Before the onset of the pandemic, working from home was not so “workable” for one particular category of professionals: post production creatives. This is because editors, finishing editors and motion graphics artists lacked access to their specialized editing stations at home. So when the pandemic hit, almost everyone had to leave behind the costly high-powered workstations they relied on to get work done and head home with an underpowered laptop.
In the “before times”, editing rooms were bustling places where directors, producers and editors would seamlessly collaborate, play around and review new ideas as they popped into their heads. That all unfortunately came to a screeching halt with everyone dispersed, and left a host of technical and security challenges in its place.
Photo: Jay Makwana
For our post production studio, Storm, this posed a particular problem: how to provide a secure remote experience that could enable our post production team to produce the high-quality work our clients — which include huge series like Tomb Hunters on the Smithsonian Channel and The Secrets to Civilization on CuriosityStream & Off The Fence.
The fact is that large clients like BBC had become accustomed to high-caliber production in a timely fashion, and we had to maintain this level of output at home.
Storm meets the perfect storm
We already had the foundation in place, as we had dabbled in flexible work, but when the first lockdown hit, we frantically researched how to become a more remote-centric operation. But there was nothing on the market that would mobilize our entire workforce instantly and work as smoothly as we'd liked, especially when we were at full capacity.
Unsurprisingly, taking our operations home was something our editors and producers never imagined, which raised genuine concerns. And they were right. Like legions of creatives, we went home and quickly realized there was no way to get access to our high-powered equipment at home —for working on and sharing highly-detailed large files in full fidelity, playing back audio and video, and collaborating with our team members to create a stunning final product.
Then we came across high-performance remote desktop management Parsec (parsec.app), and everything changed.
Post production from the couch? Who would’ve imagined?
At first, we knew there would be skepticism from our editors around using a remote desktop application for remote editing — at least high-quality editing with the attention to fine details we were used to. And there was. But once our editors and producers connected to our edits via Parsec, they were gobsmacked with the experience.
For starters, out of the box, Parsec enabled our team to connect securely to multiple suites with near-zero latency, with high-frame rate remote access to our physical and cloud workstations. Once our team connected, the user experience proved nearly identical to working at our HQ on our high-powered workstations.
One of the major changes was that Parsec enabled us to replace traditional hardware set-ups in our offices to cloud-based software suites that editors or producers could access from home. This meant we no longer needed on-site hardware to complete full projects; we could now complete them from normal laptops — and the experience was impressive, to say the least.
The precision controls — including perfect absolute/relative mouse handling, full-tilt and pressure-drawing tablet inputs, and game-pad support — was stunning.
Parsec enabled us to upgrade to 4K super widescreen LG monitors, replacing the traditional dual-monitor arrangement. This set-up sped up workflow significantly. Project administration was also seamless, as Parsec incorporates a concept of shared computers and groups that makes administration of projects with multiple suites not only easy, but also incredibly simple to comprehend.
Performance and user acceptance are primary checkoff items, security is another, which is absolutely critical for us given the caliber of clients we work with. Parsec connections are all peer-to-peer and encrypted, and offer two-factor authentication. Parsec admin controls can also enable/revoke access on the fly. That’s just scratching the surface.
Is remote editing here to stay? A hybrid version, yes!
As our editors got accustomed to editing from anywhere, we had another revelation: remote post production presents some pretty fantastic business opportunities. For one, the pool of editors we could hire for a job significantly expanded. We’re in London, and historically worked with the best local editors we could find. Suddenly, we were able to bring in folks from around Europe and even The States. If there was an editor we’d always wanted to work with, we no longer had to wait for them to fly over the pond. Just hire them and connect them through Parsec.
Plus, our capacity for new projects increased significantly. We could make better use of the editing stations we’ve always had on-site, making them available to a global fleet of editors whenever they needed them, 24 hours a day, depending on their time zone.
It doesn’t mean that it’s an ‘always remote’ industry. Studios that previously felt the pressure to take their work remote and into the cloud —and face latency and graphics delivery problems — now have a viable, secure alternative.
Although post production pros rarely worked remotely prior to 2020, many are now finding the right balance between working from home and in-office.
For us, having days away from office distractions and meetings can allow valuable bursts of productivity. But we also see the benefits of being in the office, which helps keep us aligned with and connected. And certain tasks benefit from being on-site. For example, you may prefer to review a final file in the suite, purely due to the picture and audio monitoring, before signing it off. But ultimately, it’s about flexibility.
One thing is for sure, this is new territory for the industry. Many editors and producers globally are now working from home, at least some of the time, and many are adapting with forward-looking technologies like Parsec.
Whatever the future brings, it’s been — and continues to be — fun to see the industry embrace remote editing for the first time.
Ultimately, the spike in remote working and the flexibility of cloud-based technology have created a whole new level for editors to explore. Storm has managed to increase capacity without excess overheard by leveraging virtual edit suites as an option, instead of having editors come into the office. This has been invaluable to our workflow and overall business. It’s an exciting time to be in post production.
Jay Makwana is a Commercial Director with London’s Storm Post Production (www.stormhd.tv), which offers services that include offline editing, finishing, audio post, graphics, QC and delivery.