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How the cloud is changing the post-production landscape by Stephen Streater, CEO, Forbidden Technologies F or many years, the pace of change in mass market IT has dwarfed that of broadcast technology. For example, consumer cameraphone resolution has increased over the last ten years by 30,000%. In comparison, broadcast resolution hasn’t changed significantly. The development costs of consumer cameras are amortised over 1,000,000,000 units - there is no way the broadcast industry can compete on the pace of progress. The needs for cameras from consumers and broadcast are not aligned, so production cannot benefit directly from this mass market. But in post production, large parts of the IT infrastructure are exactly those which benefit from the latest revolution in mass market IT. Computer processing power, storage and internet access, all fuelled by mass market consumer demand, are exactly the features offered by the cloud. As new technology enables more and more of the broadcast workflow to move into the cloud, little more than a modest computer and an Internet connection is needed to be able to create in the cloud. Processor speed, file size, and security are no longer issues. Now, instead of transitioning to newer and newer generations of broadcast hardware, we’re moving from one IT solution to another. Nowhere is this notion more apparent than in post-production. Every calculation or data fetch in post-production that is currently carried out on a local PC could be carried out in the cloud. What makes the cloud suited for post-production? Just as electricity is provided more economically by large-scale suppliers, processing and storage requirements can often be met more economically by cloud services. And just as electricity comes to us directly via connection to a power grid, data comes directly to a computer via connection to the Internet. In addition, cloud services from different providers interact through automated interfaces, providing a highly flexible way of using different suppliers throughout the workflow. However, when it comes to video post-production, not just any cloud service will do. Generic cloud-computing providers, such as Amazon Web Services, are built for IT and consumer data rather than the voluminous data and performance requirements associated with broadcast video. The requirements for editing video are onerous, with large amounts of data needing real-time 58 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 85 JANUARY 2014 response. Rendering effects and transitions in a generic cloud environment are expensive, and the unresponsiveness would be frustrating for users accustomed to desktop solutions. Building a broadcast post- production operation on a generic cloud infrastructure is expensive and doesn’t meet broadcast reliability requirements. Dedicated platforms optimised for broadcast applications not only offer lower cost and responsive performance, but also control of where data is stored for legal and regulatory reasons. A cloud service lives or dies by its service quality. Over time, competition will fix reliability. Capacity and efficiency The capacity of the Internet and cloud services is essentially unlimited, with supply expanding to meet demand. Storage and Internet speed nearly double every year, and new solutions from the world of mobile are improving power consumption within the cloud. I have always found that the greatest efficiencies come from using client computers to undertake as much of the workload as possible. Though it might sound odd for a cloud solution, such a scenario provides immediate scalability, reduces latency to negligible levels, and significantly cuts costs. In fact, combining client processing with a dedicated cloud model allows us to give our FORscene clients unrivalled value for money.