as well as folks working in post production and media distribution. With more companies finding ways to work remotely, Signiant expects business to expand not only in Latin America, but globally as well.

Signiant update simplifies secure content exchanges

Signiant will be at IBC this year showing off new capabilities to its SDCX (Software-Defined Content Exchange) SaaS platform designed to simplify secure content exchange between companies. These capabilities will appear first in the company’s newest product, Signiant Jet, which makes it easy to automate and accelerate the transfer of large files between geographically dispersed locations.

Targeted at “lights-out” use cases, Jet meets the growing need to replace scripted FTP and legacy transfer tools with a faster, more reliable and more secure alternative. Jet was first introduced at the 2019 NAB Show. Jet is built on Signiant’s innovative SDCX SaaS platform, which also underpins the company’s widely deployed Media Shuttle solution that sends and shares large files around the world.

At IBC, Jet will include the new content exchange capabilities, offering a secure cloud handshake mechanism that simplifies intercompany transfers. The new functionality enables Jet customers to make storage endpoints private, discoverable to all or discoverable only to select partners in their supply chain. Via a secure web interface, companies can request a connection with a partner. Once both sides accept, specific jobs can be configured and mutually approved to allow for secure, automated transfers between the companies. Jet’s predictable pricing model makes it accessible to companies of all sizes and enables easy cost sharing for intercompany content exchange.

Signiant intros Jet SaaS solution for large, automated, fast file transfers
 

Signiant will be at NAB next month showing Jet, its new SaaS solution that makes it easy to automate and accelerate the transfer of large files between geographically dispersed locations. Targeted at simple “lights-out” use cases, Signiant Jet meets the growing need to replace scripted FTP with a faster, more reliable and more secure alternative.

Jet uses Signiant’s innovative SaaS platform, which also underpins the company’s Media Shuttle solution. Jet’s feature set and price point allow small- and mid-sized companies to easily automate system-to-system workflows, as well as recurring data exchange with partners.

Like all Signiant products, Jet uses a proprietary transport protocol that optimizes network performance for fast, reliable movement of large files under all network conditions. Coupled with enterprise-grade security and features tuned for media professionals, Signiant products are designed to enable the global flow of content, within and between companies, in a hybrid cloud world. The Signiant portfolio is now comprised of the following offerings:

• Manager+Agents – advanced enterprise software for complex networks and workflows
• Jet – SaaS solution for simple system-to-system automated file transfer
• Media Shuttle – SaaS solution that enables the sending and sharing of large files
• Flight – SaaS solution for transfers to and from AWS and/or Azure public cloud services

Media companies can deploy a single Signiant product to solve a specific problem or combine them for managing access to content that is located in various storage types worldwide. Signiant products interoperate with each other, as well as with third-party products in the media technology ecosystem.

Why fast file transfers are critical to video production, post


By Katie Staveley

Accelerated file transfer software is not new. It’s been around for many years and has been used by the world’s largest media brands. For those teams of content producers, it has been a critical piece of their workflow architecture, but it wasn’t until recently that this kind of software has become more accessible to every size company, not just the largest. And just in time.

It goes without saying that the process of producing and delivering content is ever-evolving. New problems and, as a result, new solutions arise all the time. However, a few challenges in particular seem to define the modern media landscape, including support for a globally distributed team, continuous demand for high-resolution content and managing the cost of production.

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These challenges can be thought of from many different angles, and likewise resolved in different ways. One aspect that is often overlooked is how organizations are moving their precious video content around as part of the pre-production, post and distribution phases of the workflow. The impact of distributed teams, higher resolution content and increasing costs are driving organizations of all sizes to rethink how they are moving content. Solutions that were once “good enough” to get the job done — like FTP or shipping physical media — are rapidly being replaced with purpose-built file transfer tools.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Distributed teams require a new approach
Bringing final content to market very rarely happens under one roof or in one location anymore. More and more teams of media professionals are working around the globe. Obviously, production teams work remotely when they are filming on location. And now, with the help of technology, media organizations can build distributed teams and get access to the talent they need regardless of where they’re located, giving them a competitive advantage. In order to make this work well, organizations need to consider implementing a fast file transfer solution that is not only accessible globally, but moves large files fast, especially when bandwidth speeds are less than optimal.

2. File sizes are growing
The demand for higher resolution content is driving innovation of production technology like cameras, audio equipment and software. While HD and even Ultra HD (UHD) content is becoming more mainstream, media professionals have to think about how their entire toolset is helping them meet those demands. High-resolution content means exponentially larger files sizes. Moving large files around within the prepro and post workflows, or distributing final content to clients, can be especially difficult when you don’t have the right tools in place. If your team is delivering HD or UHD content today, or plans to in the future, implementing a fast file transfer solution that will help you send content of any size without disrupting your business is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s business critical.

3. You can’t afford delays
When it comes to getting your files where they need to be, hope is not a strategy. The reality is that production will often finish up later than you hoped. Deadlines are hard and you still need to get your content out the door. Any number of factors can cause you to miss deadlines, but transferring content files shouldn’t be your biggest delay. You can’t afford slow transfer times, or even worse, interruptions that force you start the transfer all over again. Implementing a solution that gives you reliable, fast file transfer and predictability around when your files will arrive is a strategy. Not only will it enable your employees and partners to focus on producing the content, it will help you to create a positive experience for your customers whether they are reviewing pre-release content, or receiving the final cut.

4. Customer experience matters
Any time your customers are interacting with your brand they are forming an opinion of you. In today’s highly-competitive world, it’s imperative that you delight your customers with the content you’re producing and their experience working with you. Your file transfer solution is part of building that positive experience. The solution needs to be reliable and fast and not leave your customers disappointed because the file didn’t arrive when they expected; or make them feel frustrated because it was too painful to use. They should be able to focus on your content, not on how you’re delivering it to them — your solution should just work. It’s a necessary part of today’s media business to have a cost-efficient, low-maintenance way to send and share content that ensures a delightful customer experience.

5. Your business is growing
Moving digital video content has been part of the media business for over a decade, and there have been solutions that have worked well enough for many organizations. But when considering the rapid growth in file sizes, increased distribution of teams and the importance of customer experience, you’ll find that those solutions are not built to scale as your business grows. Planning for the future means finding a solution that has flexibility of deployment, is easy to manage and maintain, and the cost of expansion is proportional to your size. Growth is hard, but managing your file transfer tools doesn’t have to be.

Managing cost and keeping profit margins healthy is as imperative as always. Fortunately the days where every technology purchase requires significant capital investment are waning. The good news is that the availability of cloud-hosted solutions and other advancements have given rise to powerful solutions that are accessible to every size company. As a result, media professionals have affordable access to the technology they need to stay competitive without breaking the bank, which includes fast file transfer software. Investing today in the right solution will make a big impact on your business now and into the future.

Katie Staveley is VP of marketing at Signiant.

Quick Chat: Stargate Studios president Darren Frankel

Stargate Studios, a visual effects and high-end production company, has 10 offices in seven countries where they work on television, features, commercials and special venue projects. Their credits are impressive and include work on GracepointThe Walking Dead, Grey’s Anatomy, Ray Donovan, House of Lies and 12 Monkeys.

Stargate has been around for 25 years, which in this business is a rarity. We checked in with president Darren Frankel to find out how they have survived, thrived and more.

You’ve hit the quarter of a century mark, which is impressive. How have you not only survived in a very difficult market but also thrived and expanded around the world? Any wisdom to share?
You have to constantly reinvent yourself and your process. The industry is constantly changing and producers, directors, studio executives, etc. are looking for partners to help them stay ahead of the curve. We are always looking at new ways of doing things and which tools exist to allow us to do the things that we couldn’t achieve before. To stay current, you always have to be ready to break the model and improve it. You also need to look at your client’s problems as your own so that you are thinking along with them rather than just being reactive.

Can you talk about your different locations and is different work done at each or does the work at all locations mirror the others?
We have 10 offices — Los Angeles, Atlanta, Vancouver, Toronto, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Cologne, Malta and Dubai. At the crux of each facility is local work. All the facilities are interconnected using a proprietary system known as VOS (Visual Operating System). This inter-connectivity allows artists to share work and for VFX supervisors, producers and coordinators to communicate with greater ease. The business has grown internationally, so Stargate’s network of facilities also allows us to put talent in place regardless of location and bring that talent to the projects that need it.


Before and After: An example of work Stargate did for the show Gracepoint.

Can you talk about some of the work you have done and are working on currently?
Currently we’re working approximately 25 different projects around the world, a sampling of which includes The Walking Dead, Dig, Grey’s Anatomy, Ray Donovan, Damien, El Principe and a host of other projects that I wish I was at liberty to talk about!

Any one that you are particularly proud of. Can you describe?
Every project brings its own set of challenges and some of the work that I’m most proud of is work that nobody would ever know we even did because it’s invisible. At the end of the day, a company is really about its people, and I’m extremely proud of all of them.

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Before and After: More work for Gracepoint.

What are your main tools?
Our main software tools, in addition to the aforementioned VOS, are After Effects, Maya, LightWave, Premiere, Mocha Pro, RealFlow, Photoshop, Golaem and a host of other plugins and tools. In addition we use all kinds of cameras and production tools because real is always best when feasible, so we often shoot our own elements as well.

You are also using Signiant’s Media Shuttle to work with all your locations seamlessly. Can you walk us through that workflow and describe how you were doing this before Media Shuttle?
The business has become global. Shows often shoot in one city, do editorial in another city, and desire to gain tax incentives from yet another city. The ability to move and share data across Stargate’s network has become of paramount importance. Using our internal VOS system, data can be moved through the network automatically using preference settings rather than manual human interaction. It will even place files in the same directory on the network in a different city, without relying on moving files to a shared folder, and then having to manually disperse those files to their proper locations once the transfer is complete. We have moved from using FTP along our private VPN network and externally to clients, to Signiant’s Media Shuttle.

The two major reasons we did this are:
1. File Transfer Speed: Media Shuttle optimizes the bandwidth of users on upload and download to make files move faster between locations, and helps to mitigate the need for shuttling drives from client editorial and post facilities.

2. Security: Password-protected FTP sites are only so secure, and the way Signiant packages files makes them less susceptible to being compromised in any way.

Internally it didn’t create more work on our end but provided a significant net gain.

Check out the Stargate website for reels and more credits.