By Peter Corbett, email@example.com
To those of you who know me and my career, know me as a DGA director for most of my life, but also as the founder or co-founder of many Companies – Full Blue, Click 3X, IllusionFusion, Sound Lounge, Heard City, Clickfire Media. Many of these are part of the production and production community.
So why start yet another business (my 22nd) with WrkFlo Solutions? Simply put, I’m a sucker for innovation – some would call it the “bleeding edge”. Two or three years ago on an AICP panel, I talked about the democratization of production and post. What I meant by that at the time, is that the shift to dramatically lower cost digital cinema cameras and workstations as well as software that could all be licensed at a low monthly cost, rather than being bought annually, brought the capability to shoot and post at a high level within reach of the individual creator and thus proliferate the often inexpensive resources clients could choose from.
Then – the Pandemic
Suddenly there was a massive paradigm shift, the likes of which we hadn’t seen in our lifetimes. Everyone needed to devise efficient ways to work remotely and this gave rise to the geographic flexibility of where a team could be located. Even now, as businesses gradually contemplate returning to their workplace, owners confront the need – demand – to work in a hybrid work/home workweek while at the same time, an increasing number of people on a team are simply going to stay remote – forever!
All the systems and technology we collectively cobbled together are now under a strain that is often barely sustainable. Files are getting more and more massive – outpacing bandwidth – Home internet connections are often asymmetric with decent downloads and horrible upload speeds. Optimum has just reduced upload speeds for example to less than 10% of download speeds.
So my goal with WrkFlo is to assist and post production as well as production (which include in-house facilities) in navigating this new hybrid world we find ourselves in.
One current alternative to downloading and uploading humungous video files back & forth – is a system of expensive servers, a hefty firewall as well as ultra-heavy bi-directional internet bandwidth that would allow an artist to connect to their on-prem remote workstations with their home system – thus needing 2 workstations per employee as well as the servers, firewalls etc. etc. Radu, our VP engineering has installed these many times, but this approach was, by definition, almost impossibly hard to rapidly scale up and required strong, expensive IT support.
Enter Virtualization: Virtualization which puts virtual workstations (VM’s) in the cloud. Since these VMs are used on a by-the-month basis, a system can be “spun up” or down at will. There is no hardware to buy as each member of the team uses their basic laptop to control these powerful virtual workstations. There are no servers as the high-speed storage is also in the cloud. Your own licensed software is added to each machine. This entire virtual system can then be integrated into a company’s existing infrastructure. Most importantly, a facility can add or subtract virtual machines and storage at will – all with no equipment to buy and with ultra-solid security.
What was especially impressive to me, having owned and operated numerous facilities, was the ease of collaboration. I can share my machine screen, stream color-correct broadcast quality video to clients, accommodate pretty much any flavor of software – like Premier, AfterFX, Avid, Maya etc. There is even an amazing collaborative pipeline tool for more complex projects
Click 3X is a 50-person digital studio I ran for 25 years. I somewhat ruefully contemplated how the 20,000 feet of space, millions of dollars in equipment and huge amounts spent on IT could all now be replaced with a monthly cost that varied as the workload (and revenue) varied.
This to me was simply mind-blowing! And so, along with my partners, I ventured out, along with my partners, to start WrkFlo. I know all too well what a heavy lift it is to change an industry, but virtualization is a concept that couldn’t been more timely or needed in our new hybrid world. Large facilities – like BBC, NFL and WPP are already committing to this approach, but I see the value with smaller facilities – especially being able to eliminate large capex costs while ramping up or down costs and resources as the work ebbs and flows.
Production Studios: Even production is changing. Frame.io now offers a virtual shooting system where a camera output uploads footage in realtime with timecode and color settings into the cloud and to an editor who can be located anywhere. Since virtualization can enable you to spin up an entire post operation in a day, this opens this up to production companies to set up a complete project-based post facility – color, edit, VFX, motion graphics – literally from scratch and then to spin it all down once the project has delivered.
The idea of radically changing how we work is always going to meet resistance, but I’ve been through a number of these paradigm shifts in our business and I’m happy to play a role in steering virtualization to help our industry grow and thrive.
I would love to hear from you about how your business or facility is managing in this new hybrid world. Meanwhile, here are a couple of graphics showing the overall structure for an all virtual system as well as a system that integrates with an existing on-prem facility. If you’d like to find out more, feel free to drop me line. Our website has more details and we can demo the system online and even set you up with a full trial.