Author Archives: Catherine

John Fox Interview: How Industry Professionals Use The Cloud

John Fox Interview: How Industry Professionals Use The Cloud

Here at Cloud Tweaks it is my job to tell you all about Cloud Computing and the entertainment industry, and how better to do that than to get industry professionals to tell you all about their experience? First up is John Fox. Enjoy!

Tell us about you….

I am a Production Consultant for film and broadcast and I work as a Retail Sales Consultant for specialised electronics, IT, communication and A/V solutions. I often consult with various mobile business professionals including accountants and system engineers. I have a Masters of Screen Production.

What cloud computing services do you currently use?

I use file hosting services such as File HQ, Google Drive and Servage.net, I am looking at using Adobe Creative Cloud and services like REBUS. I use Dropbox at the request of clients, but I’m often using FTP and FTPS (FTP over secure socket layer). Content Management Systems such as Joomla and WordPress are ideal in a cloud scenario when using load balancing servers and redundancy.

What have you used it for?

I use cloud computing as a means of uploading scripts and collaborating on pre-production. I have often used cloud storage for sharing daily renders, project files and rushes and for sharing OMF exports for sound designers and XML references for colour graders. I’ve have also used Joomla at a corporate level for hosting journals and research material.

Is it cost effective?

It can be cost effective for minimal storage, minimal security and minimal bandwidth. As you go up the scale for more space and more services, you can be looking at additional overhead that for a lot individuals and small studios, you may start to question the trade-off. When it’s your equipment, you’re in full control.

Do you think cloud computing will open up filmmaking to people with less money? Does it make it easier?

One of the big concerns is security and bandwidth limitations. There is a need for people to be wary of dealing with companies that are reliant on other intermediaries that can look at client transfers. There is the issue of keeping content hosted in other countries that you have rights to in your own country been inadvertently deleted.

Cloud computing does potentially make the film making process easier.

I love the opportunity to access an abundance of resources and outsource hours of rendering and encoding. The drawback is you need some decent speed to upload and download your data and you may need to consider what will constitute an acceptable timeframe for transfers. You should certainly jump at the opportunity to try free services and trials, like a lot things in life there is benefit in shopping around.

Your requirements will invariably change depending on the circumstances.

What is your favourite thing about cloud computing?

There are wonderful opportunities for collaboration between all your departments locally and internationally and the benefit of additional resources for storage, hosting and rendering.

What do you think the purpose of cloud computing is to the film industry?

It gives the film industry additional infrastructure and resources to consolidate production workflow, to allow for more streamlined collaboration and the opportunity to offset some of the burden of storage and rendering.

What are the positives?

A big positive is that cloud computing is giving us a greater platform in which to collaborate while still having redundant storage. There is the added comfort of having someone else dealing with our data management. A really great aspect of cloud storage is the benefit of not having to worry about additional servers and Network Accessible Storage and the opportunity to utilize a wider community of resources at your disposal.

And the negatives?

One inherent issue is the proposition of having someone else dealing with our confidential data management. Anybody within the hosting organisation can potentially look through your footage and projects indiscriminately. It’s out of your hands when it’s not your infrastructure and when you’re not the primary administrator.

There are various polices and SFOAs to enforce strict protocols and guidelines however these are often subject to change and you may need to be aware of it.

Where do you see the collaboration of cloud computing and the entertainment industry going in the future?

I think we will experience a lot more instances of collaborating across the boundaries between various professionals. It’s a wonderful opportunity for aspiring and existing film makers. We are living in an era that is encompassing numerous turning points in technology and production work-flow. Some data management policies may have to be considered, and while we may enjoy the security and safety of having our data out in the cloud, it won’t always be the intended users that will be able to access it.

Thanks John!

By Catherine Balavage

Keeping It Safe In The Cloud

Is It Safe In The Cloud?

It would be wonderful to think we live in a safe, secure, world but unfortunately we don’t. In the world of computing, this is even more true. Our digital lives are important to us and take years to build, but only a matter of hours to destroy, if that.

Security is important to everyone. Especially when you have spent years of your life trying to get a film to the big screen and you don’t want anyone to steal it or tamper with it. Add on something which seems as esoteric as the cloud and cause for concern happens. But should it?

Whether you like it or not, the film industry is becoming even more reliant on cloud computing. This has brought numerous benefits, increased productivity and just made a very hard industry a lot easier. The benefits have not stopped worrying stories hitting the media lately about security breaches.

Mat Honan from Wired Magazine had the data on his MacBook, iPhone and iPad deleted after a group of hackers hacked into his Apple iCloud account. The hacker’s took advantage of the fact that the Apple iCloud does not have a two-factor authentication system, something that Apple might want to fix. The hackers accessed his account remotely and Honan lost childhood pictures of his daughter amongst other things. He investigated and wrote an amazing article on it which you can read here.

Honan even chatted to one of the hackers involved. Honan has lost things you cannot even put a price on. His amazing investigation also tells you how Gmail, Amazon, iCloud, and Twitter give determined hackers enough information to ruin your life.

And who can forget the Playstation Network (PSN) going down?

But, as Honan said: “In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together.” There are precautions you can take to keep your accounts safe.

How to stay safe

  • Multiple backups. Including an offsite one.
  • Research your cloud computing service. Make sure they take your security seriously. There are a lot of cloud services available so you have plenty of choice.
  • Don’t have one password for every account.
  • Don’t be over-trusting with your personal details. Make sure security is in place before you hand anything over.
  • Go for a cloud computing service which has a two-prong security service.
  • Choose proper, secure, passwords.
  • Keep your software up to date.
  • Have an antivirus, even if you have a Mac.

Safe clouding.

By Catherine Balavage

HP Joins The Cloud, OpenStack Gains Strength

HP Joins The Cloud, OpenStack Gains Strength

Everyone is jumping on the cloud computing wagon now, and smartly so. Lucky us. Choice is always a great things for consumers. So who else is in the market who we should probably take notice of?

Hewlett-Packard

Hewlett-Packard has always been a big fish in it’s industry. Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman has taken over from former CEO Mark Hurd and is moving Hewlett-Packard closer to the cloud. Hewlett-Packard has not been having a good time of it lately. Whitman has let 27,000 people go and their shares are down by 25 per cent this year.

Jayson Noland, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.in San Francisco said of Whitman: “She’s taking the company toward higher margin, more strategic categories. If she does what she says she’s going to do, services is going to be a smaller, more profitable business. She’s talking about cloud, analytic and security – and not competing with the Wipros and Tatas of the world.”

Hewlett-Packard has been slow off the mark when it comes to cloud computing. Let’s hope Whitman, who had been the CEO since last September, can pull it together. Whitman is also turning WebOS into an open-source project

Although Hewlett-Packard sells good hardware (I have one of their printers, which has lasted for about five years. That’s rare) their future success may depend on the success of their cloud computing service. Cloud computing just keeps growing and any technology business as big as Hewlett-Packard really needs to get a slice of that cake. I will keep you updated on Hewlett-Packard’s progress in cloud computing.

Openstack has passed it’s two year anniversary. Well done guys. Openstack is an Open Source software which is used for building cloud infrastructure. Other companies that let you create a cloud include CloudStack, VMWare’s vCloud Director and Eucalyptus.

OpenStack have had 166 organisations supporting it, including NASA, Intel, AMD, Rackspace, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Dell, AT & T, IBM, Canonical, Red Hat, Citrix and Rightscale. Phew. That is impressive. Rackspace and NASA were the first to support OpenStack.

OpenStack have a new release called “Essex” and it’s new release will come out in late September. Openstack has had a lot of support and is gaining momentum at a fast pace. They have not gained on Amazon EC2 yet and EC2 is still dominating the market. It is not all good news though. NASA has dropped funding. Others who have dropped out are Citrix who have their own cloud now called CloudStack.

By Catherine Balavage

Amazon Reaches Mars

Amazon Reaches Mars

The moment the United Kingdom hosts the Olympics, the United States lands on Mars. Competitive? Of course NASA used the most cutting-edge technology, the most advanced of it’s kind: it used cloud computing. Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, must be the happiest man in the world right now. Bezos is a known space nut who invests his massive fortune in space exploration.

In fact it can now be said that Amazon’s reach extends to Mars. Not just “Earth’s biggest selection” then.

NASA using Amazon Web Service is quite a testimonial. If it’s good enough for NASA, it’s probably good enough for your film.

mars cloud

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been using Amazon’s Web Services to capture and store pictures. As well as metadata collected from their Mars Exploration Rover. Khawaja Shams, who is the manager for data services at La Canada Flintridge-based JPL said: “With so much large-scale data processing to be done, JPL is leading the way in the adoption of cloud computing in the federal government

At this point, JPL’s data centers are filled to capacity, so we’re looking for ways to cost effectively expand the computational horsepower that we have at our disposal. Cloud computing is giving us that opportunity.”

“Using AWS’s cloud to operate the mars.jpl.nasa.gov website enables JPL to get images, videos and developments to the public quickly, without having to build and operate the infrastructure in-house”.

NASA will have a massive amount of data processing to do. Much more than your average feature film, and it definitely seems like AWS is handling it well. It is worth noting that AWS was not the first cloud service JPL hooked up with. They also flirted with Microsoft, Lockheed and Google for specific projects and needs. Shams says that they “find the right cloud for the right job”.

NASA’s use of Amazon’s cloud computing service makes it a major player in the industry. Amazon made it’s money being an e-commerce giant.

Amazon said: “With unrelenting goals to get the data out to the public, NASA/JPL prepared to service hundreds of gigabits/second of traffic for hundreds of thousands of concurrent viewers,”

Amazon also said that their AWS will enable JPL to construct a scalable Web infrastructure in weeks instead of months.

Space exploration isn’t cheap (although NASA’s Mars mission is much cheaper than the 27 billion the Olympics cost) so NASA must be glad for cloud computing, not only will it be making everything easier, it will also be making it much cheaper.

By Catherine Balavage

Film And The Cloud

Film and The Cloud

So how are cloud companies and film companies working together, and what’s new? Let’s find out.

Did you know that Channel 4, PBS, Fox Entertainment Group and many more media companies all use Amazon’s public cloud service? Of course Amazon with it’s billions behind it will be at the forefront of cloud technology. Which didn’t stop it going down of course. Amazon AWS was the reason Netflix dropped offline in June after a power outage at Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, in North Virginia, made services go offline.

Amazon Instant did not go offline though. Silver lining in every cloud. Oh.

Electronics giant Apple are giving British customers cloud-based access to movies through it’s iTunes service. Customers in the United Kingdom can watch films on any Apple device via the iTunes in the cloud service. Hooray for us. It’s about time!

Apparently Apple have secured a deal with the major movie studios which includes giants like Universal and Warner Bros.

Google and Amazon will also launch cloud-based services in the United Kingdom soon. It is taking longer than planned to launch cloud movie services due to heavy negotiations with the movie studios. Let’s hope they sort something out soon.

Worried about how much data you use? Swiss cloud computing company, CloudSigma, has something for you in the works: Media Services Ecosystem, an alliance of industry service providers, which will give 10Gig networking and high-performance cloud capabilities. Impressive. Nativ is among it’s first members.

CloudSigma CTO Robert Jenkins said in relation to entertainment companies having better things to do than building and running infrastructure: “For them this is not an area where they add value — it’s more a necessary evil.”

This data is so big, even with the cloud, ingest can be slow, but once you have your rendering and editing companies all using the same cloud infrastructure you can streamline the process,”

Grant Kirkwood, CEO of Los Angeles-based Unitas Global. “We’ve reached an inflection point in the industry where the studios — which have made do with just enough compute capacity that they could keep up but now that more of their work is going digital, scaling that infrastructure is difficult and expensive,”

With the increase of resolution from 2K to 4K being the standard, the amount of data to be rendered is through the roof. If I’m a visual effects studio, I’m going to have to render a film at 24, 25 and 30 frames per second [for TV, Blu-Ray and movie formats.] At the resulting 79 frames per second, using 4K resolution, each frame is 24 gigabytes of data.  Imagine what that means for a two-hour movie,

By Catherine Balavage

Music Cloud Services Go Head To Head

Music Cloud Services Go Head To Head

Music cloud services have become hugely popular. These digital music lockers are making people pay for music again, and why not? These huge music libraries in the cloud have pretty much every song you could ever want. That is an amazing amount of convenience, made even better by the fact it streams to nearly any device. Music lovers can have high-quality streamed music with actually downloading it.

Music lovers are flocking to these digital boutiques to store and access their music.

Charles Caldas, chief executive of Amsterdam-based Merlin, said: “The market is showing that consumers are willing to pay for the portability of music,”

Thinking it is time to join in? Here are your options.

Spotify

Started as a Swedish start-up in 2008. Spotify offers it’s customers access to copyrighted music. There is a free version with adverts or you can subscribe from as little as €5 a month for it’s cheapest package. With the premium version you have unlimited streaming of music with no advertisements. It’s like a better version of YouTube as it has more choice, no adverts if you go premium and the music will definitely play and be of high quality. How annoying is it when a video on YouTube is not available in your country? Grr.

For a fee of €10 fee Spotify also lets it’s subscribers directly download music to their mobile phones via the cloud.

Apple’s iTunes
is slowly coming into the cloud music game by launching iTunes Match service. Launched in the United States last November, this is slowly heading to Europe. iTunes is the digital music market leader. iTunes Match allows subscribers to download copyrighted content via it’s cloud.

Google is also jumping into the game with Google Music. Google Music is only available in a few countries and not in the United Kingdom, or Europe yet. Thumbs down.

A Google official said.“We have only launched Google Music in the US at the moment and we have nothing to announce about any other countries at the moment – although we are very interested in expanding the service,”

Internet giant Amazon have also launched Cloud Player, a year after it announced Cloud Drive, Amazon’s online music locker, Amazon have revamped Cloud Player to compete with Apple’s iTunes.

Cloud Player has some really cool features like saving their customer’s MP3 purchases so they can be played on a customers Kindle Fire, Android device, iPhone or iPod Touch. Cloud Player will also scan your iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries and save them, saving you importing your music one-by-one. Which, personally, I think is a major selling point.

By Catherine Balavage

Music Industry Grows Thanks To The Cloud

Music Industry Grows Thanks To The Cloud

It is widely known that when it comes to trying to solve the music piracy problem, the music industry closed the gate after the horse bolted. For years CDs and tapes (remember those?) were overpriced, and then re-released with one extra track. In my youth I spent my pocket money on music. A CD single was about £4.99 for one or two songs, and an album never less than £9.99 but usually £14.99- £19.99. Not small change then, especially for young people who were not always earning yet.

Not that it is any better now. The recession has knocked the stuffing out of people and businesses alike. Thankfully people are still going to concerts and there is another glimmer of hope thanks to the ever more amazing Cloud. The Cloud is a win-win for the music industry and the figures are backing this up: the global sales of the digital music industry have grown by 5.3%. Cloud services also grew by 4.6% between 2009-10.

The growth of cloud based music services is incredibly good news for the music industry as cloud music stops piracy because they only operate through licensed services. This means all of their music is copyrighted.

Even better for the consumer is that there is a free version of Spotify, one of the most popular cloud music services. As long as the consumer does not mind adverts they can listen to music to their hearts content. Although this depends in which country they are in.

Spotify may be the most popular cloud music service in Europe but it is not available in every European country (including Greece) and even if it was there is also a problem with licensing. Just because you can listen to a song in the United Kingdom does not mean you would be able to listen to it in Germany, as Spotify may not have a license for that song in certain countries. This may mean you cannot listen to your entire music collection in other countries.

Then there is another negative: splitting the revenue. Artists may not be getting a fair deal.

Helen Smith, Independent labels’ association Impala executive chair, said: “While new services such as digital music lockers are welcome developments which will help boost the online market, they also raise fundamental questions. Digital music lockers should be based on a simple licensing models and the monetisation of these services should deliver fair value to artists and labels.”

“This is essential to the development of new cloud-based services and also includes the need to ensure that services negotiate terms with Small and medium enterprises’ rights holders on similar terms and at the same time as with the major rights owners,”

By Catherine Balavage

Lowering Costs With The Cloud

Lowering Costs With The Cloud

In all businesses keeping costs down is a major concern. The film industry is no exception. In an industry where it costs £30,000 just to remove a beer label with special effects, cuts have to be made somewhere. Especially as people are buying less DVDs.

How can cloud computing save money for those in the film industry?

Improves productivity

Joining the cloud massively increases productivity. You can download, upload and back up easily Your team can work together easily no matter where they are. In the cloud things don’t take days or months. They take hours.

Lowers costs

Now tasks previously undertaken by people can be done in the cloud or by a machine. This means your work force can be actually doing their job, rather than menial tasks.

It let’s you work smarter, rather than harder

Instead of taking hours to email large attachments or downloading files you can just use your cloud service.

Lack of commitment

If there is one thing people in the film industry know it’s ‘no one knows anything’. Things can change at any moment. Luckily you can just rent services from your cloud service provider.

Keep it simple stupid

Cloud computing makes everything easier in a world where everything is hard. There is no more looking for things wondering where they are and everything is one, safe, secure, place. Which brings me to my next point

Prevents loss

You can’t lose the documents or the hard drive. I have lost footage in the past and nothing is more soul-destroying.

Send Video

Sending video through the internet has always been a long and arduous task but cloud computing makes this as easy as possible.

Connection

Being able to connect from people all around the world is essential for filmmakers. The cloud makes this not only possible, but also incredibly easy.

In the film industry people like to think of themselves as artistic and not business minded, but sometimes this is at the expense of learning all about the latest in technology. This doesn’t happen with the cloud though. There is just something so new, fun and creative about it. It is like having a global office that everybody can just tap into at any time.

Anyone still on the fence regarding cloud computing should take note that Steven Spielberg’s company Dreamworks uses the linux-based Red Hat Cloud. Where Spielberg leads others are sure to follow. In fact Dreamworks made Monsters Vs Aliens with the Red Hat Cloud along with the latest 3D authoring tools.

By Catherine Balavage

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