Post production technology and services innovator Mad Old Nut Productions (MONP) has unveiled Apart But Together (ABT), a lagless remote editing solution for editors that delivers 99 percent of the office experience, 100 percent of the time. It has been used successfully to edit a string of episodic shows for Warner Bros. and The CW, including Batwoman,
The Flash and
Photo: 'All American' editor Finnian Murray
“Before the pandemic we didn’t use any sort of remote editing on any regular basis,” explains Rob Smith, director of operations at MONP. “When everyone was getting sent home, we could see what was coming down the pipe. We knew that editors were frustrated with existing work-from-home technologies.”
The delay in using a PCoIP set-up and the lack of confidence everyone has in what they are seeing on a monitor “makes remote desktops unsuitable for craft editors,” he explains. “What’s more, we didn’t think remote desktop was going to be an acceptable option for our clients.”
It was Todd Ulman, founder, chairman & CEO of Mad Old Nut (https://madoldnut.com), who led the way.
“Our clients were working with existing work-from-home technologies, but we saw a way to make them work more efficiently and collaboratively,” says Ulman.
Ulman tasked the facility’s engineering team to create a technology that emulated the experience of the cutting room.
“There were clear guidelines; the media must be on the system and everything must stay shared, and we must have proper Avid bin locking and seamless project management,” says Smith.
That meant recreating a shared storage experience anywhere, which allowed editors a full office experience. By late July, Mad Old Nut was able to roll out ABT in time to service the upcoming season of episodic dramas.
“We tested the system ahead of time,” notes Smith. “We knew it worked and knew that we could convince shows that this was the right way to do it. Our shows agreed and we rolled out with it.”
What Mad Old Nut devised was a way to keep the media in-sync between various home systems while the media itself resides on an always encrypted RAID, attached to their Avid system. To do this they leveraged some of the facets of APFS and Sohonet’s FileStore technology so that editors' media moved and synced between home and office systems seamlessly, just as if they were in the office working on an Avid NEXIS.
“Every edit system has a RAID attached to it that is basically taking the place of the Avid NEXIS in the WFH environment,” explains Smith. “The NEXIS’s traditional setup is housed at the show’s offices, where they have office systems that also are always in-sync. They connect like they always did, directly to the NEXIS, and we have a proprietary ABT monitoring station that syncs the NEXIS with the WFH world. An editor can be at home, jump in the car, go to their office machine, and pick up where they left off.”
ABT is always encrypted and fully secure, with none of the lag inherent to remote desktop protocols.
“Other systems require you to have an engineering degree to manage moving media. Ours does it automatically,” Ulman says.
A variety of shows serviced at Mad Old Nut this past season were edited remotely over ABT. These include Kung Fu (Warner Bros.), Batwoman (The CW), All American (The CW), Flash (The CW), Legends of Tomorrow (The CW), Supergirl (WB) and Riverdale (WB).
“Each show had six to eight edit systems, so 56 systems were remoted at any one time,” Smith says. “From bin sharing and bin locks, to getting dailies pushed at home, to seamless transitions between office and home systems, it was great to be able to offer them something that truly replicates the feel of working on site.
“In reality, the editors themselves see Avid as their desktop interface. The files and the project sharing are right there. The actual store, transfer and sharing of those files is hidden in the background. In every way, shape or form, ABT is no different to being on a NEXIS in the office.”
“From the beginning of ABT, customer feedback has been tremendous,” adds Ulman. “We’re hearing that, with ABT, people don’t ever want to go back to the office, which is the highest compliment we can imagine. We were aiming for 99 percent of the office experience, anywhere, anytime. For seven shows with more than 50 editors, it seems that we have succeeded.”
Editing All American over ABT
Finnian Murray is one of three editors on The CW’s drama All American. The third season was fully post produced at Mad Old Nut under lockdown, from dailies to finishing and delivery. The hugely-popular series, executive produced by Greg Berlanti and Nkechi Okoro Carroll, is inspired by the real life of professional football player Spencer Paysinger.
Prior to joining Season 3 of All American, Murray had been working from home using remote desktop protocols on another show.
“There was a rapid and radical shift to remote post when the pandemic shut everything down, and everyone did their level best to continue working the best way we could,” Murray explains. “But when dealing with something like this, you have to have a bit of understanding that technology is not a perfect science.”
He experienced several challenges, including having to relearn Avid for a PC environment, and frustrations at not being able to communicate and share work as seamlessly as he would have liked with his director.
“Through the VPN, I could get a screen that I could drag across two monitors, but it wasn’t a true two-screen solution,” he explains. “That became tricky with timelines and the need to scroll to the side wasn’t great,” he adds. “Even with a robust internet connection, I sometimes wondered exactly what I was seeing because of the highly-compressed nature of the picture.”
For Murray, difference between this experience and working on All American over ABT was “night and day”.
“This system is probably the fastest, most-stable system I’ve ever been on,” he notes. “It’s amazing. I tend to work pretty fast, which can sometimes mean the Avid I am working on — depending on the software version and OS — doesn’t keep up with the speed I go at. But this is superfast and very stable, with none of the delays of remote desktop workflows.
“I find it mind blowing that my assistant, who is several miles away, can make a bin and in two seconds, it’s on my system. Or he can import a clip and it can show up in an instant.”