M&E Journal: How Next-Gen Workstations are Expanding the Entertainment Supply Chain

By Ian Main, Technical Marketing Principal, Teradici

The new business models creeping into Hollywood’s entertainment stronghold, such as streaming services that have started to produce their own movies and TV shows, have had a big impact. As studios compete for audiences, the quality of their content continues to improve. And as they try to outdo each other on competing platforms, the studios aren’t just focused on producing content in greater volumes. They’re trying to produce programming that’s original, that resonates and that stands out. It’s the kind of challenge that calls for empowered artists.

But instead of studios chasing technology, the technology should be propelling the talent forward by opening new avenues for creative collaboration. Nowhere is the need for that shift more evident than in the post-production link of the entertainment supply chain.

Too many VFX artists still work from individual workstations located underneath their desks and are hindered in the quality of content that they create — not because of their skillsets but because of technology that limits the collaboration and efficiency that’s central to the creative process.

There are solutions out there that are breaking the mold. By utilizing centralized virtual workstations — either in a public or private cloud or through an on-premises data center — production studios are able to meet the demands of the new, consumer- driven entertainment industry.

Companies like DNEG (Double Negative), a London-based global leader in visual effects, have already made the jump. Facing greater demands and a planned expansion to a new studio in Montreal, the company turned to Teradici Cloud Access Software, a solution that’s not only proven to be both secure and flexible but, above all, empowering for the artists who use it. DNEG’s journey to virtualized workspaces illustrates the emergence of a new industry norm and the host of benefits available to early adopters.

Keeping pace with the industry

A clear benefit that DNEG enjoyed soon after adopting Cloud Access Software was the flexibility that virtual workstations provide. Without specialized compatibility requirements, DNEG VFX artists were able to quickly get to work on the new but familiar workstations using existing tools that they were familiar with, such as Wacom tablets. Because Cloud Access Software has compatibility at its core, artists can use the hardware that they’ve honed their craft on, enabling them to do their best work.

On a larger scale, cloud-based workstations provide studios with better access to render resources. They can meet the data demands of studios as they fluctuate, scaling quickly to allow higher computing power for brief periods of time. Accommodating tight deadlines and stretches of intense activity, these software solutions support the everyday realities of the digital entertainment industry.

Computing flexibility allows companies to move away from costly up-front investment in rigid, on-premises hardware and toward a more agile business model based on operational expenditures. Teams can tap into the resources they need, when they need them, without waste and without limitations.

Protecting IP

The most important asset for any studio, large or small, is its intellectual property. It comes as no surprise, then, that high-profile data breaches in recent years have fundamentally changed the way the entertainment industry views new technology. Securing IP is paramount—and this was especially true for DNEG, which regularly works with both its own and its clients’ IP.

A defining benefit of housing centralized workstations is the added layer of security that comes with it. Instead of having to protect a hundred physical workstations, each a potential target for breaches, studios can store their data centrally so that only encrypted pixels leave the data center. DNEG used Teradici solutions to take advantage of this feature, reducing the risk of a breach, easily meeting industry regulations and fostering peace of mind for every party involved in the production process.

Designed to empower

By themselves, increased IP security and greater flexibility in computing power make a solid business case for moving to virtualized or cloud-based workstations. But the core value of a solution like Cloud Access Software is its ability to break through traditional constraints on creative collaboration.

While maintaining equal or better performance than their physical predecessors, these workstations allow artists in different locations to collaborate, whether they’re across town or on the other side of the planet. Studios can create a truly global virtual workforce by enlisting the best talent, not just the closest.

The elimination of physical workstations also leads to a smaller real estate footprint, allowing studios to move to new industry hubs as their business grows. DNEG experienced this benefit when it expanded to Montreal. Because its artists could easily connect from anywhere and easily access their creative tools, the move didn’t interrupt workflow. Cloud Access Software made it possible to set up a temporary studio while the company searched, uninhibited by the spatial and networking needs of physical workstations, for the perfect location close to downtown.

Meeting demand, exceeding expectations

As illustrated by DNEG’s virtualization journey, solutions like Teradici Cloud Access Software are secure, flexible and, above all, empowering to artists. The virtual workstations allow studios to unleash their talent to meet the needs of the customer-driven entertainment supply chain. It’s the rare convergence of art and technology that supports business innovation, operational efficiency and creative exploration in equal measure.

Through this technology shift, artists are empowered to create original content in the ways that work best for them.


Click here to translate this article
Click here to download the complete .PDF version of this article
Click here to download the entire Spring/Summer 2018 M&E Journal