The severing of normal workflows and business practices under Covid-19 called on all the film and TV industry’s ingenuity to survive. A can-do attitude was certainly the order of the day at central London facilities Rapid Pictures and Radiant Post Production whose team sprang into action even before lockdown was enforced. Knowing it was imperative to maintain business as usual the full-service house had to quickly adjust to working from home and turned to ERA for support.
“Our main concern in terms of business continuity was to ensure that we could still offer our clients the full range of services in a remote scenario,” explains Ben Plumb, managing director at Rapid/Radiant. “The first step was ensuring that the offline edits could continue to work as this workflow feeds into the other services we offer.”
Radiant/Rapid offer fully managed edit suites for hire with further services including online, grade, voice over and audio part of the package for productions as diverse as Inside the Ambulance (Brown Bob Productions), Escape to the Chateau (Kindling Media) to true crime series What the Killer Did Next (Avalon Factual).
In order to maintain critical media management including ingest and export for clients, the facility had to secure continuity of access for production teams now dispersed around the UK.
“Since we’ve partnered with ERA for many years we already had secure, fast connectivity into ERA’s data centre,” explains Plumb. “Working with ERA, we were able to link storage on premises at both of our facilities into the ERA data centre over fast 10GigE fibre. We used the data centre as a hub to spin up more than twenty remote workstations at the homes of clients and those of our editors and key creatives so that projects could continue operating without interruption. This allowed us to offer instant remote editing as a solution for the offline edits.”
The solution also enabled the facility to fully manage the media for the client as normal in the background.
“We have managed to run the offline edits without the need to send out any equipment to client’s homes,” Plumb reports. “We can send them a link to Teradici client software (a PC-over-IP display protocol that enables access, browse, playback and sharing of media) which can be downloaded on a standard PC or Mac, and supply log-in details which gets them to an Avid Media Composer offline system on our network. This means we have been able to avoid health risks to our staff and clients. They have been able to continue with their projects and we have been able to deliver productions on time and on budget.”
All of Rapid/Radiant staff have been working remotely over standard internet connection from home during the crisis. The exceptions are its dubbing mixers and colourists who require specialist broadcast grade monitors, physical workstations and SDI links. Even here, a remote solution has been possible.
“Some of our team have home set-ups and where there are gaps we’ve outfitted them with the right equipment so that in combination with the remote system they can manage elements of their workload on the network,” Plumb says. “Final post services such as colour grading, conform, final review and approval, are challenging in a remote scenario as we need access to SDI video outputs on broadcast equipment which is not possible over standard internet connections.”
Rapid/Radiant had several projects in motion when the lockdown kicked in. Thanks to smart thinking, the team have kept all of them going, with many completed and delivered.
“Some of those projects have weekly TX deadlines,” Plumb says. “For Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch [pictured], for example, we complete the VT insert for the show each week but due to the studios closing this became a weekly edit of the whole show. A similar workflow was introduced for James Martin’s Saturday Morning for ITV which films very close to transmission.”
The post house’s nearline systems have all been provided by ERA and total around one Petabyte. Rapid/Radiant also use Avid NEXIS and EditShare shared storage systems. Since ERA’s remote workflow technology is storage vendor and application agnostic, the facility is able to plug and play any of its systems with ease.
“All of our systems are used in exactly the same way as they were pre-Covid-19,” Plumb reports. “We are able to log into workstations that are connected to the systems locally in the facility or from ERA’s data centre. For our offline editors, access to the media is as quick and easy as if it were from compute systems next door.”
As production gradually resumes the requirement for teams to work ‘together apart’ will remain fundamental and not just for the immediate future. Beyond short-term social distancing, the pandemic will permanently shift workflows away from centralised organisations to the flexible aggregation of resources and talent located anywhere in the globe.
“Offline and tech services have worked incredibly well using ERA connectivity and Teradici to gain remote access into Avid Media Composers,” adds Steve Oak, head of technical operations for the company. “Part of the reason we have been able to move so quickly is that we’ve been working with ERA and testing solutions for remote capabilities over the last few years to see how we could apply it in practice. That’s been a saving grace really since we’ve been able to rollout a remote service without a hitch.
“More importantly, the experience has opened the eyes of clients to what is feasible. Some had been a bit reluctant to try remote before but now they’ve seen it in action, and that doing offline is entirely possible, it will give everyone greater flexibility to work from home or a home office in future. It won’t be appropriate for every project, but as a viable option remote will definitely be part of our offer going forward.”
Plumb summarises, “In a nutshell, we are open for business and are continuing to start new projects within the current scenario, whilst adhering to all social distance measures. Our clients have been surprised at how well it has worked and more are looking to continue to work in this way after lockdown is finished.”