Streamlining Digital Filmmaking with Technicolor’s Pulse

28 December 2016

  • Digital technologies have transformed filmmaking from a linear, slow, and sometimes restrictive process to one that’s flexible and immediate, but also complex.
  • Creators have more options with digital filmmaking, and the process is asynchronous, so it’s critical to manage it all via a secure platform easily accessed anytime, anywhere, and supported by workflows.
  • Technicolor’s Pulse is a private cloud that gives creators a secure, managed environment to work in, so content-sharing and production processes can happen anytime, anywhere, among multiple groups, and across regions.
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  • Digital technologies have transformed filmmaking from a linear, slow, and sometimes restrictive process to one that’s flexible and immediate, but also complex.
  • Creators have more options with digital filmmaking, and the process is asynchronous, so it’s critical to manage it all via a secure platform easily accessed anytime, anywhere, and supported by workflows.
  • Technicolor’s Pulse is a private cloud that gives creators a secure, managed environment to work in, so content-sharing and production processes can happen anytime, anywhere, among multiple groups, and across regions.

Technicolor Pulse

Technicolor Pulse

Filmmaking has progressed from a linear, consecutive process to one that’s complex, global, and more immediate, with many moving parts. This is the nature of digital filmmaking and while it gives creators many more options, it also presents new challenges and can be difficult to manage. Technicolor’s Pulse is a cloud-based solution designed to streamline the process.

Craig Mumma, Technicolor Pulse Product Manager

Craig Mumma, Technicolor Pulse Product Manager

The Future Trust recently talked with Craig Mumma, Technicolor Pulse Product Manager and an industry veteran with years of experience in film and broadcast production. In our conversation, Mumma provides an insider’s view of filmmaking and the production process, and makes the case for using Pulse, which serves as a private cloud creators can use to share content around the clock and around the world. Pulse provides workflows, security, and management tools to streamline and transform the digital filmmaking process.

Let’s put some context on this conversation. Will you share with our audience a little bit about what your background is in the creative production services environment?

Mumma: I’ve been around for a while. Before joining Technicolor about a year ago, I spent the first 20 years of my career in creative production or production for feature films, as well as broadcast. And my background extends from being a visual effects supervisor and bringing things to you that can’t be done in camera, but in post [production]. With my job, I’ve always found myself involved with the imaging and everything – with the cameras and all the way through the pipeline. Because at the end of the day, I was the one responsible for how things looked. It was an important process to be a part of, and it was a creative process. I really enjoyed my first 20 years in this career.

Let’s look at the whole process. We’re a decade into digital intermediary work, after moving away from a chemical film process. But so many more options are made available with digital. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges associated with producing content of this sort?

Mumma: The funny thing is that you mentioned digital intermediate. I’m going to go back to that so you understand where that first came from. If we go back to the days of film, we used the film process:  We would send it off to the Technicolor lab and process it. At that point, when we were starting to transition to digital for digital distribution, we would do a thing where we would scan the film into a digital intermediate. We would do our color grading and any kind of effects work, and from that point we would film it back out to film, so hence the term DI. So it’s kind of a funny thing that this legacy term is going to continue even though we are 100 percent digital today. About 10 years ago, we saw a little bit of a change in the industry where the cameras advanced to a point where the directors of photography and the content creators were starting to say, “Wow, this looks good!” These digital cameras were starting to match the quality of film, and that’s where we saw a transition of a 100-year industry changing within a few years. A lot of people have had to adapt and really try to figure out how to take that digital process and put it on the screen.

It seems that as we’ve moved into this digital environment, there really are a lot more moving parts. Because it’s digital, people can access these digital assets in an asynchronous manner.

Mumma: Absolutely. You know, there are many moving parts with what was in the film days a very linear process: You shoot it, you take it out of the camera, you send it off to the lab, they process [it], they provide you a picture, you cut and you give it back to them. With the digital process, immediacy is there. We can take those files and manipulate them and distribute them throughout the world quickly. So what has that changed? One, it’s given the creator a lot more options of what he can do because he can do things faster to get things on camera, to get more results from the actors and so forth. And with that, unfortunately, schedules decrease, meaning you have a more compact time to deliver something. With that comes more of the moving parts — the distribution of the images, more people working on them, the visual effects industry which has grown 10 times over since the advent of digital, so it’s a very complex world.

The media industry is not alone. A lot of industries have embraced digital strategies, whether for making cars or televisions or anything else, including services. A lot of those have embraced the so-called “cloud strategy.” Is there a role for a web-based, cloud-based process management strategy in today’s modern environment?

Mumma: Absolutely. After the last couple of years as things kind of matured a little bit, with the speeds of the cloud, there is definitely a solution at hand there. And that’s one of the main goals of my focus at Technicolor, to provide that tool to the creatives. Coming from the creative side and the production side, I really understand the pain points of what they need on a daily basis. The last couple of years, the big buzzword is “the cloud, the cloud, the cloud.” Well, what does that actually mean, and how do we use it to our advantage? That’s really where I’ve joined Technicolor to take that to the next step and develop the cloud, and through that process we have developed a product called Pulse. And Pulse is a production tool to help the creatives that’s based in the Technicolor private cloud.

How does Pulse work? Walk us through the basic steps of how it brings things together in what can be a terribly complex process.

Mumma: You know a few pioneers a few years ago were going, “Well, I don’t need the big companies to be able to manage my thing. I can take these files and put them on a hard drive that I buy myself and try to manage it.” That’s good if you’re doing a one-minute or two-minute piece and you’re only producing a couple terabytes of content. But today these cameras and how much information we’re getting out of them will produce anything from 500TB up to a petabyte of information. It’s not so easy to manage anymore. It’s not a one-person management team. You need an army to manage this many files, color, imaging and everything else that is needed in the postproduction process. And that’s where Technicolor comes in, to help with that process. Pulse is a private cloud for that production [into which] they’re able to upload their images and all of their camera content. Technicolor can take their engineers and the people that know how to process these files, give them the best image quality, and can then put those results in the cloud for instant access for the content creator so he does not have to manage 500 terabytes on his own. All he has to worry about is telling the story right.

We’ve also seen the geographic dispersion of production. Making movies, making big television shows is often a global operation. What role does Pulse play there in supporting the workflow?

Mumma: One of the major advantages of Pulse is that it’s a global tool. It’s not just a local tool. So if somebody needs access in Amsterdam, and they need access to the files, they are able to log in to the secure website that Technicolor has provided, and manipulate and download the files as needed. The next morning, somebody in the United States can take those files that were being worked on in Amsterdam and manipulate them as well. So it’s a 24/7 tool that has no boundaries.

You mentioned a secure website. I’ve got to believe that’s an issue. It’s a part of the discussion when we talk about cloud in any environment, and the kind of content we’re working with is very sensitive. Tell me a little about the measures that are taken to secure Pulse.

Mumma: To secure Pulse was not a small task. We were consulting with a lot of the best in the industry, particularly the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America] guidelines and anybody else that was at the forefront of security in the web space. And it is, it’s a very sensitive subject. You have a lot of the bigger studios that have very sensitive films. They’re putting $200 million into this and the last thing they need to do is get an image out that is their new character or whatever it may be. So Technicolor took it very seriously when we adapted our security policies into Pulse. Before we begin any new feature or broadcast, we go through an extensive security audit. And I’m proud to say that we’ve passed every one of them with all the studios. But with that, you’ve always got to remember with security [that] the end user might say, “Well, how many things do I have to do? Do I have to do a retina scan? Do I have to do a fingerprint?” Absolutely not. We’ve made it very easy for the end user as well to log into the system with our security protocols, which we take great pride in.

You also mentioned the variety of people who are authorized to work with this content. Version control, process management — how does Pulse play a role there?

Mumma: Well, Pulse is a very permission-based platform, meaning users are given certain access to certain areas depending on what they’re doing in the project. And that is controlled by a single user from the project who oversees who these users are. We’ve also built in tons of security measures, meaning we have audit trails of where they have been, what they’ve done, what files they’ve moved around and where they’ve downloaded. And to speak of download, you can only download to approved sites and security transfers. So you can’t just download onto your desktop without a clearance to go to a special server.

And what about version control and making sure that you’re working with the correct file – especially since you have these global operations touching the content to do their jobs?

Mumma: Version control is actually a great thing to bring up because it’s one of our new modules that we’ve released this year. Naming convention is a pain point in production as well. When you’re working with all of these companies around the world, they might not have all the same methodologies that you do. And with that we’re using Pulse as a tool to kind of wrangle that in and kind of control that QC process of version control. So, everybody [who] logs in and out of the system and uploads materials is required to adhere to the version control for the production so they can track their assets accordingly.

Content is only going to get more complex, the process is only going to get more rigorous, and schedules are not going to accommodate. What is your message to the industry about what a technology like Pulse can do for the industry?

Mumma: Well, this is my message, and this is coming from my production side. The elephant in the room — as I’ve best described it to people — is that we don’t need the brick and mortars. That’s the elephant in the room. And people on the production side, “Why do I need the big companies like Technicolor to manage my assets? Why do I need this? I can do it on my own.” And you know, at the end of the day it is a very tough thing to wrangle, and we understand that from a production side. But from a Technicolor side, I wanted to give the tools to those filmmakers to manage their material, their ones and zeros on their own, but with the power of Technicolor behind them. And one of the tools was letting Technicolor empower their production. We can’t think of production anymore within the four walls; it is a global concept at this point. Technicolor is one of the leaders in this area for sure, and that’s why I was very proud to join it in this initiative.

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