Ever since Adobe Anywhere was announced, editors and producers alike have had questions about how it could and would be utilized. Some were encouraged by the concept of real-time collaboration between editors, while others were skeptical about the logistics of such a process. Our very own Scott Simmons asked the Adobe Anywhere team some of the burning questions that have been on everyone’s mind, but he was limited to asking about how the system could impact the production process, rather than how it actually did.
After using Adobe Anywhere on their latest features, the CEO and COO of G-Men Media were the exact sort of people who could answer specific questions about how Adobe Anywhere actually did impact their projects. With the help of Adobe itself and KeyCode Media, they built one of the first full systems from the ground up according to Adobe’s recommended specs which they took advantage of for their feature films, Savageland and Divine Access.
Development and testing are of course both essential and necessary, but at the end of the day what really matters is how something does or doesn’t perform in the real world. G-Men Media CEO Clay Glendenning and COO Jeff Way were able to talk through their real world experiences with Adobe Anywhere as we discussed what it took to install the system, what sort of technical specifications had to be met and how all of it affected every side of their production process.
The case study that Adobe put together for NAB lays out how Adobe Anywhere really created a new way for you to work. Is that new approach something you felt and saw throughout the production process?
Jeff Way: The short answer is yes, but it’s really not that simple.
We realized the initial impact of Adobe Anywhere would lead to a dramatic cost savings on post-production because it could provide a more efficient and collaborative workflow. We invested into the system infrastructure realizing that it would provide us the vehicle to give our productions, and our clients’ productions, a more efficient and cost effective workflow.
This case study, in particular, covers the impact that we actually saw in post-production of Savageland – the first feature film to run through an Anywhere system. For the first time we were able to ingest and edit multiple media formats from footage shot over a three year period with ease, and we were able to do it all from anywhere with a decent internet connection. We were also able to scale up or down as needed for the first time ever without investing in additional infrastructure. If we needed to add an editor, we simply gave them the login info and access to specific assets for their responsibilities. Overall, we saw a dramatic increase in productivity which eliminated costs on the post-production of the film which allowed the filmmakers (our clients) to put that cost savings back into more creative aspects of the film such as VFX and color designing. For more details, you can definitely refer back to the actual case study.
Realizing the capabilities of the system, we knew that we could bring those same cost saving advantages and collaborative work environment to an entire production – not just post. This introduced a new case study opportunity utilizing the system throughout production on our latest co-produced feature film with Traveling Picture Show Company, Divine Access, a religious satire starring Gary Cole and Billy Burke with an estimated release date sometime in 2015.
Let me run through the process for each of these stages so you can see what kind of impact Anywhere had…
In pre-production we originally had intentions to utilize several pairs of our new Google Glass, which we did in conjunction with other cameras and equipment, to capture footage and photos of all potential locations during our first location scout in Austin, TX. Throughout our 5 days of scouting we successfully uploaded all location media assets to our Anywhere server, which were then immediately available for our partner producers’ review in Los Angeles. Although this was very early in the pre-production process, the immediate review capabilities via Adobe Anywhere allowed us to make quicker decisions on locations and weed out/ look for additional sets that weren’t approved by all producers. This ultimately reduced the cost of having to travel back and forth for further location scouts because we were already working in a collaborative production environment that afforded us the ability to make critical decisions quickly, as a team.
During actual principal photography, we set up Aspera file transfer capabilities and a high speed local internet connection in Austin to manage quick uploads to a cloud backup and ingests back down to our Anywhere server in Los Angeles. This gave us the capability to manage latency and transfer speed to our server, allowing us to successfully deliver dailies extremely quickly. This, in turn, gave us the ability to quickly reshoot unapproved footage the same day and eliminate need for future pickup shoots, which is a huge time, and more importantly cost, savings for the entire production. To add to the productivity, our producers and director were able to use the Adobe Anywhere iPad app to view and review/approve dailies immediately and give creative notes directly back to the director of photography and editor. The more productive workflow we experienced by using the system allowed us to forget about logistical aspects of production such as scheduling footage review discussions, and instead use the software as a gateway to stay focused on the creative aspects of the project and progress on our film in a more efficient manner.
- POST PRODUCTION
Our goal was to utilize the Anywhere system throughout as much of the production as possible. However, after some creative decisions made by our director as we approached editorial, we decided to go with an editor that cuts on Avid. We believed going with an editor that shared our director's creative vision was the best for the film. This gave us the unique opportunity to test how the system could adapt already existing Adobe productions into Avid Media Composer and ingest a locked cut after editing for ingest back into our system for color and sound finishing aspects. We successfully had our infrastructure acting as a mothership to all post-production aspects using Anywhere. The system has allowed us to quickly and easily transfer the needed metadata from an Anywhere Production and a shared Media Composer project (and vice-versa) very effectively without unnecessary data duplication as everything is referencing and using the same original Alexa footage on our server. It gives us the opportunity to be versatile when dealing with creative decisions on projects when determining how to best satisfy our own or our clients’ goals. That versatility is the reason we chose our Anywhere system to begin with
As I mentioned, we are exporting the Avid project for ingest back into Anywhere for color and sound finishing of the film. We've valued the versatility of Anywhere's ability to easily convert foreign files into new Anywhere productions, eliminating transcoding and expediting post-production in general. The finishing houses interviewed for color and sound have been eager to incorporate our Anywhere capability into their already existing Creative Cloud Suites.
Is the install of Adobe Anywhere more about offering a different kind of service to clients or more about being able to collaborate with other editors and artists regardless of location?
Clay Glendenning: The server side setup and install doesn’t have any relation to the client users. If the question is about the server install specifically, I can provide insight into the process, but it is a pretty straightforward IT process during which Adobe provides support.
I think your question is directed towards what the process is to work on and utilize Adobe Anywhere for an end user. The install process for Adobe Anywhere is really focused on the user. A lot of people think they have to do a separate install, but everything for Adobe Anywhere is already built into your Premiere Pro so everything is ready to go, with the exception of the security system that’s installed on an operating system level. It’s very straightforward, and I’ll provide an example of a freelance Editor working at a boutique post-production house in Chicago with a small team of 5 people.
They're all a “one man army” who shoot on Canon DSLRs, record sound, then head back to their small loft workspace where they edit and complete all of their projects using Adobe CC on Macbook Pros and iMacs. I’m referencing this type of small team because they are increasingly common and they collaborate with other teams frequently. These types of teams already find Adobe CC appealing, and are eager to use our system.
So, our example Editor already has Premiere Pro CC installed and will be able to connect and use Adobe Anywhere within 10 minutes most of the time. We send him a very straightforward instruction sheet, and he enables his machine to connect to our VPN (Virtual Private Network, for security). With his VPN active he then selects “Adobe Anywhere” under the file menu of Premiere, then selects connect. He is then prompted for a login and password specific to our Adobe Anywhere server. That’s it. He’s connected. If he had a Premiere Pro project file active, nothing has changed to that project. What has changed is he is now capable of doing everything Adobe Anywhere has to offer if he chooses. The next time he starts up Premiere Pro CC the welcome page will include Adobe Anywhere and he doesn’t have to re-enter his password every time.
Obviously if someone is new to Adobe CC, then that setup needs to be accomplished prior. We also make sure people connecting for the first time have their internet connections set up correctly, and very rarely have to recommend changing a router setting.
Specifically, what sort of scheduling and coordinating tasks were eliminated?
Jeff Way: Regular office meetings for edit review/approvals. With Anywhere we could do these on the fly. Immediately after an editor was done making a change, clients could review/approve and give notes as needed, which gives editors quick feedback and allows them to continue working instead of waiting for a review session.
That’s just a single example, but it’s a large part of saving costs. Getting everyone that’s part of a production in the same room is not always easy, especially when you require everyone’s review to move forward.
In any business the term you hear over and over is “time is money.” It’s so cliché, but I stick to it for this industry especially. There are times that you hire several editors with a director, colorist, and sound designer at the same time and have to coordinate their schedules with other producers for review session. It’s quite a pain when the schedules don’t line up and you have to reschedule a production meeting while still paying everyone on the team.
This is an issue that the remote collaboration ability of Adobe Anywhere has solved. Changes, edit/creative notes, review/approval capabilities are now available at everyone’s fingertips, eliminating the need to get everyone in the same room to review latest cuts. Now, we have the capabilities of collaborating and communicating remotely because we have access to the same media regardless of where we all happen to be located.
Have there been any issues with editors not having enough bandwidth on the receiving end?
Jeff Way: While Anywhere allows the flexibility to work remotely of the physical data, it does require a decent broadband connection to function properly. We recommend a minimum of 30Mb speed for zero interference during actual editing for small houses with a handful of editors.
That said, we expect our professional editors to be utilizing the system on a decent, professional, and secure connection anyways. The capability is there to access from your local Starbucks, but we don’t allow users to do that when connected to our system and it is not recommended by Adobe (or appropriate on legitimate productions with security requirements).
Clay Glendenning: I get this question more often than any other. When I’m talking to a production or editor or post-production supervisor that have expressed an interest I make one thing very clear: it is possible to connect on a 10Mbps or lower wifi connection from your couch at home via your laptop. Things will playback perfect most of the time or at least will be good enough for some light cuts or casual logging of footage. But that is not a professional way of working even for an amateur editor.
If an Editor is tasked with a project they should be expected to be working at a desk with a keyboard and mouse, with an appropriate monitor and a machine connected via ethernet to a broadband internet connection. They should have at least 15Mbps down and have taken the time to ensure that their router is properly set up. For the vast majority of the industry, this is an expectation that is entirely reasonable.
If you’re a producer who just needs to quickly check something and isn’t doing any heavy lifting, they’re totally fine to access and check something in the system using the wifi at their house. We were checking dailies over 4G on the iPad app and it worked just fine.
Can you tell us more about your initial purchasing & installing of the system? How difficult was it to get that system up and running, and what were the logistics around that process?
Clay Glendenning: We were one of the first full systems built from the ground up according to Adobe’s recommended specs. It was not particularly difficult, but it was a learning process for all involved. Luckily we had the support of Keycode and Adobe. Key Code Media was the systems integrator for the project, and they’ve actually installed more Adobe Anywhere systems than any other reseller in the United States. So we knew we were in good hands.
The story behind this is in late 2012 we had already established a strong Adobe workflow in a single office, and it was a typical small team shuttling hard drives between one another or being connected via a router and sharing project files. I thought it was time for a shared access drives working environment, and as I researched into that, I found that Adobe had announced Adobe Anywhere at IBC 2012. I gathered all the materials I could but I couldn’t find much more info than what was publicly available. So I went to NAB in 2013 with the sole intent to find a shared access storage array that would be compatible with Adobe Anywhere if I were to implement it. I spent my time there just going by various vendors who knew something about Adobe Anywhere. But even the ones who had announced support for it really weren’t aware of how it was going to work because it was so new. Finally, I got in touch with Adobe at their booth and asked some questions that were very specific to the hardware setup, and I was then introduced to one of their engineers, who explained what it would take to make it happen.
They agreed that we would be the first company to build an Adobe Anywhere system from the ground up. If you look at Adobe Anywhere’s installation specs, it’s very much geared toward being adopted at companies that already have an infrastructure in place and just want to add that functionality. We were willing to endure the growing pains associated with that process. We built it out and came in at a great price for a system that could do this.
At the end of the day, I wanted to make sure that in the office we’d be able to edit collaboratively. All the other features, such as remote connections, would just be a bonus. It took about two weeks for the install, but updates after that have been really simple. It’s a testament to the folks at Keycode and at Adobe.
The bottom line is that the installation was very smooth, but the caveat is that we had to figure out a couple things. But once it was up and running I was amazed. The first thing I did was load some RED 5K footage that was HDR, opened up a Macbook Air and was cutting with no lag. It was a standard older Macbook Air, and it was something I had never really experienced. It was at that point I really knew we had something on our hands.
Does Adobe Anywhere require a full time IT person to keep it running or is it pretty self-sustaining once it's set up?
Clay Glendenning: I think it's important for people curious about an Adobe Anywhere system to know that its primary appeal is for the end users. They are receiving information without technology getting in the way, and they are receiving it from a secure, private cloud doing many complex tasks in tandem. So to answer your question, yes, IT is required. It is part time, and we have several people and companies that are on call 24/7. The vast majority of the time it is self sustaining, however, someone does need to know how to get new users authorized, ensure network stability, etc. Most of the tasks are made very simple with the Adobe Anywhere admin control panel.
What were some of the things that really stood out to you as you went about using the system?
Clay Glendenning: When producers see an edit that has changed dramatically, they often freak out and want to be able to revert to or at least look at earlier versions of the edits that don’t have that change. We were in sessions where a producer would how long it would take to go back to a particular edit, and they were amazed to find out it was just a matter of mouse clicks. All we had to do was revert back to the previous edit since nothing had changed as it’s all metadata driven. The media itself is always a raw file living off the server. It’s truly non-destructive editing.
Once they realize that, they were far more open to allowing additional assistant editors and people who are trying to make their way up have a shot. It’s great, because these younger editors are familiar with Premiere and can get onto productions that normally would be much tougher for them, especially if they’re not living in a hub like New York or LA. They get a chance to show their prowess and productions can bring in some incredible talent that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
Security is a big topic when it comes to allowing access to a centralized database or network. How is that issue handled? And how are you able to showcase that to clients?
Clay Glendenning: Security is extremely important to us. We have multiple security measures in place. We also require all remote connections to run through a dedicated hardware VPN with monitored access.
We always ensure we cover security with new clients or non-technical producers who are joining or starting a production and using our infrastructure. Because the technology is new and the security measures put in place are rarely visible, it’s important to address the common concerns immediately. It’s also important to remember that many people don’t know how to ask the questions they want answered, so we have an obligation to explain our data protection. The primary question new clients and collaborators have boils down to this: “Is my media going to leak onto the internet?”
And the answer is no, your data is safe.
That said, it’s a legitimate question to ask because suddenly your workflow involves heavy use of streaming media, upload/consolidation, and user access privileges. The first thing I make clear is that while they will be using Adobe Anywhere, there is a separate, dedicated hardware firewall and VPN. If they are at our headquarters I walk them into the server room and show it to them. I touch on a few other things including the fact that we have two commercial fiber optic lines which also help with security, that we have regular security reviews and measures that make the production as a whole less vulnerable than shuttling hard drives or using FTP to various entities, all of which they are more familiar with. I also explain that while Adobe Anywhere itself is very secure, we have taken the recommended security additions from Adobe very seriously and gone above and beyond the suggested security protocols. No one on a production can just whip out another laptop or machine and use it unless it has been set up and authorized through our secure cloud infrastructure. Hypothetically passing off login and password information illegally as a user is even protected against and prevented.
We’ve always operated with a hardware VPN that allocated bandwidth and whitlelists IP addresses. If someone does try to access our data without proper authorization the box will shut down the access. If someone did somehow gain access to the network they’d also have to know the login for Adobe Anywhere as well. So security concerns can and should be addressed, but there’s no reason to think your network or data are going to be vulnerable.
What about after the production wraps? Are you able to utilize the program for archiving purposes?
Clay Glendenning: The program does “archive” the productions if we want it to, but this only saves all metadata/project files, not the media itself. The intent behind that is to use a MAM to your liking and Anywhere will work in conjuction with it. Also, a lot of media is still in use on other productions, so archiving media at the same time isn’t a good idea, for example, for broadcast episodic television. We archive our productions using a few simple custom coded programs for our Amazon bucket where we both backup our data and can cheaply archive it to Amazon Glacier when the media is no longer needed but is needed for archive.
I want to make it clear that Adobe Anywhere’s open API structure makes it extremely friendly for archiving purposes and is definitely built with archiving in mind.
Your just finished up an upgrade to 2.0…was that a smooth process? Anything that surprised you or stuck out about the upgrade?
Clay Glendenning: We successfully installed 2.0 a few weeks ago, and that process was very, very smooth. Nothing changed, and it just took the current setup info and updated everything. The dynamic linking that everyone is used to wasn’t supported in previous versions, but it’s there in 2.0. Now we see dynamically linked After Effects compositions, which is obviously great.
Also, if you have a really complex timeline, they have it setup so that the server side will anticipate this and it will render cache and make playback for remote users not skip. So 2.0 has brought some great stability improvements and has taken care of a lot of the little things that always seem to pop up, like one user having a plug-in that other users will now know they need to install.
Why did you end up going with Adobe Anywhere over Avid Media Composer or other comparable services? How did G-Men Media come to use Premiere Pro in a market predominantly Avid driven?
Jeff Way: As a company, we are not primarily biased toward any software. We realize our clients have different creative needs and prefer to work with professionals who utilize several different editing platforms. That said, we wanted a system that had the capabilities of creating a collaborative environment, regardless of the software used. This is the flexibility of our Anywhere system.
As mentioned previously, during our Divine Access post workflow we used our system’s TerraBlock for remote collaboration on an Avid Project. So it’s really not even a case of either/or when it comes to Anywhere.
While Avid Media Composer seemingly remains a preference for the more veteran editors, Adobe Premiere Pro has recently increased its market share presence in the editing software industry, undoubtedly due to a significant extent by Adobe being the first company to offer a cloud based service through Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. We’ve seen in the last few years a growing number of editors obtaining Adobe software due to the feasibility of owning professional suites through a simple subscription and the growing access to educational demos and tutorials on sites such as VideoCo-pilot, Lynda, and CreativeCow (to name a few).
Adobe also has the advantage of being a provider of software suites that are widely used by people for everyday needs unrelated to the film industry (i.e. Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop, etc.). Consumers seem to opt in for the Creative Cloud Suite that gives them access to all of Adobe’s products for a minimum monthly subscription vs. buying a software seat outright.
The decision to obtain Anywhere really came down to three things: cost savings, current workflow, and the adaptability of the system. Anywhere was simply cheaper than comparable services, and we already had several subscriptions to Creative Cloud Suite. Adobe Anywhere was simply an infrastructure addition that made our workflow much more efficient and cost effective. The adaptability it has was essential as well though, as it gave us the ability to utilize the system to conform to client needs (i.e. collaborating via Avid for Divine Access editorial)
Are you finding more editors familiar with Premiere Pro these days?
Clay Glendenning: The short answer is undoubtedly, yes. When we founded the company in January of 2012 we were targeting a way to most easily manage a RED workflow because there were so many people shooting on RED who then came home and saw they just couldn’t work efficiently on Final Cut. Adobe was the answer for us, and I think a lot of people came to that same conclusion in 2012.
Now we’re seeing NLE surveys that identify Premiere as the primary or preferred option for a lot of folks in the industry. And I’m seeing that reflected across the board, especially with just about everything that’s not feature film related. To be honest, it actually surprised me because people who previously said they’d never move away from FCP or Avid are now using Premiere.
As Jeff hinted at, most serious and accomplished editors are still working on Avid and they don’t plan on changing. That itself will change over time, and it already is. Gone Girl was cut on Premiere, but the number of feature film editors that are making the switch isn’t as many as you’re seeing elsewhere. But it’s common to see the feature film market lag behind the rest of the industry like this.
The great thing about Adobe is that they really do play nicely with everyone. Our editor for Divine Access preferred to cut on Avid, and we were able to easily accommodate that without duplicating any data. Different people are always going to prefer to use different tools, but I certainly am seeing a transition in terms of people’s preferences.
Many professionals are curious about how Adobe Anywhere can work for a production company. What would you tell those folks about how the system can impact the way they work?
Clay Glendenning: A lot of that depends on the size of the team inquiring. If you’re a large production company with 50 plus employees, you should contact Adobe directly and implement Adobe Anywhere yourself to use on your projects.
For users though, the way it can impact them is that a small team which is in the same general vicinity can connect to another Adobe Anywhere system and lower their overall time to completion and cost, because they wouldn’t have to invest in a shared access drive.
What I say to people is that if you’re a small production company and you’re going to be taking on a big project, you have the option to reach out to a company like G-Men and ask about collaborating in the sense that they can connect to our system to use its ability to connect all of this data. So someone can be shooting and then upload that data and have an editor immediately being working. They don’t all have to meet-up at a certain place or time for ingest or a handoff of a drive. That sort of thing is where you can avoid investing in a six-figure post-production environment. It’s money that can be saved and re-invested in the production.
You do have to remember that Adobe Anywhere is an enterprise level operating agreement. It’s a serious thing you have to flesh out, but if you’re just a user you don’t have to worry about that stuff. It’s not your job to manage a private cloud, because that’s really what the system is.
G-Men Media was created with a keen focus on new media and the creative application of cutting edge software and technology in production. They are based in Venice, California.