In an industry recently slammed with pandemic restrictions and production challenges, having the ability to connect to projects remotely has become not only expected but essential in today’s film and television landscape. With the expansion of Cloud-based interfaces and technological advancements, several solutions exist to connect to a remote machine and work from a distance. The only caveat is these solutions are often expensive, complicated to set up, and typically require all devices in the network to meet adequate specifications.
These systems are robust and efficient but may be out of the reach of freelance or independent production houses. However, what if there was a low-cost—or even free—solution that worked, even on low-end machines?
Remote Production Challenges
Connecting to a work machine remotely has been a growing necessity in recent years, with teams working together on projects worldwide. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the production industry slammed to a halt, shutting down most productions to the point there wasn’t even a 2020 summer movie season.
Larger studios have the infrastructure and budget for robust remote editing solutions, such as Avid‘s MediaCenteral Cloud UX system. Other systems, such as SAN (Storage Area Networks) or NAS (Network Attached Storage), can also create a shared virtual environment. However, they still require a knowledgeable setup and don’t fit with all production budgets.
There is also the old-school method of “Sneaker Net,” in which you take a physical hard drive with a copy of the project to work on your local machine. It’s a simple solution but presents several immediate issues. You must be vigilant about synchronizing work on your remote drive to the central system, especially if you are working with a team. This workflow can get messy quickly. Carrying a hard around isn’t always the most secure option, and you still need an adequate machine that can run another license of your production software.
This is where the Parsec software comes into play. It is a low-cost—even free—solution that lets you and your team remote access a project and conduct project management and editing even on machines with lower-end specifications.
What is Parsec?
Parsec is a remote desktop application developed in 2016 by Parsec Gaming and acquired and integrated into Unity Technologies in 2022. It serves primarily as a solution for playing video games through a cloud interface. One host machine would run the game, and remote players would use Parsec to interact via a video streaming connection. Because of the efficient data management of video streaming, many creators have adopted the platform as a remote production solution.
When you log into a host machine, your screen displays the remote machine’s desktop, and you can interact with it as if you are sitting in front of that machine. Open and edit directly with the host machine’s Avid, After Effects, Premiere, or any other software installed on that machine. The keyboard, mouse, video game controllers, and speakers will all act and respond as if they are connected directly to the host machine.
Because it was designed for gaming, Parsec is capable of low latency video streaming at 60fps, UHD (ultra-high definition), and very little, if any, lag. This provides near frame accurate editing.
Parsec’s “Team” license allows multiple editors, producers, and other creatives to connect to the same machine for collaboration. Additionally, with the compatibility with Discord Server (an online text and voice chat platform), you can communicate and interact with your team members live.
Since Parsec operates as a screen-sharing application, the host machine handles the entire processing workload, and you are simply interfacing with a transmitted live screenshot of the machine’s desktop.
The significant advantage of this collaboration is that the remote machine you are connecting through does not need to meet high-end processing specifications. Most low-cost laptops (and, to a limited degree, some Chrome books) are usually adequate to provide a productive work experience.
As long as you have a stable internet connection, this interaction is smooth and fluid enough to often forget that you aren’t sitting in front of the host machine.
Parsec also places a high priority on secure connections. While many remote desktop applications may pose security risks, Parsec protects its peer-to-peer data with solid encryption and validation certificates. They provide more details on their support page (support.parsec.app/hc/en-us/articles/115003442732-Security-At-Parsec-)
Parsec is also available for both Mac and PC platforms.
Parsec is free to install and use for individuals. It is limited to single desktop sharing with a single screen while still providing the same security, 60fps stream, and HID support (mouse, keyboard, gamepad) as the paid versions.
Parsec Warp is their tiered upgrade that offers a host of additional tools. Their “Individual” license (which at the time of this article is as low as $8.33 a month per user) adds support for multiple monitor display, 4:4:4 color mode for video streaming, and pressure-sensitive tablet support to their interface devices. It also includes “Privacy Mode,” which, as stated by Parsec:
“…is a feature available for Teams and Warp customers that disables the physical displays on the host computer to offer privacy to the user who is joining through Parsec.”
An additional “team” license is available and offers a suite of team connection tools, guest access, administration and billing controls, and other multiple machine management features.
Parsec is a streamlined and robust solution for independent producers looking for simplified remote editing solutions. High-end SAN, NAS, and cloud services, while ideal for remote project management, are not always within reach of the creative teams who could benefit from them. An application such as Parsec finds a substantial middle ground, giving efficient remote access within minutes of setup, and at a fraction of the cost.
Parsec is available at parsec.app