How can you properly review the color grading of a video if you’re not in the same room as the artist? That’s a question that we at Alter Ego have answered with our remote review solution, using high quality, low latency video streaming to connect artists to clients, ensuring that each video project looks perfect.
Alter Ego is a high-end post studio that specializes in color grading, VFX and motion graphics. In the Spring of 2020, as travel came to a halt and working from home became the norm, we were faced with a challenge: how would we be able to find another solution to multiple streams of high-quality video to review with our clients when they couldn’t join us in the studio? We’ve been streaming sessions to our clients since 2010. Due to the increase in streaming demand and the need to improve their streaming capabilities, our team decided to use modern video streaming technology and create a workflow in which we could maximize the number of outgoing video streams from two to 10.
The search for the right tool
The video solution that Alter Ego needed would have to meet two critical criteria: it would need to provide high-quality video while streaming at low latency. High quality was important for us, as our clients were reviewing their produced video. Color accuracy and pristine, accurate images would be non-negotiable. Low latency was required to make the live remote review process possible – too large of a delay would mean that the artist and the client would be looking at different images during the review, making it challenging to coordinate feedback.
We sought out the best possible solution that could meet these requirements, testing a multitude of video streaming solutions for months. Eventually, one video encoder stood above the rest: the Haivision (https://www.haivision.com) Makito X4 video encoder.
We’ve tried so many others and the Makito X4 beat out the rest in both color and sharpness. The combination of high quality and low latency from the Makito X4 video encoder was like having your cake and eating it too.
Low latency reviews for high-quality video
The video is streamed from the output of our post production applications using the Makito X4 video encoder and the open-source SRT streaming protocol to a streaming server’s browser-based player, which allows our clients to watch and review the video content anywhere. The streams are sent at 6Mbps in full 1080p, with high-quality 8-bit 4:2:0 color accuracy.
By using the SRT streaming protocol (www.haivision.com/products/srt-secure-reliable-transport), we can ensure that latency is kept as low as possible, even when sending video streams at such high quality over the public internet. The quality is also maintained through the reliability of SRT, making sure that no packets are lost in transmission. Our team tried other protocols, but only SRT could deliver the video in low enough latency. We tried using RTMP, but when combined with the content delivery aspect, we couldn’t get latency under :15. If you used anything but SRT, it would add such a delay that we couldn’t deliver the video at a low enough latency for the clients to review properly.
For comparison, the typical end-to-end latency our clients experience when using SRT is only three to four seconds, which helps make the review process comfortable.
A reliable future in the cloud
This streaming setup has not only replaced the in-person meetings with local clients in Toronto, but it has made it easier to work with clients around the world, including Europe, USA, Australia, China and Brazil. And the feedback from our clients has been overwhelmingly positive; being able to review content remotely has enabled them to continue productions without having to compromise on quality. The low latency of the video allows for realtime reviews, meaning that important details aren’t missed.
Another important aspect of the solution that we have been pleased about has been Haivision’s support team. Support is like insurance; you don’t think about it until you need it. Haivision’s support has been very responsive and easy to get a hold of, which is very important for us. It gives us the confidence to be able to use and trust these tools.
With that confidence, and positive reception from our clients, we believe that remote review will be a part of Alter Ego’s workflow well into the foreseeable future. Even for clients who used to come into the office, there are advantages to the remote workflow, especially the time and cost savings, and the flexibility of managing busy schedules, which can make on-site visits challenging, even when they are possible.
Tyler Dalzell is the head of information technology at Alter Ego (www.alteregopost.com) in Toronto, Canada.