HPA Tech Retreat: Virtual Production and Cloud Workflows
Last week, the Hollywood Professional Association convened its first “in-person” Tech Retreat in two years in Palm Springs, CA. Historically, the Tech Retreat has been a singular event for the Media & Entertainment industry that draws the leading figures in engineering, technology, creativity and business to engage on the most compelling topics and trends around the creation, management, and dissemination of content. And this past week, the conference certainly lived up to its billing as a must-attend event to experience the latest in content creation.
Virtual Production (VP) took center stage at the 2022 Tech Retreat and provided the latest example of profound changes in the ways that movies and television are produced. LED walls now take the place of the physical sets and remote locations where scenes used to be shot. Game development engines and a suite of advanced software tools serve as the core of this new production process. Directors now “film” on a virtual stage and can instantly make changes to the background, view and adjust visual effects in real-time, and instantly see the final film assets.
For many, the push to virtual production was accelerated by the pandemic and the need to collaborate remotely. But virtual production delivers a host of other benefits including time and cost savings, greater visibility among production staff and actors, and complete control over the weather, time of day, lighting, object position, and more.
Another major topic of the Tech Retreat was a status check on MovieLabs’ 10-year “Vision for the Future of Media Production,” which was published in 2019. In the original whitepaper, MovieLabs painted a picture that cloud services would serve as the home for future media production, with all assets (from scripts to captured images to computer-generated materials) ingested straight to the cloud and housed there for the life of a production and beyond. Content files do not move from their cloud storage repository and software tools come to the content instead of the other way around. By employing this cloud-first strategy, M&E producers overcome the considerable duplication and physical transfer of files that would typically happen between editors, artists and vendors – all of which is time consuming, costly, difficult to track, and prone to loss by human error or malicious intent.
At Tech Retreat 2022, executives from MovieLabs, Disney, Universal, Warner and key vendors reported significant adoption of many of the tenants in the “The 2030 Vision.” Cloud-based workflows and tools are now the new norm and the industry’s attention is turned to further refining the vision, developing common ontologies and best practices, and breaking down the barriers to multicloud workflows. One prominent film director called for greater collaboration among the cloud providers to improve interoperability, coalesce on business models to really enable multicloud work environments, and deliver the “easy button to move content files from one cloud to another.”
Between virtual production and the MediaLabs 2030 Vision, the M&E industry is charging ahead to deliver the technologies, tools, and processes that allow creatives to build bigger, innovate more, and deliver higher-quality content faster than before. However, all these new practices result in the generation of increasing amounts of data which requires efficient, robust and cost-effective storage…and that’s where Wasabi comes in.
Since our founding, Wasabi has been pushing the notion of Cloud 2.0, where production workloads can be stored cost effectively in the cloud, accessed without friction or added expense, and protected in the most diligent manner. At Wasabi, we applaud the bold initiatives of the Hollywood Professional Association members and look forward to continuing our work with our technology partners and customers to enable creators to deliver the best finished product at the lowest possible price and in the shortest time frame.