Over the last few weeks, we have had several requests from clients wanting to understand what are the options on the market for remote video production. The good news is there are many. The bad news is there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. In this blog, we will outline a few key solutions that enable media production to carry on in the event of a disaster, the pros and cons and the questions you should be asking when evaluating remote production options.
Remote editing in this context is the process of remotely accessing your existing production infrastructure from another location. Most users’ first port of call is to try solutions like Teamviewer, RDP and VPN to access their office environment remotely. This is an excellent option for managing media but can fall short when creatives try to edit or do creative work. In essence, the latency makes the experience almost untenable, even in an emergency!
Luckily if you are PC user, there are better options for accessing your on-premise workstation remotely. Using protocols like PCoIP, we can take a pixel for pixel representation of a workstation located at the company’s headquarters and stream a low-latency, frame-accurate representation to either a zero client or software client on your laptop.
However, for businesses who run predominantly on Macs, there are fewer options available for this. It is possible to provide a low-latency stream for remote editing on your Mac from home. However, it still requires deploying an additional cloud or on-premise broker which can be slower to implement and less cost-effective in the long-term.
The pros of remote editing are predominately speed of delivery and cost – if you continue to use the same environment, the necessary investments are relatively low. The cons, as well as potential latency issues, arise from the lack of personnel on-site – what happens if workstations freeze and needs a hard reboot? Who replaces the disks if storage fails? Additionally, navigating internal firewalls and complying with security practices might make this option difficult to implement in a short space of time.
Whilst this is not a fool-proof disaster recovery/business continuity plan, but it does give users access to an environment they know.
Cloud Production in this context is the use of a public or private data centre for media production. The main benefit of moving your production workflows to the cloud is that you don’t need to worry about issues like computers breaking or storage failing. That is the cloud vendor’s responsibility, and with each vendor offering SLA’s with 99.9 redundancy, the onus is on them to keep the infrastructure running. The high level benefits of cloud production can be summarised as:
- Can be scaled up and down as the organisation requires.
- MFA ensures an additional layer of security.
- Single point of access simplifying the user experience.
- IT can enable explicit allow and deny access.
- Single management pane with control over who, when and what can be accessed.
- Easy to deploy and maintain images
- All data is maintained within the corporate controlled security boundaries
There are several approaches you can take to creating content in the cloud. Firstly, you could use a managed service from a cloud vendor such as AWS Workspaces or Azure’s Windows Virtual Desktop – both provide packages and handle all of the infrastructure and OS licensing into a single pay-as-you-use cost (but will charge a maintenance fee for infrastructure whilst inactive) simplifying the deployment and management process but will charge a maintenance fee when inactive.
Secondly, there are other managed service providers who will supply all of the infrastructure and additional tools but may want you to deploy on their cloud environment rather than yours.
Finally, there is the build it yourself route. With this option, all of the tools are available to create and manage your own environment and, when you get past the notion of a cloud and realise it is just servers in a datacentre, the idea of deploying and maintaining this environment internally is a lot less daunting.
The biggest pro of creating and managing your cloud environment is that you will have control of costs and performance without paying a premium, allowing you to spin up what they want, when they want. However, if you do not have the resources internally then you will need to engage with a System Integrator like Support Partners to help get it deployed – this can result in marginally higher upfront costs but will be cheaper in the long term. If you are interested in the build it yourself route we have three models of engagement:
- Full Handover – Design, Deploy and Train your team to support
- Hybrid Support – Design, Deploy and cover 2nd and 3rd line support
- Managed Support -Design, Deploy and provide 24/7 support production and IT support
A key consideration when evaluating the feasibility of the cloud for editing is the end user’s home environment, as a rule of thumb the user should have:
20mbps bandwidth available per screen less than 25ms latency from datacenter If working on a corporate network then specific firewall ports will need to be open
If you want to know if your home environment is suitable for remote editing, then use the following links:
Transfer and Sync Tools
If your workforce has workstations available at home that are powerful enough to run creative applications, then the easiest option might be to deploy a transfer and synchronisation tool to enable a business to share specific folders, projects or assets with designated users. While there are traditional UDP tools on the market for point to point transfer, there are also tools available that enable businesses to set up a folder share between multiple locations, leveraging Peer-to-Peer technology to expedite transfer speeds and ensure synchronisation between all designated locations whilst providing versioning control.
The pros of this approach are speed of deployment and low upfront costs. The downside is that it is still reliant on a media manager remotely accessing the environment to share content from the local storage to users and, much like the remote editing workflow, if on-premise technology failed, who would go on-site to fix it? Additionally, transferring content outside of your secure network means losing control of the assets and potentially breaching SLA’s.
It is no longer a case that all asset management systems are huge, monolithic, unwieldy beasts – in fact, there are a a few great solutions on the market that operate on a software as a service (SaaS) model, allowing businesses to deploy, index and share media in a matter of days rather than weeks. By choosing a SaaS solution, it gives the business an opportunity to switch off the system when it is no longer required. As well as working with, and deploying, many of the out-of-the-box SaaS asset management solutions on the market, Support Partners has taken the unique approach of building an asset management framework natively in Azure which can be deployed on a clients subscription, this is the first true ‘pay as you use’ asset management solution.
If you want to make sure your assets are remotely accessible, then coupling a SaaS Asset Management solution with cloud storage is an ideal way of allowing secure, remote access to assets regardless of location. To aid the transition, cloud vendors have a number of bulk transfer tools available such as Azure Databox or AWS Snowball, allowing businesses to quickly bulk transfer media to a low-cost tier of cloud storage – 1TB can be stored for as little as $1p/m now!
Couple this with an edit-proxy workflow and there is no longer a requirement for users to have a high powered workstation available to them. Users can download the proxies to a laptop or to a cloud-based Virtual Machine and at the point of export, perform a re-conform with the high-resolution assets.
Questions to ask:
Regardless of the approach you take, it is key to start planning and evaluating the options available. Each environment is unique, and each business has differing needs, so here are some key questions for your team to help kick start the process:
What workstations/tools do your users have at home? What are each user’s home bandwidth and latency like? Where can existing tools (transfer, cloud, Asset Management) be leveraged? Does the internal IT team feel comfortable deploying and managing cloud infrastructure? What is the cost of doing nothing?