Workflow tools for film and TV production have developed rapidly in recent years. DS asks the experts about the key developments
Productions from TVCs to movies and TV series are increasingly being shot in HD and 4K, and projects also have ever tighter deadlines, putting strain on the entire production and post-production cycle. Some of these demands are being addressed by a new breed of media management software that handles data from production through to post-production, and the delivery of a product ready for transmission. Digital Studio asks three experts about the latest trends in workflow management software and how it is helping production professionals to work more efficiently.
DS: What are the latest trends in workflow management software?
Dymond: Workflow can be an overused term in our industry. At Imagine Communications we think of workflow as the way that processes are brought together to achieve a business goal. So our approach is to start by listening and understanding, then discussing potential improvements to the workflow and the ultimate goal. The very last step is to map this to a technology stack.
The latest trend among our customer base is that they are looking for solutions that can be delivered and managed with minimum operational input, for maximum efficiency. They are also looking at technology and workflow orchestration platforms that allow them to design and add new workflows without complex analysis or system downtime.
Krishnan: There is currently a general trend within the industry to outsource IT into the cloud by building up private enterprise networks, so it is not surprising at all that more and more cloud-enabled workflow management offerings are reaching the market. As a result BPMN-compliant drawing tools are offered as web kits, eliminating the need for any local software installation. This also provides greater collaboration capabilities when designing and testing processes with developers working from remote locations. Another trend is the greater awareness by companies that their software become a component suitable for being integrated into a greater context/process, and this requires the software to expose its feature set as services that can be invoked during runtime by a BPM engine.
Sandhar: We are seeing efforts to standardise workflow integration between different systems. Analytics and reporting so businesses can have a heat map of workflow activity, which informs resourcing and investment. Deploying in virtual environments to optimise HW cap investment.
Avid’s Deepraj Sanda
“The laTeST TrenD among our cuSTomer baSe iS
ThaT They are looking for SoluTionS ThaT can
be DeliVereD anD manageD WiTh minimum operaTional
inpuT, for maximum efficiency.”
DS: How has software developed in the past year or two?
Sandhar: Development of software has changed in an effort to use technology to monetise the market and gain an advantage compared to previous rules where software was being utilised to gain operational efficiencies within a business.
Krishnan: Numbers have gone up significantly in terms of available workflow management suites recently, but more importantly, due to the availability of mature open-source work flow engines, more embedded solutions are present such as the Viz One Workflow Engine.
Dymond: There has been a movement away from the single, large scale monolithic software solutions towards modular, smart applications that are designed with integration and interoperability ‘out of the box’. Commoditisation of the hardware and integrated software design has allowed the move away from complex bespoke solutions to discrete solutions.
This ensures that the end user is only presented with essential information and not overwhelmed by the complexities of the engine room.
DS: What additional demands are there on workflow management software now?
Krishnan: There is a constant strive for simplification in an ever more complex environment and a desire to do more with fewer technical resources. This is met by constant development of portfolio functions and processes that provide the end users with more advanced functionality available, such as easy to use graphical shapes.
Sandhar: Analytics, reporting and secure virtual deployment are key demands in the media business at present along with expectation of integration APIs that conform to service-based standards.
Dymond: Workflow orchestration toolsets are now adding capabilities around resource provisioning. Earlier solutions might inform you of a bottleneck in your process chain, but with today’s software-defined video processing the workflow management layer should be able to dynamically add additional processing and storage. By learning from previous demands, the workflow orchestrator should be able to look ahead and proactively spin up more resources to avoid bottlenecks starting.
DS: How are software developers trying to cater to this demand?
Sandhar: Key to catering for this market is to ensure software developers are always analysing the industry needs and evaluate which ones they are best able to meet, and then develop accordingly to cater for demand.
Dymond: Central to the effectiveness of software-defined networks is the capability of the workflow orchestrator to apply intelligent decision-making to resource management and queue management. It depends upon a well-designed architecture, which allows metrics to be shared and understood. As well as acting automatically and autonomously as much as possible, the workflow management layer should also be providing data to external reporting tools or business intelligence for the C-level execs to weigh up organizational bottlenecks against lowest cost path to resolution.
DS: What are the biggest growth areas within workflow management?
Dymond: Processing and distribution as well as storage are prime candidates for growth. We now have more growth in multiplatform content distribution, and that leads to more complexity than ever before in the numbers of both technical standards for outputs and of metadata sets required. For every different output there is currently a potential need for some form of manipulation – even if it is only some re-wrapping. The subsequent hand off to a delivery platform also requires some level of asset storage – even if only temporarily.
Sandhar: In the media industry security is a particularly an important topic. The extent to which it is a growth area is unclear but certainly there is more focus from vendor’s to ensure their assets are secure, this has bought about new opportunities for Avid to and our MediaCentral Platform approach has potential to leverage this by looking at ways of integrating security solutions from vendors.
Krishnan: The biggest growth areas for us are to enrich the end-user workflow experience, tighter MAM interaction, and expanding the workflow functions to users that normally don’t use the MAM system in the organisation. Recent work includes interfaces to Adobe products such as Photoshop and After Effects, but also to users in the newsroom. Beyond this, we are focussing on additional reporting, dashboarding and audit functions, to really bring additional value to our offerings.
Vizrt’s RV Krishnan
“There iS a conSTanT STriVe for SimplificaTion
in an eVer more complex enVironmenT anD a
DeSire To Do more WiTh feWer Technical reSourceS.”
DS: How is business in the MENA?
Dymond: The MENA region has a significant number of high level customers for Imagine Communications’ technologies. Some of this is led by discrete technologies but we also are proud of the large number of fully integrated end-to-end solutions which Imagine Communications has delivered over the years. Today we see continuous refresh, upgrade and enhancement business through technology evolution.
Krishnan: Middle East has been one of the most important markets for Vizrt recording an impressive growth in new projects and solutions over the years. Middle East broadcasters have been showing an increasing appetite to be leaders in adopting new technologies and this has seen a surge in sales for Viz Mosart studio automation, the Viz One Media Asset Management platform and other graphics and social TV workflow tools we offer for live studios and newsroom environments.
Sandhar: Avid’s core business comes from the MENA region and our customer based is extremely strong and varied in they region. Demand for the Avid Media Central Platform has predictably high as customers look for a solution to solve their complicated workflows.
DS: Is the MENA region on par with the rest of the world in adoption of workflow management tools?
Krishnan: In the past, the MENA region has traditionally followed the trends set by more established markets, but this is now changing. Key broadcasters in the region have been driving adoption of the latest workflow concepts to challenge established counterparts in the more established parts of the world. .
Sandhar: The Avid Media Central Platform has been adopted foremost by our customers in the MENA region. Our customers in the region want to be the driving force in MENA for advanced production techniques.
Dymond: Many of the solutions Imagine Communications has delivered within the MENA region are very much designed on the concept of hidden complexity. Standalone workflow management tools are rare. Typical solutions involve embedded workflow functionality coupled with other technology stacks like playout automation, content transcoding and management.