Outlook: Pandemic-era evolutions will drive M&E innovation
Diana Colella
Issue: November/December 2021

Outlook: Pandemic-era evolutions will drive M&E innovation

The media and entertainment (M&E) industry is one driven by innovation and creative problem solving, traits that are essential in difficult times, especially during a global pandemic. When it became clear that “normal production” would no longer be possible, creative studios and professionals quickly pivoted, not just to maintain the status quo, but to meet an increasing consumer appetite for high-quality entertainment — from video games to episodic series, movies and beyond. 

Building on emerging technology and content production techniques, creatives and technologists realized new ways of working to help the industry thrive. Widespread adoption of cloud workflows and open standards, like Universal Scene Description (USD), enabled remote collaboration and greater pipeline efficiencies for globally-distributed teams. At the same time, advances in virtual production helped reduce on-site staff during production and accelerated post pipelines, while continued AI and ML technology development provided a boost to artist creativity. With 2022 on the horizon, these pandemic-era developments are setting the stage for new innovation. 

Early in the pandemic, global shutdowns accelerated adoption of cloud workflows. Creative facilities crammed years of planning and execution into weeks to connect teams virtually and keep productions running. However, as creatives return to the office, remote pipelines still offer a range of benefits, including reduce overhead and a broader talent pool. For these reasons, I expect to see cloud-based workflows continue to grow and evolve in 2022, and, looking ahead, Autodesk’s Forge cloud platform will support global production teams creating content in Maya, 3ds Max, Arnold, Flame and ShotGrid with greater security, reliability and efficiency.

Open standards are also proving vital to the industry’s future, as they enable more seamless exchange of assets. USD for 3D data exchange, OpenColorIO for color management, and MaterialX for richer material and look development are three major standards that are improving interoperability between creative applications and supporting more efficient data transfer across pipelines. Autodesk supports and is actively involved in shaping these standards as a member of the Academy Software Foundation, and also via our relationships with customers and partners. 

Beyond these developments, virtual production has seen a meteoric rise in the last two years, as productions minimized on-set crew and realtime game engines, like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, advanced. As virtual production technology becomes more accessible, we plan to continue working with Epic and other players in the space to ensure optimal game engine interoperability with tools like Maya and ShotGrid. We’ll also leverage AI/ML technology to eliminate bottlenecks and automate repetitive tasks. 

The progress made is a testament to the resilience of the M&E industry. If the resulting workflows and technologies are an indication of what’s to come, we’re in for an incredible next chapter.   
Diana Colella is the SVP of media &  entertainment at  Autodesk (autodesk.com).