Outlook: Why cloud-native workflows are future-proof
Corban Gossett
Issue: November/December 2020

Outlook: Why cloud-native workflows are future-proof

The shift from tape to digital may have paved the way for new filmmaking approaches, but it took some time for creators and toolmakers to capitalize on the opportunities that the format shift unlocked. For creative studios, each new technological advancement, from higher resolutions to introducing new tools or features, required a significant pipeline overhaul. Since legacy pipelines have been mostly built around a studio’s networking infrastructure, this perpetual development, while necessary, can often be painful. With cloud-based workflows becoming more widely accessible and, in some cases, essential to maintaining operations with the global lockdowns of 2020, it’s time to rethink traditional studio models.

Pipeline engineers, IT professionals and CTOs at creative studios are often focused on the immediate tasks at hand, whether fixing a bug, upgrading a workstation or scaling compute for render crunch time. By taking a step back and looking at the entire content production ecosystem, the role of the cloud is clearly growing -  and fast. With the rise of cloud technology in digital content production, new pipeline design patterns are emerging, and a cloud-enabled, service-based approach is gaining favor. By taking advantage of infrastructure and tools that have already been built, instead of creating pipeline elements from the ground up, studios can focus technical resources on specialized initiatives that directly align with forward-looking goals, such as incorporating Universal Scene Description, OpenColorIO, realtime game engines or virtual production capabiltiites. This strategy also reduces maintenance, as the cloud and tool providers are often making improvements and optimizations that are invisible but directly benefit the end user. 

Cloud-enabled service-based pipelines also provide backend flexibility so that studios can easily leverage the cloud when needed. Studios are already embracing the cloud, with some building from scratch and others looking to replace depreciated pipelines and infrastructure. Taking a cloud-native approach goes beyond merely extending pipeline capabilities with the cloud and instead allows studios to change how they work fundamentally. They don’t have to make significant purchasing decisions based on rough estimates of what will be needed three years down the road and can focus on the project at hand, knowing they’ll be better equipped to make adjustments on-the-fly. At the same time, tools will continue to progress, prompting the evolution of cloud-native workflows that will allow artists to quickly create and deliver work in previously impossible timelines, which will help feed the ever-increasing demand for high-quality content. 

As many studios have turned to the cloud in 2020 in various capacities to help bridge a gap in the pivot to remote working, they’ve uncovered a more future-proof process that empowers them to scale their ambitions. This year has been an exceptionally-challenging year for the world on many levels, but its hardships have also prompted innovations. I, for one, am excited to see how the content production industry will be further reshaped through technology as we move forward to 2021 and beyond.
Corban Gossett is a Senior Product Manager – Technical at Amazon Web Services (AWS), focusing on Studio in the Cloud, where he provides technical and artistic leadership in building out cloud-based solutions for digital content production. He joined AWS (https://aws.amazon.com) from creative startup Nimble Collective and spent 15 years in production at DreamWorks Animation as a Supervising Technical Director, helping shape and manage the studio’s pipeline and coordinate development across multi-site teams.