The media industry is constantly changing. Pressure on prices, new distribution formats and employees desiring more flexibility have already resulted in a couple of innovations in recent years. But since COVID at the latest, it should be evident that remote working options are more than just "nice to have". Change is happening fast. And it offers opportunities.
While some activities can be handled from home without great effort or technical difficulties, like editing an Excel spreadsheet or sending e-mails, other settings are more demanding. In media production, the challenges are complex: A large number of media assets that need to be accessed quickly and easily, high image quality as well as smooth playback and short loading times for longer video files, to name but a few. The solution, however, should be as simple as possible.
Software manufacturers MoovIT SP and Arvato Systems, who already implemented remote production projects independently of each other in the past, have now found a way to combine their expertise and worked on a solution. Using intelligent workflows and video streaming, they allow working comfortably with Adobe Premiere Pro from anywhere. This eases field production and remote editing and makes everyday work more flexible and location-independent.
Integrating Helmut4 and Vidispine MAM
In April 2022, Arvato Systems and MoovIT announced their partnership. Both companies have integrated their products with each other: Helmut4 the project management system for Premiere now works with the MAM solutions from Arvato Systems’ Vidispine portfolio.
Helmut organizes editing projects in professional video production environments that use Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects or Adobe Audition. The products in the Helmut ecosystem manage projects, templates, preferences and profiles, control project-related assets from ingest to export and organize storage systems.
The tight integration provides producers and editors with direct access to the VidiCore repository from within Adobe Premiere. Helmut creates and manages Premiere projects and makes them accessible in Vidispine products like MediaPortal. Helmut ensures that the newly rendered videos are automatically accessible in VidiCore and is able to trigger any desired workflows. This integration forms the basis for further use cases – such as using Premiere outside of a local network. Together, both products allow smooth operation even outside the broadcast station network: Vidispine streaming and Helmut4 project management.
Award-winning Streaming Technology
For its Vidispine portfolio, Arvato Systems already developed a streaming technology several years ago. It is used for video preview in web UIs and desktop editing. VidiStream, the Vidispine Streaming Engine, can also be used for professional nonlinear editing with Premiere in combination with Helmut –that is when bandwidths are limited and users work remotely or on location. In 2022, this streaming technology won an Emmy Award for Technology & Engineering.
Vidispine’s streaming technology allows working in a cloud-enabled production workflow without unnecessary file conversions or transfers. It allows secure MPEG dash streaming of high-quality H.264 files, the de facto standard for proxy media from object storage, and transforms "the cloud" from a mere storage and computing infrastructure into a post-production facility. The integration of Helmut4 and the Vidispine products unites the strengths of both worlds and combines them with further solutions for remote editing.
The Streaming Protocol
There are various technical aspects to consider, such as the proxy format. For professional editing, a high resolution of the proxies is key. RDD25 was originally developed for low-resolution deployments. The user experience is enhanced by adding H.264 in MXF, for example, and a bandwidth of 6-8 Mbit/s at 1920x1080 pixels, as well as 16 audio tracks. User tests showed that good results can also be achieved with lower data rates.
The type of transmission is equally relevant. For example, asynchronous frame requests improve response times. In such a scenario, the client can send multiple requests at the same time and receive all return information simultaneously.
A proprietary protocol ensures that the client and streaming server support simultaneous sending and receiving (RX/TX) of requests over the same TCP and that individual frames are transported if necessary. If remote storage is to be accessed directly, fast random access is required. The technology used solves this requirement in that the client no longer needs fast random access since entire frames are transmitted with byte precision.
Remote Editing Workflow
How can we now imagine a typical workflow? Users need an appropriately scaled computer with Adobe Premiere Pro and the Vidispine and Helmut Adobe panels.
When opening a Premiere project, Helmut4 recognizes that the user is outside of the main location. From the user’s point of view, however, Premiere with the Vidispine and Helmut panels will behave as if working locally in the broadcasting station. Helmut orchestrates the processes in the background. So when the software detects that a user is working remotely, instead of providing direct access to HiRes or proxy files only the link to the Vidispine HDProxy can be used automatically.
Streaming is carried out via the above-mentioned Vidispine Streaming Engine. In this context, only the streams needed for decoding are sent to the client. This reduces streaming latency and leads to an improved user experience.
Local content can be imported via Adobe Premiere Pro and is available in the desired resolution. According to the configuration, Helmut can start uploading assets into the VidiCore repository in the background.
If the user then exports the sequence created, the rendering process of Helmut4 is executed on centrally available render servers based on the HiRes material. No file transfers are necessary. And the computer is immediately available to the user again for the next production.
Do Helmut4 and Vidispine MAM allow other remote setups? Yes. The streaming solution is one of the various possibilities and offers many advantages, such as a lean architecture or a lower required bandwidth.
MoovIT and Arvato Systems assist with the integration of their products for remote production. Other approaches include, for example, integrating specialized remote desktop solutions. In this approach, the editing workstation is located in the cloud or in the broadcast station and the user logs on to this NLE via a special tool. Here too, there are promising solutions which reach their full potential in combination with Helmut4 and Vidispine workflows.
Another approach includes solutions for automatically mounting cloud storage as file shares, which still allows access to HiRes or proxy files, but intelligently maps the transfer of these files which reduces waiting times and allows smooth video editing. It is therefore up to the broadcaster and production company to decide which approach best suits the particular use case and whether different solutions should be combined.
Remote production is possible and can be designed in such a way that it allows users to focus on their creative work. Arvato Systems and MoovIT now add a new possibility to the already known solutions for remote production. Broadcasters and production houses can decide which workflows make sense depending on use cases and also combine different approaches. This offers many opportunities: faster scalability, cost reduction and, last but not least, increased employee satisfaction.