POV (Perspective)
Color in the Cloud
  • Friday, Dec. 10, 2021
Angus Kneale

We’re on the brink of a major revolution in our industry, with the ability to virtualize almost every part of the production and postproduction process. Color grading is still one of the most crucial parts of the creative production process as it plays a big part in setting the look, mood and tone of content, but the process has largely remained unchanged and fairly static for many years. Historically color grading is an isolated part of the post process, usually happening right at the beginning of a project or right at the end. 

While many other post processes such as VFX, design and animation already have been migrating to the cloud with various degrees of success, color grading is only just now making it into the virtual space. And it couldn’t happen at a more promising moment. Of course the COVID factor, forcing everyone to work from home, has accelerated the transition, but also, the faster pace of production we are seeing today with compressed schedules and trimmed budgets has made color in the cloud a totally logical and pragmatic development. 

How does color in the cloud work? First off there is no bulky local computer hardware, hard drives or servers. Everything is “spun up” online using IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). Basically, you create a “virtual instance” in one of your favorite cloud providers (AWS, Azure or Google); this “instance” is your virtual color grading workstation in the cloud. It can either be a stand alone system or integrated into a full virtual studio. The colorist then connects to this instance in the cloud via a remote desktop application like NiceDCV or Teradici using a simple laptop or “client” that provides a remote display of the cloud workstation. Multiple colorists can collaborate together on the same timeline while color assistants are simultaneously preparing content. Clients can then view a real-time stream of the color session no matter where they are in the world. They can spend as much time or as little time attending the session as they want. The great thing is the flexibility. One of the most efficient things about working in the cloud is that the logistics are simplified. There’s no shipping of physical data or FedEx’ing around hard drives. All the data is there in one place, in the cloud. 

It’s a very efficient way of working. You can actually concentrate more time on the creative process, which is a key takeaway, and color in the cloud opens up your talent pool to artists based anywhere in the world. You can spend more time making things look great rather than on logistics. Otherwise, you’re always sending and tracking stuff which is a time suck, especially with the schedules that we’re working with these days. The schedules are very compressed so every day, actually every hour is really valuable. If you’re able to cut out logistics of shipping stuff around, you can devote that time to actually doing the work. 

When you finish grading, the footage is instantly available to use online.  It’s a very efficient forward facing way of working that I predict is going to become the norm in the future. It’s quick and secure. Once the data is in the cloud you have the ability to make duplicates and create secure archives easily. As more editorial, color, VFX & finishing companies move to the cloud, the whole process becomes a lot more seamless and the benefits are liberating. 

Color in general is such an important part of the process and it’s really exciting to look at it through a fresh lens and think about how it can be improved and modernized, because it has such a profound effect on the end result. And it’s so exciting to be able to look at it holistically as part of the process and not just this thing that happens in a bubble up front or at the end. Color has been siloed for so long, and isolated, to actually integrate it in a very modern workflow is indeed groundbreaking. I’m convinced color in the cloud is potentially one of the biggest revolutions to hit our industry. The result speaks for itself. The quality of the work is up there. It’s some of the best content that I’ve ever seen.

Angus Kneale is chief creative and co-founder of Preymaker

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