The MovieLabs 2030 Vision calls for software-based workflows in which files and assets are uploaded to the cloud and stay there, but there is still a way to go before the realisation of this vision. Mark Turner lists the gaps identified by MovieLabs that must be overcome in order to enable more cloud-based workflows.

1) Much faster network connectivity is needed for ingestion of large sets of media files

Today’s increasingly complex productions create huge volumes of data which can cause substantial upload headaches.

Mark Turner

Mark Turner: MovieLabs

There are multiple technologies available to mitigate the upload problem. Most cloud-based productions would benefit from having an uncontended upload and download internet connection of greater than 1Gbps.

Bandwidth is not the only constraint on ingestion to the cloud. The ingest step must also include elements required to enable a software-defined workflow (SDW) downstream. The requirements need to be well-defined upfront so that ingested files can be accessed or referenced downstream by other participants and applications.

2) There is no easy way to find and retrieve assets and metadata stored across multiple clouds

Applications need to be able to find and retrieve assets across all clouds. Two key steps emerge:

1) Determine which assets are needed by a process.

2) Determine where those assets are actually located in the clouds.

Each asset needs to be uniquely identifiable so that applications can consistently identify an asset independent of its location and then locate and access the asset.

Architectural clarity on separating these functions is an important prerequisite to addressing this gap. The industry needs to develop multi-cloud mechanisms for resolving asset identifiers into asset locations and the integration of those mechanisms with workflow and storage orchestration systems.

3) We need more interoperability between commercial ecosystems

Today’s content workflows are too complex for any one service, toolset, or platform to provide all the functionality that content creators need. We need easy and efficient ways for content creators to take advantage of multiple commercial ecosystems, with standardized interfaces and gateways between them that allow tasks and participants to extend across ecosystems and implement fully interoperable workflows.

To achieve the full benefits of the 2030 Vision, we envision a future in which commercial ecosystems include technical features such as:

a) Files and/or critical metadata are exposed and available across ecosystems so that they can be replicated or accessed by third party services.

b) Authentication and authorization can also be managed across ecosystems, for example, providing the ability to share federated sign-on so that a single identity can be shared across services and enabling external systems to securely change access controls via API.

c) Security auditing of actions on all platforms is open enough to allow external services with a common security architecture to track the authorized or unauthorized use of assets, applications, or workflows on the platform.

Watch MovieLabs 2030 vision: Panel discussion

4) We must resolve issues with remote desktops for creative tasks

Until all creative tools are cloud-native SaaS products, cloud media files will be manipulated most often using existing applications operating on cloud-based virtual machines. Limitations and considerations include lack of support for HDR, high bit depth video and surround sound in remote desktop systems. Until we close those gaps, the ability to manipulate media files and collaborate in the cloud will be stunted.

5) People, software and systems cannot easily and reliably communicate concepts with each other

Effective software-defined workflows need standardized mechanisms to describe assets, participants, security, permissions and communication protocols, etc. Those mechanisms are required to allow any cloud service or software application to participate in a workflow and understand the dialog that is occurring.

In addition, we need to describe how elements relate to one another, defined in a common way, so all connected systems can create and manage the connections between elements.

Read more Making sense of metadata in the new world of content

6) It is difficult to communicate messages to systems and other workflow participants, especially across clouds and organisations

Orchestration systems control the many parts of an SDW by allocating tasks and assets to participants on certain infrastructures. For those systems to work, we need agreed methods for the component systems to coordinate with each other—to communicate, for example, that an ingest has started, been completed or somehow failed. By standardizing aspects of this collaboration system, developers can write applications that create tasks with assets, create sub-tasks from tasks, create relations between assets and metadata, and pass messages or alerts down a workflow that appear as notifications for subsequent users or applications

7) There is no easy way to manage security in a workflow spanning multiple applications and infrastructure

Our cloud-based approach is a zero-trust architecture, requiring every participant to be authenticated before joining any workflow and then authorized to access or modify any particular asset allowing secure ingest and processing of assets in the cloud.

The MovieLabs CSAP was designed to provide a common architecture to deal with these issues in an interoperable manner and we’re working now with the industry to enable its implementation across clouds and application ecosystems.

8) There is no easy way to manage authentication of workflow participants from multiple facilities and organisations

A single Production User ID (PUID) system would make lives easier and allow software tools to identify participants in a consistent way. It would be easier to onboard creatives to productions and remove them afterwards, with lower chance of users forgetting or writing down the dozens of combinations of username and passwords for each system.

9) We will need a comprehensive change management plan to train and onboard creative teams to these new efficient ways of working

Many of these cloud-based workflow changes will require new or adapted tools and processes. Fortunately, the software-defined workflows described here use the same mechanisms available in other collaboration platforms already widely used today – Slack for real-time collaboration, Google Docs for multi-person editing, Microsoft Teams for integrated media and calling. Those tools provide the model for real-time and rapid decision-making that we want to bring to media creation.

If the industry can close these nine gaps, we will be closer to realizing a true multi-cloud-based workflow from end to end. Some of these challenges are beyond what any one company can solve. Still, there are areas where we can work together to close the gaps. To that end, MovieLabs has been working to define some of the required specifications, architectures, and best practices which we will elaborate on some of these solutions in more detail over the coming months.

  • Mark Turner is program director, production technology at MovieLabs

The full version of this blog is available on the MovieLabs website, where other blogs and white papers on this topic are available for free download