HITS Fall: Blockchain Can Help Production Workflow, But Challenges Remain, DXC Director Says

Blockchain stands to help content production workflow, but there continue to be some challenges around the technology, so each organization must determine if it’s the right solution for it, according to Steve Wong, director of innovation and development at DXC Technology.

“Our industry is changing” in many different ways, he said during the morning technology breakout presentation “Is Blockchain and Distributed Compute and Store Right for TV and Music Production?” at the Oct. 4 Hollywood Innovation & Technology Summit (HITS) Fall event.

He pointed to the long history of film companies editing films by hand, storing films in cans, keeping track — in physical ledgers — of who showed up to work on a given day, and figuring out how many physical movie tickets were sold for a new film on its opening Friday to figure out box office performance.

But all that’s changing now, with the rise of digital content, the increased convenience of watching that digital content on mobile devices, and increased use of smart contracts, he noted.

Using as an example a blockchain game project that was cited by one attendee, he noted that the technology indeed is “not just theory” anymore and is being used by some organizations.

As an example of a specific potential blockchain application, he pointed to the writing of a screenplay that gets copyrighted and greenlighted to become a movie at a studio. As a result, a growing number of people are seeing that script, including storyboard artists and agents.

Keeping what’s in that script secure is important and challenging, Wong noted, telling attendees: “I want to know exactly who got that script, so my story doesn’t crawl off somewhere else.”

A blockchain can be used to keep a record of everybody who received that script, as well as exactly when, he noted.

“There’s not just one blockchain in this process” from start to finish, he also pointed out, noting there’s typically going to be a “combination of multiple blockchains,” including a public blockchain that is created for distribution. A blockchain can also be used to keep track of who needs to be paid for work on the film, he noted.

Blockchain also allows entertainment companies to “monetize and Uberize” the storage and processes they use, and this is “changing the way that Hollywood does business,” he said.

But “when you look at blockchain, you’ve got to be cautious with some of the downfalls and you have to ask yourself is this the right technology” or should you opt for a different solution instead, he said.

“We’ve got problems with blockchain — it’s not a perfect world,” he conceded, noting that “some of the problems that you guys have known about” include scalability, confidentiality, “access to external data – this is huge” — and transaction cost.”

One specific challenge involved with increasing block sizes used in a chain is that, just like with any networks, when “you put more data through a pipe, you have a slower network — you have more problems,” he said.

He also pointed to a potential situation in which two actors are supposedly paid the same amount of money for a project, but when you look at contracts, they realize they didn’t necessarily get an equal deal. One problem with blockchain is that it “makes everything available — everyone knows about it, which is a benefit for some folks, a detriment for other folks.”

A solution to that issue, however, is the implementation of “more of a hyperledger fabric,” which he said, “a lot of our banking clients are moving to.” With that type of blockchain, some of the data is made available publicly, but some of the information is kept private, so “you may not know what Tom Cruise is making on the next Mission: Impossible movie.”

Another major issue, he pointed out: “Unless that data has integrity, it’s absolutely worthless.” Therefore, because we’re dealing with a group with blockchain, “we all have to be aware and flag bad players; if people are putting bad information into the system, we have to flag them and say, ‘we don’t want these guys anymore.’”

Governments are also implementing stricter data protection regulations, so an organization could potentially be “sued or worse” if data is incorrect, he said.

He went on to say: “You’ve got to look at this bigger picture. Is blockchain [best] for what you’re doing?”

First, an organization should figure out if it trusts one group enough to use its database and have them run it — if it does, then it might be a good idea to just stick with that one group’s database, he said.

“If you’re in an industry where you’re dealing with a lot of folks that have to do business with, but you don’t necessarily trust each other, then maybe a blockchain is the right way” to go, he said.
HITS Fall was sponsored by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Box, Ooyala, TiVo, Cognizant, DXC Technology, Gracenote, LiveTiles, ThinkAnalytics, Wasabi, Aspera, EIDR, MicroStrategy, the Trusted Partner Network, human-I-T, Zaszou IT Consulting, OnPrem Solution Partners, and Bob Gold & Associates, and was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA), in association with the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA), the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), the Smart Content Council and Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH).

Click here to download audio of the presentation.