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Automating the production pipeline – 5 major decision drivers

By Saumya Dwivedi, Senior VP, Technology, Prime Focus Technologies

Mon 02, 08 2021

Content production is one of the most labor intensive exercises in the media and entertainment (M&E) industry. As a result, it takes up a lion’s share of the budget too. And that is not just because of the number of people involved but inefficiencies run across production planning, time and resource management, use of technology and content logistics (storage, transfer, review). Since the outcome is what we call the IP that is monetizable, security also becomes paramount as the threat of piracy never subsides.

Over the years, various technologies have been able to successfully enable the production process while ensuring they do not in any way interfere with or stymie its core – the creative expression involving human talent. While the core has been kept intact, the overall production pipeline has undergone transformational changes for the good over the years.

When workflows moved from tape to tapeless, the digitization ushered in an unprecedented era of efficiency, security and sustainability. The manual effort involved in content logistics has been substantially reduced, files are easier to track and guard than tapes, and elimination of hundreds of thousands of plastic tapes has led to the reduction in emission of greenhouse gasses.

Technology, especially the cloud has modernized the processing of dailies. From the age of couriers running to the film laboratories with dailies footage, to direct upload of content to the lab via the cloud, today we have DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) on-set working with the cinematographer on workflow, systemization, camera settings, signal integrity, on-set color correction and other image manipulation to ensure that the content meets the director’s creative goals and maximizes digital image quality.

With piracy eating into billions of dollars of revenue every year, television and film studios are focused on content security more than ever. And increasingly the focus is on identifying and solving vulnerabilities so leaks do not happen rather than embedding watermarks to track and monitoring where the breach occurred.

If there is one area technology has significantly enabled in the production pipeline, it is content review. Earlier, content review was the phase when the content was most vulnerable to leaks as many hands are involved and the content used to move on tape or DVD to shared spaces like preview theaters, edit suites, even living rooms.

Now with digital content, review can happen on the fly and in the moment, on any personal device like a smartphone or tablet, including sharing feedback as annotations, comparing before and after clips and signing off on edits, all remotely. This has led to a virtual explosion in creative collaboration globally too. With easy file transfer links even with an expiry date and watermarking of all kinds, content collaboration and review has become secure like never before.

With digital distribution supporting global syndication of content easily, content localization aspects like incorporating cultural nuances of the audiences, adhering to compliance parameters in each market, diversity inclusions, all have become critical needs of the business. This calls for greater global collaboration of talent as specialized skill sets are required.

One of the biggest possibilities today is to evolve from nurturing “islands of automation” facilitated by point solutions in the production pipeline to seamless end-to-end technology enabled secure production workflows that drive efficiencies, be they cost, time, and/or effort.

Which brings us to the question: What are the 5 key aspects to look out for in a modern production pipeline automation software? The starting point (on-set) and finishing line (mastering) are practically unchanged, but the routes between them are diverse and have been easy or difficult based on how productions adopt to standardizations and technology. Let me list down the 5 major decision drivers while choosing a software for automating the production pipeline. Needless to add, CLEAR Production Cloud exceeds the expectations of content producers worldwide.

1. Ease of Use

CLEAR Production Cloud is designed to be modern, responsive, and intuitive. The application empowers the user with features that allow for quick initiation and management of software aided workflows. The ‘sleek design’ approach helps to simplify the user experience even for the not so tech savvy, while still offering a high level of customization and integration.

2. Budget-friendly

CLEAR Production Cloud has the lowest Total Cost of Operations (TCOP) and offers true value for money with extensive features – Digital Dailies®, asset management, review & approval, collaborative production workflows, centralized management, powerful admin module, next generation HTML5 player, advanced playlists management, one click share, Secure Screeners, Just In Time (JIT) watermarking and many more. It is supported on all leading browsers, and Android, Apple TV, and iOS devices.

3. Time to Market and Industry Compatibility

CLEAR Production Cloud is offered on a SaaS model, so there is no upfront CAPEX allowing fastest time to market because you pay as you need. It can be easily integrated with all leading software products including major point solutions used for a variety of functions.

4. Constant Innovation

CLEAR Production Cloud is continuously evolving and releasing new features and enhancements to support emerging needs as we listen to hundreds of customers, enable thousands of shows and manage millions of hours of content.

5. Availability, Security & Reliability

CLEAR Production Cloud is 100% available and offers the gold standard in M&E industry security. It is reliable and backed by industry-leading support, processes and personnel.

The good news is that’s not all. CLEAR Production Cloud has an exciting slate of features and enhancements in the pipeline that will make it even more compelling for content producers.

Here’s a sneak peek: raw camera support; camera-to-cloud instantaneous reviews; policy-based archival; tiered storage workflows – movement of files across storage tiers (UI & rules-based); next-gen Share features & functionalities; AI-driven toolsets; forensic watermark support for downloads; “Locate” feature – retrieve specific footage based on EDL or in/out points; and clip-based workflows.

Stay tuned!

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