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Turning short and medium term plans into a sustainable infrastructure for studios to grow

pixitmedia MD Paul Cameron considers which new solutions put in place in 2020 could evolve and disrupt the media and entertainment industry in 2021.

The new year has started somewhat old. 2020’s legacy of a ‘new normal’ is now starting to take shape. Studio Cloud-based or hybrid workflows have been tried and tested, learnings have been made, projects have been delivered, and the media and entertainment industry is proving effectively capable of remote working. Studios have played catch-up, driven by an unprecedented demand for engaging visual content from an incredibly content-hungry audience. It is unlikely that studios will ever go back to operating in the exact way they once did.

Technology has always been critical to business success. In that regard, 2021 is no different than any other year. As studios today are able to issue remote teams with virtual workstations, and the required compute or storage resource in the Cloud, there are implications on the network bandwidth necessary for users to effectively share and collaborate on data. If “digital transformation” was a buzzword in 2020, in 2021, I expect studios will be looking to further blend Cloud and on-premises, necessitating investment in Internet connectivity, and flexible storage to support the delivery of high-quality content in a cost-effective way. As a consequence of the increase in data sharing and transmission, security will also play an important role in determining what solutions industry players turn to.

In the year ahead, studios will need to carefully evaluate their Cloud strategy in order to avoid its advantages and pitfalls, especially when it comes to making investment decisions on additional on-premise or Cloud resource. Which applications to run, which workflows, precisely what content to store where, how it it fits in an existing environment, and how effective that investment will be in terms of cost, speed, simplicity and performance all play a part in this evaluation.

Studios should consider storage analysis solutions to assess where each part of their content supply chain should run. It’s not cost-efficient to run everything from the Cloud. Storing data that needs to be accessed regularly in the Cloud is not cost-effective, due to expensive ingresses and egresses. A better use case is when studios have cyclical projects that cause predictable peaks in workloads over the year. In those cases, having specific Cloud resources available to access can address those peaks more efficiently than buying on-premise technology big enough to cope with peaks that only happen for a short period of time.

For a good way to advance a short/medium term solution over to a more sustainable plan, I would suggest considering the different workflows outlined for the year and where users will need access to content, in order to fully understand the performance requirements and design a solution that takes advantage of all different existing storage or power available. For each project, what are the media asset and project management tools? How can they be best integrated into the storage and technology of choosing? Regardless of the underlying technology and data provision, users should have the same experience.

Studios that have moved to the Cloud will remain competitive, but the ones that will persevere are the ones that have moved to the Cloud in a well-orchestrated, well-thought-out way.

Having said that, I predict that in 2021 studios will pull back from the Cloud in some way, and look for more predictability with project cost-planning. Harnessing the capability and power of GPUs in pipelines, leveraging them for very high-resolution playback, machine learning, and real-time production or virtual reality. This could also produce exciting new content production methods and standards enabled by the flexibility and agility both cloud and GPU-based workflows allow for.

If studios in 2020 had to quickly adapt and accelerate the use of Cloud technology, 2021 is the year to rethink what might have been a short/medium term solution. Technology doesn’t stand still, and solutions on-trend today might be replaced long before you’ve seen it coming. My advice is to stay agile and avoid investing in locked-in tools that don’t engage with other services. By doing so, studios gain a competitive advantage of being able to pivot quickly as new technologies come along.