Video is not just for entertainment anymore. It’s transforming how people communicate in corporations, in universities—and in government organizations. I returned home last Thursday night from the Government Video Expo in Washington D.C., where our days were chock-full of conversations with the people who create video for defense and civilian agencies alike.
Digital storytelling is on the rise because it works. Our brains are wired for this combination of imagery and conversation. And with infrastructure advances in networking, video, compute, and editing, it is easier than ever to create (and distribute) good content. But just because it’s ‘easier than ever’ to create powerful content does not mean that it’s easy.
One highlight at the 2014 #GVExpo was Geoff Stedman’s talk ‘The 7 Things the Beltway Can Learn from Hollywood About Video Workflows.’ None of us want to reinvent the wheel, and we all want to leverage lessons from those who’ve been there and done that before. Geoff spoke from his experience helping Hollywood movie and television producers and broadcasters with file-based media workflows. So what are the seven things? Here’s my summary. My words, not Geoff’s—but the same narrative I hope!
1. It’s About The Workflow, Not the Storage
Content creators care more about their workflow than they do about storage. People have a job to do, content to create, a message to get out. So we focus on enabling the workflow, and make sure we integrate well with the asset managers and editing applications, from ingest to edit to mastering to delivery to archive. The post-production workflow involves editing and mixing of pictures, sounds, colors, music, and special effects to create a finished product—and often requires collaboration between creative professionals. Today’s post-production teams have a demanding job—with multiple inputs, many applications, a proliferation of formats and devices, and more destinations than ever before. Some of these activities are real-time, some are not—but they all need to fit together in a seamless workflow. The underlying storage infrastructure enables this process by providing high-performance access to files—but what really matters is the workflow.
2. Anywhere Anytime Anyplace
There are 2.4 billion connected devices able and willing to consume video content—and this number is projected to grow to over 5 billion devices in the next several years. Audiences today want to consume video on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and television. Everywhere and anywhere. Anytime. This creates challenges for those who create content, because they have to make it available in many different types of formats—and to continue to transcode into new formats as new devices come into existence. It’s the reality of video distribution today—and drives home the point that the infrastructure that enables video workflows needs to support all the different formats of broadcast, mobile, and web devices—to support the demands of anywhere anytime anyplace audiences.
3. Reuse Repurpose Recycle
The content in a video often includes a mix of newly ingested video clips with older footage or b-roll. Which means the creators are mixing video taken this week with clips created weeks or months or years ago. Modern post-production applications make it easier than ever to create the kind of seamless video montage that today’s audience expects—but to produce this kind of content you need a shared archive, and in particular, an archive in which you can find and quickly access the video you are looking for. One recent article (whose premise was that every organization is now a media organization) reported: “Your archive is only as valuable as your ability to retrieve [content] quickly.” That rings true. If you cannot access your data, does it really exist? The content is certainly not worth anything to you if you can’t get to it. Geoff’s most powerful words: “Your archive of content will perhaps become the most important part of your video infrastructure—enabling massive libraries of content to be readily accessible [and re-used].”
4. Production Values Drive Attention
The GoPro HERO4 is on many a person’s wishlist so they can capture 4K video, in action. (It’s certainly on my teenage son’s list!) Even some smartphones are now 4K. Employees and consumers are one and the same—and all of us have grown to expect hi-res, good storytelling, and high-quality production values. One producer for a civilian agency, who creates training content as well as promotional content, told me he sees his competition as YouTube and television—the quality of video he produces for the agency needs to be “as cool” as theirs. And the production values on YouTube have increased dramatically since the early YouTube days when popular videos were shot with thin budgets and thinner production values. The increased resolution of today’s digital cameras—and the resolution on our many viewing devices—have created new opportunities for richer, more powerful storytelling. Heck, today’s iPad has 1000 more pixels per display (2048×1536 pixels) as compared to an HDTV with 1920x1080p. But hi-res also creates a strain on video infrastructure—because infrastructure deployed for an HD world will not be sufficient for a 4K or even an 8K world. The moral of the story is: production values do matter—they can drive attention and keep attention– and storage infrastructure needs to be designed to support these more demanding media workflows.
5. Infrastructure Should Not Change Your Workflows
Infrastructure should not dictate workflows. If infrastructure and storage systems are limiting what creative teams can do, what order they do things in, whether they can share content, and the speed at which they can complete a project—well, those teams are sacrificing speed and efficiency (aka time and productivity and money) for… infrastructure. Not good! Much of video post-production involves real-time activities, and if the video workflows have to wait for the infrastructure to catch up, then teams are not producing while they wait. And if they’re not producing, it means they’re not getting the message out to their audience. So the lesson learned is to make sure infrastructure doesn’t delay real-time tasks. Creative professionals need to deploy storage infrastructure that reliably and consistently provides high-performance shared access to your files.
6. Storage Isn’t About Storing Things
So many people think of storage as a place to store their data. But it’s about more than storing bits. What really defines good video storage infrastructure is how good it is at delivering access to data—reliably and consistently. Video workflows in particular require speed, to keep up with the real-time production activities; access, so that the creative team members can find and re-use content; and sharing, to support the collaboration that is an inherent part of video post-production. Most any storage system can store bits—far fewer can deliver access to those bits reliably, and in a deterministic fashion.
7. Storage Matters
Creative professionals have a story to tell. So while our primary goal is to enable their creative vision, and to enable their video workflows, the fact is: if the storage infrastructure isn’t well thought-out, the workflow will fail.
In some organizations, storage ends up as the bottleneck in the media workflow, and it slows down production cycles, causing deadlines to be missed. Geoff suggested that one way to think of video post-production is as a factory line: there are raw materials coming in, these raw materials get processed and edited and then turned into finished goods, which then must be distributed. This media factory is similar to a manufacturing line. But if a robot breaks in a manufacturing line: what happens? The line stops. Bad! This same negative result is true for the media factory when the underlying infrastructure does not deliver data reliably—and it’s not acceptable for today’s creative professionals.
Which is why storage matters. Because while some types of data can use any type of storage, today’s digital video workflows need specialized storage infrastructure that supports the end-to-end workflow, from ingest to edit to delivery to archive (and back!) Geoff recommended that creative professionals in government start with the needs of today’s workflow, build for the future, plan for unending reuse of content, and pay attention to the storage infrastructure, because they will need it to work.
Want to Learn More?
Then check out our StorNext product page to see why StorNext 5 is the most widely deployed storage for video workflows.