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Avid spotlight: Remote working done three ways

In recent months, many creative companies have had to adapt their workflows to remote working, coming up with innovative workarounds to overcome rural WiFi speeds, the dodgy colour quality of home monitors and more.

 

Liz Sunter

While this was initially challenging, many of our customers have come to appreciate the upsides of remote working: lower operating costs; a more flexible schedule for staff and instant access to a nationwide talent pool to name but a few. In fact, with on-location cutting and grading becoming more popular, some have even used the lockdown as a chance to test and refine their remote workflows, so that they can offer more stable, secure remote services to their clients going forward.

As the UK’s first Avid Cloud Partner, we can provide access to a range of different remote options for your workflow, whether you’re looking for a native cloud deployment or simply want to remote into an existing NEXIS array. We can help you build and install your system, and also have over ten Avid Certified Support Representatives on standby to help you with any teething troubles. But before you get started, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the options available to you and which might be right for your business. We asked our M&E Director, Rupert Watson, to talk us through some of Avid’s key solutions.

 

What tools are available for teams looking to make their Avid workflow more remotely accessible?

Rupert: There are many tools available, but broadly you’ll be addressing issues with Edit on Demand (Avid’s Azure-based cloud-native offering), MediaCentral | Editorial Management (a MAM-focused online service for smaller teams) or, for larger teams, a combination of MediaCentral | Cloud UX and Interplay | Production (also known as MediaCentral | Production Management). Cloud UX which allows you to spin up virtual machines which have access to all the same assets and workspaces that your team back at base do, while the Production Management module offers a more complete product asset management system for larger teams.

 

A key concern for many editorial teams is that in a remote scenario, editors are setting things up themselves, at home, rather than being able to rely on a technical team.

Rupert: Avid’s solutions are generally very easy for editors to get started with. MediaCentral and Interplay are both centrally administered, so an engineering team can configure profiles, workspaces and access rights behind the scenes, and an editor is simply presented with the correct data and toolset upon login. Even in Edit on Demand, where the user has to log into their own virtual machine, things are very simple.

Let’s say you use Edit on Demand to spin up five edit suites and you have 5TB of cloud NEXIS storage. Your end users download a Teradici client, which connects them to the Avid Cloud Access host via PC over IP. From there, they select which of the five machines they need to work on, and Avid build a Windows 10 machine before their very eyes (well, in the background, but you get the idea). Your NEXIS storage is automatically configured at the back end and is mounted on all five machines, so editors can work as if they’re using shared storage in the facility.

 

How much does the end user’s WiFi connection impact performance?

Rupert: Obviously it’s a factor, but when you’re working in Edit on Demand, you’re on Azure cloud storage, effectively in the heart of the internet. We ran some speed tests in Windows Explorer and were seeing results of 4.5Gbps, so moving or delivering media isn’t going to take very long, and in terms of internet bandwidth, the performance is excellent even without a dedicated connection. I’ve been connecting Edit on Demand over a standard 20Mbps connection and it’s really responsive. I could happily edit on that computer all day, and lots of our customers are doing just that.

 

So putting those speed concerns to one side, is it easy to get media to and from Edit on Demand storage?

Rupert:The Edit on Demand workflow is more self-contained than that in Interplay or Editorial Management. It doesn’t expect you to be moving and syncing things back and forth between your cloud NEXIS and a physical unit on the ground – it’s designed for standalone teams. That said, if you use an accelerator like FileCatalyst, you can move files to the NEXIS cloud storage very quickly, so getting files into the cloud storage in the first place isn’t difficult. 

People often worry that editors will be left idle waiting for files to upload, but given the transfer speeds I mentioned, the human is always going to be the slowest element in the workflow. Once the first clip is uploaded, they have to view, annotate and prepare it for the edit, by which time the rest of your media will be ready to view.

Or, if you have the high resolution media in a NEXIS in your facility, you can simply duplicate that project in the Edit on Demand environment, work on it there, and then bring the final Avid sequence back from the cloud to conform it. 

Facilities are often working under NDAs and security agreements that mean they don’t want editors to be sharing files over a high-speed internet connection. Is Edit on Demand not suitable for those jobs?

Rupert: In its raw state, Edit on Demand can be difficult to reconcile with security requirements. However, as an Avid Cloud Partner we are uniquely qualified to help our customers massage their Avid workflow into whatever form it needs to take. Our Via24 services are designed to help Avid users host, access and distribute their projects securely, utilising not just Avid’s own tools but best of breed solutions from a range of vendors, which work together to deliver a stable remote pipeline with predictable costs and a high level of security. So in a scenario like that, when a facility requires a more bespoke experience in terms of editing in the cloud, I would recommend they get in touch with us directly.

 

How does MediaCentral | Editorial Management differ from Avid’s native cloud offering?

Rupert: Editorial Management is built for a similar audience – small to mid-sized facilities and creative teams – but is less self contained and has more of a focus on how information is fed into the post pipeline. It’s really designed to help a geographically dispersed production team work with an editor back in a facility, enabling realtime review and remote logging using on-the-fly proxies.

In essence, you run a MediaCentral | Editorial Management server alongside your existing Avid NEXIS – the one in your server room, not a cloud volume. The server provisions people remote from the NEXIS with the ability to see into its workspaces, view the media that’s in them, and put together basic cuts. It means that an assistant or someone who isn’t Media Composer-literate can provision an editor who is running Media Composer with assemblies and selects, without needing a licence of or training on Media Composer themselves.

They can access storage on parity with the editor and play back media through a web interface, but you’re only giving them the tools they need to do a certain amount of organising and reviewing.

 

What if a facility needs to give their team a broader range of editorial tools?

Rupert: In that case they’d need to look at Interplay,which is a reasonable investment and gives you access to MediaCentral | Cloud UX or Media Composer | Cloud Remote.

Cloud UX is a browser-based environment where you can access assets remotely through an interface that looks and behaves like Media Composer. Users get a timeline and access to Interplay folders, so they can put together significant editorial work without having to run Media Composer on their home hardware – excellent if you’re working with hi-res footage and have editors who are working from home. Instead of importing hi-res media, they can work on proxies that Cloud UX creates for them on the fly, so they can review and work with material that is actually in the post house while they are not.

Conversely, Media Composer | Cloud Remote allows the editor to spin up a remote Media Composer workstation at home and use the full-blown Media Composer software to edit proxies coming live from a NEXIS in your facility (via Interplay).

 

How does this differ from Edit on Demand?

Rupert: In this scenario, the editor is provided with live proxies from the NEXIS server on your premises, so they can make complex editorial decisions using those proxies and changes will be reflected in the primary media held on your server, meaning there’s always a single version of the truth – everyone is working from the same files on the NEXIS storage, and all changes are reflected there.

In that context, teams can work creatively and put edits together which are essentially being stored in a central database, and all the timelines they create are being stored in Interplay as well. That means anyone who’s logged into Interplay, be that through a Media Composer workstation in the facility, a browser-based portal, a virtual machine or Media Composer | Cloud Remote, sees the same timelines regardless of where they are, so you can collaborate without needing access to a central hub.

 

What next steps should people take if they’re interested in any of these options?

Rupert: We have a more detailed breakdown of Media Composer licences here, which they may find useful, and more information about our Via24 services here. Alternatively, they can arrange to talk through their plans with one of our Avid team by filling in the form below, emailing broadcast@Jigsaw24.comor calling us on 03332 409 210.

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