M&E Journal: Cloud Services: Home to Future Media Production

By David Boland, Director Product Marketing, Wasabi

MovieLabs, the nonprofit technology research lab run by Hollywood studios, recently published a milestone white paper presenting a vision for the future of media creation. The paper delivered a call to action for Hollywood’s tech community to immediately work together to eliminate the “inherent inefficiencies in our production and distribution workflows that threaten to limit our future ability to innovate.”

In the paper, MovieLabs paints a clear picture that cloud services will serve as the home for future media production, with all assets (from scripts to captured images to computer-generated materials) ingested straight to the cloud.

The primary drivers for adopting cloud-based systems are anticipated cost savings, increased flexibility and the reduction of administrative requirements. However, a wholesale charge into the cloud could have disastrous consequences. A clearly delineated migration plan needs to be implemented and rolled out over the next three, six and nine years to achieve the enormous benefits of the cloud.
The first step in the migration is to understand the hidden costs of cloud media operations and how to avoid them.

There are essentially three major cost factors associated with cloud services:

1. Cloud storage costs
2. Egress costs to download your content
3. Compute power

We will focus on the first two because they are often the least understood and most overlooked of the cloud costs.

Cloud storage costs

Cloud storage costs are simply data storage costs that apply to the at-rest storing of your data in a cloud. Before you put down money to store your data in the cloud, you might want to check that you’re getting the best price. There are several options for cloud storage, ranging from $5.99 to $23 per month per terabyte. The questions that you need to have answers for are “how much storage do I need?” and
“how do the storage costs compare between cloud providers?”

The answer to the first question is never straight forward, so productions should always prepare for the unexpected. Higher resolution and higher frame rates are exponentially increasing the amount of data that is being created. Shooting ratios are increasing. In the classic “golden age of Hollywood,” a 10:1 ratio was common.

Alfred Hitchcock was known for his 3:1 shooting ratios. Mad Max: Fury Road has 480 hours of raw footage and 120 minutes in total running time for a shooting ration of 240:1. Nobody wants to make the decision of what footage to delete, so production houses end up keeping everything.

Storing terabytes or even petabytes of footage in the wrong cloud can devastate a budget. Understanding and forecasting the capacity and financial requirements for storage costs can be daunting.

Egress costs to download

Second, once the video assets are stored, how much will you need to download? If you have 10 TB, will you need to download all of it or just 1 TB per month? How many people will need to have access to the cloud stored assets? Will one person be downloading 10 TB, or will five people be downloading three to five TB each? The answers will vary from production to production. With many cloud storage services, these downloads have “egress fees” of up to $100 per TB associated with them. If you don’t know who’s downloading, where, and how much, you can’t predict the impact on your budget.

MovieLabs’ vision of a complete cloud-based production workflow is well served by Wasabi hot cloud storage and aligns exactly with Wasabi’s company mission to deliver high performance storage at utility pricing. Designed for exabyte-scale and “eleven-9s” data durability, Wasabi delivers write/read speeds faster than others which is critical to serve the hundreds of virtualized workstations that may be accessing the stored assets of a particular project.

Wasabi also delivers a flat fee per TB pricing model with no ancillary charges for data egress and API requests so content producers aren’t taxed every time they need to touch an asset or move a file to a particular processing service.

Since its founding, Wasabi has been pushing the notion of Cloud 2.0, where production workloads can be stored cost effectively in the cloud, accessed without friction or added expense, and protected in the most diligent manner.

Our goal is to enable creators and storytellers to deliver the best finished product at the lowest possible price and in the shortest time frame. Wasabi applauds MovieLabs’ bold vision of the future and looks forward to working with all relevant stakeholders to deliver a more efficient, capable and cost-effective production workflow in the cloud.


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