The ways in which technology has changed and impacted professionals in media & entertainment are as apparent as they are revolutionary. The hardware and software that producers, directors and editors utilize on projects of all sizes are incredibly powerful and refined, but being able to leverage them effectively has meant the creation of entire environments and even industries that didn’t previously exist in the production and post world. What’s more, these tools have brought together the technical and creative sides of the business in ways no one could have envisioned.
We’ve looked at details associated with creating workflow efficiencies, but what that means on a technical and creative level can be totally separate conversations. The requirements of the technical needs associated with things like workflow and storage are evident to most professionals, but figuring out how all of that can and should work for a given project or facility is not always a top priority. Figuring out how to balance these elements is critical though, and the benefits of being able to do so are evident on a creative and technical level.
Companies like Cine Plus are a perfect example of where and how these benefits can be realized. As one of the leading full-service media-service providers in Germany for all phases and fields of audiovisual production, the company is able to meet technical and creative needs for clients of all types and sizes. That includes setting up media architecture and IT projects in broadcast, news and events environments while also offering traditional (video, sound, VFX, film-scanning and -recording) post-production services.
While Cine Plus mainly provides services for various production companies, they also serve as co-producer or producer for own projects. Various types of projects are produced at Cine Plus, and those include cinema, television, as well as short documentaries, and TV-magazine contributions. The technical and creative services they offer to clients of various types and sizes demonstrates what kinds of diverse needs the team deals with on a daily basis.
What does it take to meet the creative and technical needs of professionals in these environments? How difficult is this process? What kinds of tools are they leveraging?
These are all questions and issues that Torsten Seemann deals with in one way or another. As the Head of Technical Operations and Support at Cine Plus, Seemann manages a team of over 10 technicians in the Berlin headquarters, as well as the technical resources for all Cine Plus locations. With 10 outlets throughout Germany, he’s forced to deal with issues that can combine the technical and creative in ways few other professionals ever fully explore.
“Each client has their own project-manager who accompanies the project through the individual production/post-production processes within the establishment and operates as a communicator between the client and the internal or external employees working on the project,” Seemann said. “Individual project-managers each specialize in an area, such as cinema or TV. At other Cine Plus outlets throughout Germany, a variety of alternative workflows are implemented for different formats such as news or commercials. These outlets use the Avid NEXIS | PRO systems, sometimes in combination with different software.”
What sort of environment are we specifically looking at here though? How do these details influence the sort of work and projects that the team can take on?
The Cine Plus headquarters are based in Berlin. The three story industrial building houses 36 Media Composer editing suites, over 20 Media Composer logging workstations, 15 Pro Tools editing suites, 10 DaVinci Resolve digilab workstations, 1 DVS Clipster mastering suite, 3 grading suites based either on Filmlight Baselight or DaVinci Resolve (4K and HDR capable) and one grading DCI cinema with 39 Seats and a small 90qm Studio.
Their central storage consists of an Avid NEXIS | E4 120TB with System Director Appliance, an Avid ISIS | 5500 64 TB, a Avid NEXIS | PRO, and a bunch of other file-servers with around 500TB, along with about 1PB of additional disk storage. Apart from that, the headquarters are home to the management and technical support departments that also supply the other Cine Plus outlets throughout Germany and the Netherlands.
As a media contractor, the Cine Plus contributions to projects consist mainly in providing services for various production companies, but as Seemann mentioned, their work also includes original projects, which in some ways gives them the best of both worlds. Figuring out how these tools can and should be utilized on projects is a different discussion though, as different projects require different workflows, and the specifics of those workflows matter. A workflow example for a television production would look like this:
- Beginning with the data ingest (predominantly from Sony XDCAM) over an ingest-workstation to central storage. (Avid NEXIS/AVID ISIS).
- The material is then logged on logging-workstations with Avid Media Composer.
- The weekly/daily episodes are then edited simultaneously in 5-10 Avid Media Composer editing suites.
- Sound design, when necessary, is then processed with Avid Pro Tools.
- Color correction, title design, logos and other packaging is then undertaken on 1-2 Avid Symphony suites.
- The master files for broadcast are then created with Avid Symphony.
- A technical control is then undertaken before the final product is sent to the broadcaster.
On the other side of things, a classic feature workflow at Cine Plus looks like this:
- The raw footage is delivered on a daily basis to the graphic department.
- This footage is then copied to an internal storage and additionally backed up onto LTO tapes.
- A quality check and first-light grading is then undertaken on the DaVinci Resolve workstations.
- The raw footage is then transcoded for offline editing in Avid Media Composer.
- An assistant editor then synchronizes the rushes with external audio and exports daily rushes for their online “rushes server” (MOA Daily) which the client can then view online.
- The film is edited on an Avid Media Composer editing suite.
- Once a picture lock is reached, relevant exports are then passed on to sound and graphic departments for further processing.
- Sound design and mixing is processed on Avid Pro Tools by the sound department.
- Color correction is then undertaken in Baselight or DaVinci Resolve; depending on client request or requirements.
- DCP creation and mastering is achieved with DVS Clipster.
Seemann laid out these details because he’s tasked with making sure the creative and technical needs of these workflows can and are being met at all phases of the project. The importance of effective collaboration throughout this process cannot be overstated.
“For us, the real-time collaborative editorial workflow has economical advantages,” said Seemann. “It helps to minimize labor and considerable operation-mileage for the computers. A number of our multi-editor productions wouldn’t be possible without this kind of system architecture. The Avid NEXIS | PRO systems will be replacing our currently installed Avid ISIS | 5500 systems which will then be replacing older Unity MediaNet V5 systems at other outlets.”
The advantages associated with sharing bins and projects with other Media Composer editors to collaborate on sequences are their daily order of business. Television series are edited simultaneously in shared projects with up to 15 workstations working on a single project. The use of multiple workstations on one project for feature films is also becoming more common. The system operates stably and enables an economic and time efficient workflow.
Thanks to the excellent client-software, the integration of various operating systems (Windows, OS X, Linux) was very straightforward. The use of third party applications worked well for the team, and was easy for them to establish. They used the Avid NEXIS storage together with almost all of their applications. While Seemann identified that the performance with Linux needs improvement, the issue appears to be related to the version of Linux a user is on, as the Avid team has seen significant improvements in new versions of the software.
What it means to actually use these tools can often be a totally separate consideration though, and while the team at Cine Plus is tasked with setting up these very sorts of systems and processes, troubleshooting hardware and software problems can turn into entire projects unto themselves. That’s why the ease and speed they were able to find with these products was essential.
“Including the software updates to V7.1, our Avid NEXIS | PRO system was up and running within 24 hours,” Seemann said. “We then allowed for another week for the integration in our network-backbone and testing.”
The kind of savings that can be realized upfront in terms of expenditure is evident, but being able to track and see where else savings can come from creates a whole different level of value. The energy efficiency of the Avid NEXIS | PRO saves overhead costs and is environmentally economical. Additionally, the flexibility from the modular system is a big bonus for Cine Plus, which represent an expense that never hits the production budget. Depending on requirement, storage systems can be extended, or separated for use at another location. The software for the smaller system Avid NEXIS | PRO is identical for the Avid NEXIS Enterprise. That alone has saved the team extra training measures for technical operators.
Being able to meet the technical and creative needs of production professionals with specific tools like the Avid NEXIS | PRO creates efficiencies which can be quantified in direct and indirect ways. What does that actually mean to the people that are tasked with making sure everything works for a facility and project though?
“An Avid NEXIS system would definitely be worthwhile, especially now since the price has come down to a competitive standard,” Seemann concluded. “When you calculate in their technical support, and with their longstanding industry experience in mind, Avid’s offer is unbeatable.”