WFH Workflow

Hi all,

Probably you are all wondering how much is this COVID-19 “stay home” situation is going to last. Some of you have already figured out how to work with the existing technology and make the most of it to keep the business running. The IT guys are probably working around the clock to scramble to get you in some kind of operational state with the existing technology or new tools.

The fact is that all businesses have slow down to some extended and is causing everyone to rethink the business practices. The cloud based technology like Teradici, Bebop, Amulet Hotket come handy these days but they are trying to catch up with the new orders. Others went fully cloud based, that some of the VFX shops are successfully utilizing, VM desktops with some GPU, and thin clients on the end-user. Amazon AWS seems to be the first cloud choice for a fully cloud based Workflow using VMs cloud storage and thin clients on the end-user on AWS NAS. The VM can utilize 25GbE network according to AWS. Amazon AWS Elastic seams to be a good platform to start testing things out. Although Microsoft Azure File Storage and Desktop GPU VMs looks very promising workflow. The VFX workflow does not require much bandwidth therefore a Gige connection will be more than enough for VFX or even 1080 PROXY workflow with a H264 compression. There is some latency issues on the end-user of video and audio playback real-time, which depends on network congestion. We got a lot of reports for a saturated Spectrum wide network early in the week but the entire grid seems surprisingly able to keep up with the bandwidth demands.

The most common workflow that everyone is using these days it to take the media on an encrypted drive and simple setup an edit bay or a GFX workstation at home. Some of the issues that we have seen the last two weeks is the Internet Speed from the local ISP are all over the place in terms of consistency. According to network experts there is more bandwidth demand than ever these days. The issue with this workflow is not collaborative friendly, i.e., sharing projects is not easy and media transfer is slow from hard drive to another drive.

Although this is still being tested, in my technical opinion, a better solution would be a custom build system that can utilize some of your in house existing infrastructure. The requirements would be a fast internet pipe (preferable 10Gbps) which I believe most of the data centers such as Coresite, Equinix, T5 will be happy to provide. I myself like FirelineBroadband which is local ISP. Take you local storage from your promises whatever that is bring in to a co-location. Connect it to an ESXi, Nutanix or Hypervisor server using a direct connection (preferable 40GbE or up) and fire up a few VMs. The PC (Windows 10) based seems to be more commonly used due to the GPU drivers.

Mount the storage via SMB and you have an editorial pipe ready to accommodate for at least 10 edit bays PC based with some decent GPU for 1080 and 4K editorial or finishing workflow. But most importantly your media is available to you immediately. The end user will VPN in and use a screen sharing app, VNC, Remote Desktop, Jumpdesktop (Jumpdesktop passes audio) ..etc. Some of the PC based shops that have a lot of HPE gear are utilizing HP Remote Graphics (RGS) Software successful over LAN (gotta love the HP Z series). We had about 50 users VPN in and screen sharing, bandwidth was averaging around 300-400Mbps on the firewall. For previewing and client feedback real time there are existing technologies such us Sohonet, Blackmagic Web Presenter, and one software based Evercast which is getting good feedback (extremely low latency). This is collaborative workflow, users can share projects and media. The media ingest/delivery will also be easier and faster because most of the content owner user secure portals such us Aspera, Signiant, 5th kind , PIX, etc.. and most of the them are hosted in the cloud. The media itself lives in the datacenter but the end user has only screen sharing and audio playback over VPN. This solution also have its own challenging like latency in video and audio playback as well but I believe is better option for collaborative projects and for media management. Another system worth mentioning is IPV with their desktop app call Curator that integrates to Adobe Premiere and takes the “Work of Proxy” workflow to higher level with the its media browser.

In addition if you manage to get something up and running you have to reach out to the security experts (TTPN.org is a good resource) and make sure the system is compliant with the MPAA Security Guidelines and the Content Owners recommendations for the WFH workflow. The Security Teams from the studios are also working around the clock to adjust their workflow so they can get tens of thousands of employees working from home but also update their policies and provide guidance and awareness to the community about how to secure your WFM workflow.

In the future i do see cloud based workflows becoming more common and sofware/hardware vendors will also improve their technologies to integrate to cloud based workflows.

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