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NAB Panel Examines Color Grading in the Cloud

26 July 2023 09:19 | Anonymous

At this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas, CSI Fellow Lou Levinson took part in a thought-provoking panel discussion on remote collaboration and grading in the cloud. Sponsored by SMPTE, the session also featured FilmLight Managing Director of the Americas Peter Postma and AWS Senior Specialist Solutions Architect Marlon Campos.

Moderator Debra Kaufman asked the panel about the benefits and limitations to cloud-based workflows. Postma noted that recent software and hardware improvements have reduced but not eliminated issues with latency, bandwidth and compression, making cloud grading a more practical option than in the past. But it still works best when storage and virtual resources and located close to the user—across town rather than on the other side of the world. Campos added that AWS has been building data centers at strategic locations around the world. “In some Local Zones, we have reduced latency to single milliseconds,” he said.

According to Levinson, the cloud offers practical advantages for colorists faced with shorter deadlines and client bases spread around the globe, but they come with new responsibilities. “It can be done well,” he pointed out. “But you must be careful. Colorists are used to sitting down at a control surface and not thinking about infrastructure. There is a direct connection between our brains and the color we want. If you disturb that with concerns over latency or bandwidth, it interferes our ability to translate and deliver what the director has in mind.”

Postma said that cloud solutions work best in terms of cost efficiency when applied to post-production ecosystems that include visual effects, editorial, dailies processing and other services in addition to grading. He also noted that the cloud provides facilities with the flexibility to add virtual resources and avoid the expense of additional local hardware.

The discussion also touched on AI and machine learning tools available locally and in the cloud. All three panelists agreed that AI is helping colorists with repetitive tasks but are a long way from replicating the skills of experienced artists. As Levinson put it, “Humans are still necessary.”

At the end of the session, an audience member asked about security in the cloud. Levinson acknowledged that protecting assets remains a serious issue and cautioned that technology alone provides no guarantees.  “You can have the best protection in the world, but humans will still fail.”

You can view the full session here.

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