Watch the NAB Show session above.
Tools developed for big-budget streaming shows are being showcased by NAB Show exhibitors
BY George Winslow, TV TECH
Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is widely known as perhaps the most expensive and lavishly produced series in the history of television and streaming media. The Sunday session, “A Case Study: Color and Finishing in the Cloud,” also highlighted how the program’s pioneering cloud-based collaboration tools promise to revolutionize production processes in years ahead for many other series, large and small.
During the session, Jesse Kobayashi, co-founder of The Modern Film Consortium and VFX producer on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, discussed how Blackmagic Design, Company 3 and Amazon Web Services (AWS) collaborated to create an entirely cloud-based infrastructure for conform, color-grading and to deliver the show.
”This technology has done something that’s important,” Kobayashi said. “It’s democratized storytelling. What’s so amazing about being here at NAB Show and speaking to you about our experiences in creating The Rings of Power is that when you walk the floor, you now see these tools available to all of us and to shows of all sizes. That is really exciting.”
While the results of these technologies can now be applied to productions large and small, which are being exhibited by vendors like Blackmagic Design and AWS, much of the original development work for the cloud-based production tools was designed to handle a production of mind-boggling scale and complexity.
“We had 186 hours of 4K camera dailies,” Kobayashi said. “We tracked over 9,164 visual effects shots. And we delivered more than 480 minutes of blockbuster action to Amazon Studios from a production that involved 12 global VFX vendors spanning three continents around the world.
“We knew we needed a modern solution in order to deliver a show like this,” he said. “Working with the team at Amazon, they knew the answer for this was going to be leveraging the cloud in a way to bring together this global workforce in an efficient way.”
To do that, they set up a Pixstor storage solution in Auckland, New Zealand, and had 100-Gbps connections between two studios in Auckland. These were connected to AWS cloud storage in Sydney, Australia. Finally, they created a pioneering camera in the cloud system to deliver footage securely to AWS by working with Rebel Fleet in New Zealand.
“This gave us the flexibility, the automation and the protection that we needed to feel safe that our most important asset or camera negative was being stored securely,” he said.
To develop a system so all the creatives around the world could collaborate, they turned to Blackmagic Design — already an integral part of the production, supplying equipment and software — and the post-production firm Company 3.
Blackmagic Design worked closely with Company 3’s dedicated engineering team to facilitate the creation of what would be essentially a post-production studio in the cloud, with color-precise High Dynamic Range (HDR) monitoring synced live at each location. Based on AWS architecture, the solution allows media to be manipulated and conformed in the cloud as if all involved were in the same location, using local storage to hold the media.
Looking ahead, Kobayashi is already working on some new projects using these tools. But companies need to pay attention to a number of new requirements if they want to take full advantage of them, he stressed.
“Understanding the importance of interconnectivity and having the right people when it comes to IT staff, asset management and storage, is crucial,” Kobayashi said. “Those things need to be as much of a standard part of production as having trucks and food on the set.”