Utilising Cloud Based Audio Post-Production for Television

Budgets in today’s television industry are constantly being squeezed leaving production companies under increased pressure to cut costs and save money wherever possible. More for less has become the norm and producers are having to find new ways to make their budget stretch further.

For the large majority of television, when it comes to sound post production the bulk of work is usually done unattended in the dubbing suite with the client only attending for final review and sign off. Expensive real estate in Central London is not always necessary to complete the nuts and bolts of the work and is an added cost that is passed onto the client. Along with this, rents in production hotspots like London’s Soho have soared in recent years increasing the cost further.

The reality is it makes little difference to the final sound of a production if it’s mixed in Soho, Bradford or Brighton, the only real difference being cost. If producers are willing to adopt a remote workflow and shift expectations from luxury facilities in Soho to the talent and value for money found outside the capital, significant savings can be made.

Although remote audio post production is not a new concept, in the past technology hasn’t been mature enough to enable a smooth collaborative workflow and the cost of setting up a small to medium size studio was unobtainable for most freelancers. Now with an average computer capable of running a large Pro Tools session and the majority of audio post work done ‘in the box’ without the need for large format consoles, big rooms and large multi-room facilities the barriers to entry have been greatly reduced.

As a consequence, a network of some of the best talent in the industry are choosing to set up their own facilities and working with them is easier than ever thanks to the development in technologies, software and connectivity.

Adopting a remote workflow

There are a number of companies offering online post production and having a network of remote professionals gives them the scalability to expand capacity, depending on the workload and project, without carrying the fixed capital cost of an expensive facility. This allows them to offer a more cost effective service, sometimes saving as much as 40% compared to a traditional facility.

The technology

The Digital Pigeon platform

Platforms such as Digital Pigeon, that use the world’s highest performing, cloud based infrastructure service, Amazon Web Services, specialise in the secure transfer of large files quickly and reliably. Their platform makes it easy for producers to review work online and on any device by adding notes at specific timecodes, marking up frames and approving multimedia files. There is no need to download any software, create an account or follow complicated instructions; it can all be done through a browser and in high resolution.

Other companies like Aspera and Signiant are also leading the way in file transfer for post with both being used by producers such as Ardman, Endmol Shine and NBC to facilitate the transfer of content to broadcasters.

Source Live

Another innovative way to review and feedback on work is Source Live Pro 3 by Source Elements. This ingenious software allows the streaming of high quality, low latency, encrypted audio and video direct from Pro Tools to multiple simultaneous listeners. This enables producers to attend virtual sessions and give instant feedback via a web browser or iPhone, from anywhere with an internet connection.

The flexibility of the remote model also means producers only have to pay for a larger, more expensive studio for final review and sign off and only if they feel it’s necessary. Multiple online reviews and refining can happen leading up to the final review so less time is spent in an expensive suite.

Remote working can in many instances be a timesaver. Production companies can’t always afford for someone to oversee the dub and quite often the director is already on the next project when the previous one gets to post-production. An attended session can also take twice as long as an unattended one if you’re explaining to the client how you are doing things and seeking assurance once you have done them! Client input is essential and by using the online review tools outlined and spending more time in pre-production setting out the audio blueprint for a show enables a quicker and more collaborative workflow can be achieved.

Where does this leave the traditional post house?

There will always be the need for large scale end to end post production houses as it’s the quickest, most efficient way to post produce some TV and Film to strict deadlines. It would be difficult to effectively post produce multi episodic quick turnaround shows without these facilities and with the rise in Dolby Atmos, that requires substantial investment in kit and a specialist certified mix room, these facilities will be essential but for a large majority of TV programmes the lower cost, flexibility and creative benefits cloud based audio post brings will be a welcome relief to production companies who are looking to save money whilst not compromising the quality. For post houses it also opens up a pool of talent to tap into and means if they reach capacity or budgets are tight on a particular project they can easily recruit freelancers to work on parts remotely.

Talent and flexibility are at the heart of this new workflow and forms the foundation of our company Brown Bear Audio. Our aim is to bring together this world class talent to give producers an end to end sound post production service, managing the whole process along the way.