Bridging Oceans: The Emerging Trend of Remote Production

2017 NAB Show Editorial Submission
by Rory McGregor

There’s a new trend emerging in the creative industries, one empowered by the cloud and the tools that are springing up around it. It’s the trend of remote production – entire companies are forming with no one central base of operations, but instead with a workforce distributed across the globe.

Such a trend really couldn’t have happened at any other time in history: an explosion in cloud-based software, combined with massive growth in internet bandwidth and much lower costs, has seen technology completely change the way we approach media production.

A new way of working

The effect of this transformation can be seen in everything from major Hollywood productions to advertising; from web design to wedding videos. Production and post-production companies are no longer restricted by geography – they can pitch to clients in other cities and even entirely other countries.

This isn’t a defence of outsourcing or subsidy-driven cost-cutting, which can clearly distort the market. I’m talking about remote collaboration as a way of engendering efficiency and effective communication in an increasingly distributed business.

One example is VFX studio Legion, who we recently talked to about their use of cloud-based tools such as Shotgun, Aspera and our own cineSync. Legion operates via a completely distributed workforce, sending shots to a global group of freelancers who work from wherever they happen to life. “What we’re doing at Legion is empowering a new way of working for those on the frontlines of the creative industry,” says James Hattin, Legion founder. “There’s no reason why, in the next five years, what we’re doing won’t be the standard. It makes sense on so many levels – it’s just the way things are going.”

A truly global workforce

It certainly rings true – we’re seeing more and more production offices like this that are increasingly “cloud-based”.

Using a combination of services such as Skype, FaceTime, cineSync and more, Jamie and Lindsay Hallett realised it was completely realistic to achieve the previously impossible: they set up 2D VFX vendor capital T in a beach house resting on the glorious shores of Maui, Hawaii and have overseen work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, American Sniper, Insurgent and Ant-Man. This isn’t an entire team of 40+ artists collaborating across desks – it’s one producer and one supervisor working across expanses of ocean. Remote collaboration tools are key to keeping such businesses afloat in a constantly diversifying and expanding market.

Scarecrow VFX is another a great example – the head office is in LA, but they can call on artists and freelancers from all over the world. This enables them to scale up quickly – and scale down quickly, if required – enabling a new kind of flexibility in the face of contemporary productions’ ever-changing demands.

It’s an exciting new technological trend to be a part of, as it puts the power back in the hands of the artist. They can work from wherever they are, without having to move to some of the world’s most expensive cities.

Or, as VFX Legion puts it, “Bringing that significance back to the artist – giving them the spotlight – that’s what we truly strive for.”

Watching where this trend takes us over the coming years will be interesting indeed…


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