HITS Spring: Microsoft Azure Touts Benefits of Going All-In on Cloud Production

Moving content workloads to the cloud isn’t as hard (or scary) as some media and entertainment companies might expect, and there are advantages when it comes to security and multiple other fronts that make going all-in on cloud production worthwhile, according to Joel Sloss, senior program manager at Microsoft Azure.

“I think we’re starting to reach a point” in the industry “where all of these things can be cloud-enabled — whether you’re talking about preproduction, editorial, of course rendering and VFX,” he said May 17, speaking during a breakout session at HITS Spring: The Hollywood Innovation & Technology Summit.

“All these things are starting to come together,” he said during a session called “All-in on Cloud Production,” during which he pointed to several new features available in the cloud for production workflows. He added: “The tools themselves are fitting into cloud workflows and even some of the platform capabilities are starting to appear there as well.”

Features available in the cloud start right at the front end of a production workflow and then continue on to the point at which an organization moves data into the cloud, where there are software and platform services available “for doing things like video analytics, to be able to do speech and facial recognition, as well as being able to stream your services out to the endpoint,” he said. “Then, regardless of the kind of tool that the artists or the production folks want to use, these things are coming into the cloud fold,” he said at the summit.

The cloud is especially good for video production work, which he noted “tends to be a very spikey workload” in which the production starts up and there are moving assets. Then, “things wind down and if you purchased a whole bunch of hardware to support that,” it could be costing an organization money for nothing, he explained.

“In some cases, cloud might be a little bit more expensive” than handling production workflow on-prem, “but, at the same time, you don’t have stuff sitting on idle eating up your line-item budgets because now it’s not being used,” he said, adding: “There’s also an “economy of scale that comes with [the] cloud of being able to accelerate those production pipelines” when needed.

In addition to the availability of fully virtualizing workstations in the cloud, he said: “One of the other interesting things that’s come to the forefront … is the use of artificial intelligence to interpret data. So, the creation of metadata — the ability to understand content that’s being put in there and get something actionable back out of it.”

Productions typically involve lots of duplication, but data often gets lost and no longer associated with the original camera files anymore, he noted. With AI, however, you can run facial recognition, speech to text or automatic translation to find data, he pointed out, adding: “You can essentially let the machine create all that metadata for you and, as a result, it becomes searchable, so you have this massive of archive…of data… Now all of that becomes usable.”

It now becomes simple to find a particular scene with one actor that you’re looking for among all the many assets in a production, he said.

Digital rights management is also built into Azure Media Services, he said during the Q&A. And when it comes to security, he said: “Every virtual machine that gets implemented within Azure has a firewall underneath it. There is a gigantic threat analysis and mitigation system that is pervasive throughout the platform. So, we are constantly scanning and intercepting” malware and other attacks that “you would otherwise have to deal with in your own environment.”

HITS Spring was produced by the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), in association with Women in Technology: Hollywood (WiTH); the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) and the Smart Content Council. The event was presented by Entertainment Partners, with sponsorship by Expert System, LiveTiles, Microsoft Azure, Ooyala, Veritone, Amazon Web Services, Avanade, Avid, IBM Security, MarkLogic, Aspera, Light Point Security, MicroStrategy, SAS, Scaeva Technologies, Western Digital, Brainstorm, Zaszou IT Consulting and Bob Gold & Associates.

To access the Microsoft Azure presentation, click here.