Firstly, this is not an Avid press release! AvidConnect (the annual Avid Customer Association event) is in its fourth year, and while it is a way for Avid to show off some of their new offerings and partnerships, there has always been some really interesting discussions about the industry we work in, and where we are headed. This year was no exception, and I have put together some of my thoughts on what I have seen over the weekend, and how I see this affecting our future. Here are three key points I have taken from AvidConnect2017, feel free to comment!
Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to radically change our world, and fast!
We are all under pressure to produce more for less, and this will only accelerate in the future. However, looking at the tools we are all using, whether it be live production or post production, there are many manual processes in the workflow that are time consuming and expensive. Changes in technology, such as video over IP, 4K, HDR and the like have their own benefits to improve existing workflows, but none of them radically change the way we work. To be honest, changing a video signal that was carried as a stream on a copper video cable across to an IP stream on a fibre cable is no different to updating your car. It may be a bit faster, the interior may be a bit nicer and the phone connects really well, but the interface between yourself and the car is basically the same. It still takes one person to drive it, and it won’t radically change the way you drive to and from the office each day.
There is a massive gorilla just knocking on the door, and it is AI. When you consider the massive amounts of data that exist in the world now, that needs to be mined for the unique information that can be searched, catalogued and analysed. We already see Google and others change the delivery of advertising from analysing our search data, and this type of technology can and will absolutely change the way we do production. Avid’s newly announced partner for Cloud based platform services was Microsoft, and we were shown some of the promise that is becoming available on the Azure Cloud platform. We were shown their cognitive video indexing platform, Video Breakdown https://www.videobreakdown.com and it was truly impressive. Being able to automate a number of time consuming aspects of logging media is something that I am always interested in, but we keep coming up with roadblocks, such as ‘how can we convert speech to text automatically, followed with ‘but we need face recognition so we can associate the right person with the speech’, and all of this seemed like something that is a long way away. This, from what I had seen was the first time that we had seen something that was able to answer the questions we had been asking. It’s all not there yet, but shows a really exciting and interesting future that can help us to find the time to create compelling stories, rather than spend much of the time on repetitive, boring tasks in the production workflow. It is critical that we do everything we can to improve production value, and being able to give some time back to the creative teams to do a better job I think is a positive benefit. It doesn’t take too much forethought to see how machine learning systems can revolutionise live and post produced media.
A great story to connect with your viewers is still the key!
As a person on the technical side of the fence, it is always expected that I will say that you need more pixels, or better pixels, or more immersive audio to make things more compelling to the person watching the content you make. High production values are, and always will be a critical part of the picture in engaging your audience, but 4K HDR video with Dolby Atmos immersive audio is not going to save a bad story! The lessons we have learned from the way we use social media is proof of this, and we all need to be mindful of the story we are telling, and how this will engage our audience. The seemingly insatiable appetite we have for consuming media on all devices won’t stop, and I don’t think that shooting in 4K HDR to tell a story that isn’t relevant to your audience is going to help increase your numbers for views on smart phones. This does not mean that production value is not important, but I think that it works as more of a multiplier to the effect the original story has, so in effect production value can ‘supercharge’ the engagement with your audience.
The cloud is great, but I live in Australia. Help!
There is some great technology that is becoming available, and the increase in cloud offerings from Avid (including even Media Composer in the cloud) was a really interesting thing to see coming up. Storage in the cloud, asset management in the cloud, and almost everything else coming up is really compelling. Now that we can see this, I feel that we are really limited in our ability to leverage these technologies because the connectivity options available to small to medium enterprises especially are in many cases prohibitively expensive, and also the telcos at the lower levels just do not have any understanding of the needs of small to medium media enterprises. For the time being, even with improvements in connectivity I am not so sure that it will still be cost effective to keep your online high res editing assets all stored in the cloud, but I can see that a hybrid of on premise facilities and some cloud hosted facilities will be the best way to move forward. Avid did have some really interesting options in this regard, and I do look forward to looking at their offerings further at NAB when the show opens tomorrow. The idea of being able to seamlessly move files between all of your collaborators in projects all around the world is getting much closer, but it is pretty obvious that connectivity is becoming a new digital divide in the market. The concept of democratising connectivity, which I assume was one of the ideals of the NBN (but is now ironically being crippled by our democratic system) is something that needs to happen to encourage the use and development of more powerful and useful systems to benefit everyone.
Overall, I found Avid Connect to be a worthwhile experience, and while there is obviously mention of Avid products in the weekend, I don’t think you even need to be an Avid user to take a lot out of the weekend. The speakers were knowledgeable and engaging, and it was this quality of industry professionals sharing their knowledge that will make me come back to Avid Connect in 2018.