Cloud or remote, VFX workflows are still possible.
You have two key choices for remote technologies: those that give you remote access into machines and devices at your facility or those based in the cloud. Depending on your needs it may be sensible to take a mixed approach.
Cloud solutions will require some thought on licensing and what your remote output review needs are. Remote accessed machines can drive remote review with output standards required for frame and color accurate critical review, whilst cloud solutions cannot. The right remote technology choice may depend on the OS you are using.
A quick solution to enable your teams to access files and content remotely is to set up a VPN. This will provide a secure connection via the Internet between your team’s remote PC’s / laptops and your facility’s servers and compute resources.
Teams working remotely will then be able to access all the facility’s internal computer resources, including the ability to access and load content onto their remote machines.
Of course, this will put a consequential strain on internet bandwidth, as multiple remote users requesting large files in parallel is not a normal business requirement.
Regardless of your creative tool set and remote workflow decisions, make sure you deploy a strong video conferencing tool (BlueJeans, Zoom, GotoMeeting) and desktop collaboration tools (GoogleDocs, Slack).
Cloud. Avid and Adobe offer cloud-based access to their tools. Licensing can be a challenge — very likely, you will need an existing license. Both offer direct services to consumers and firms like StratusCore and BeBop are trying to solve the cloud orchestration layer on behalf of creative teams. However, while the cloud-based approach makes steps 1-3 above straight forward, sharing is a real-challenge (both notifying colleagues and the absence of frame/color accurate output).
Remote. Setting up remote access for Avid or Adobe is harder (move the machine to a machine room, create access policies in the firewall and network devices and so on). Teradici solves your KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) problem easily on Windows and this allows you to ‘drive the desktop’ as if it was in your office. The solution for Mac often requires hardware. However, sharing can now be simplified by connecting a solution like Sohonet ClearView Flex to the workstation, allowing for air-gapped and encrypted sharing to remote viewers (5-20 users) in real-time (a latency of or less than 100 ms). ClearView Flex has the added feature of allowing the artist to share their ‘desktop view’ with remote reviewers (for example with the Avid timeline) and then switch to ‘output view’ to share the content with frame and color fidelity.
Cloud. The cloud-based access capabilities of tools like Maya and Nuke are not as well developed as the editing world. Virtual workstation providers like Stratuscore and BeBop can be helpful here (check the licensing requirements), but critical review output is still a challenge.
Remote. Similar to editing, connecting Teradici to these tools can be managed easily if on Windows, which then provides other output options (FTrack’s CineSync, ClearView Flex).
Remote Color Grading
Cloud. The ability to color-grade in the cloud is extremely limited since critical review output is a requirement for the artist.
Remote. Most likely, the colorist is going to have to go to the color grading suite. However, sharing output can be established from the grading suite to other grading suites or screening rooms either with the native tool itself (Baselight, Resolve) at both ends, or by integrating a remote streaming solution like Nevion T-VIPs/Virtuoso, Streambox or ClearView Pivot.
There is a lot of equipment in the market already deployed with Nevion and Streambox which needs to be configured for the specific workflow (point-to-point) and then supported by the local IT team (network path and firewall rules often change and require a re-installation of the gear and solution).
Remote Sound Mixing
Cloud. The options here are very limited, if any.
Remote. Similar to color grading, the artists likely need to be in the mixing room. SourceConnect from Avid ProTools is one option. Commonly the remote streaming tools (Nevion, ClearView, Streambox) will carry up to 16-channels of audio. The installation is still a point-to-point challenge but can be established in a straightforward manner. Remote Dolby Atmos mixing is still a difficult task, often requiring the sending of the content ahead of time and managing a video and remote site sync.
Off-line Remote Review & Approve
Cloud. There are plenty of asynchronous off-line review and approve tools in the industry. Moxion, Pix, Dax, 5th Kind, CineSync, Frame.io, Shift.io. These tools allow you to upload content for others to review on their personal devices and annotate and comment on the content.
Remote. Most likely, the only remote workstations in this workflow are the creative artists for VFX, editing, color grading.
Real-time Remote Review & Approve
Cloud. Many of the creative tools offer some sort of output approach, but none offer the quality required for critical review (not frame- or color-accurate). These can be clunky for viewers, requiring them to log into an account with the creative tool which is not always straightforward for execs.
Remote. Pairing product like ClearView Flex / Pivot with artist tools, is one way to share frame- and color-accurate output with colleagues who are disbursed. Some kit vendors require a point-to-point solution.
Remote Finishing Review & Approve
Cloud. Simply not available.
Remote. The assumed requirement here is that a small number of creatives and execs need to get into a creative suite or a screening room to see the content in its full glory (color, sound, etc). The equipment-only solutions are a viable option, with the caveat that the solution needs to be re-checked daily for changes introduced to the network/firewalls and there may be a multi-second delay in the process. Sohonet offers ClearView Pivot to facilitate the workflow at a ‘user-level’, enabling most users to click and open a call.
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