For many creatives, it was simply the worst of times. There are few, if any, companies in the media production industry who were prepared for the sudden workflow shifts and shelter-in-place orders of March 2020 brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly every production team was forced to make decisions and quickly plan for a type of remote, off-site work that’s uncommon for media professionals, particularly editors. Aside from the sheer uncertainty of the situation, everyone was asking the same questions:
- What is the best way to transport media to and from editors working remotely?
- How can we preserve productivity as a team during the pandemic?
- How might these circumstances change the way we work in the future?
Knowing our industry was struggling with these questions in an unsure time, Studio Network Solutions fast-tracked development of Nomad, a utility that allows EVO users to locate and retrieve proxy or source media for remote editing. Released on March 12th—nearly two weeks before many states mandated work-from-home orders—Nomad is much more than a temporary solution for remote editors needing a “quick fix” to keep projects moving forward; it’s a powerful tool that enables creative workflows from anywhere in the world.
Many companies jumped at the opportunity to implement Nomad into their work-from-anywhere strategy. Feedback has been incredible, with some of these hard-working media professionals giving valuable insight into their transition to remote work, their experience using Nomad, and how they think this reshaped future could affect the way they produce content. Here are their stories.
Robert Leitch, Content Technology Manager at MediaSource, seems as comfortable and prepared as ever to work from home. Within his home office is a synthesizer setup he uses for his side music project. Beside that, there is an editing PC with two display monitors and a portable external hard drive.
As his setup may imply, Leitch and his colleagues at MediaSource were already strategizing a remote editing workflow prior to the pandemic. “We had a team member that wanted to move back home a couple hours away,” said Leitch, “so we were fortunate enough to have developed a remote workflow prior to all of this.” Using Adobe Premiere Pro’s offline files transported via DropBox worked well enough for their remote editor. But when in-house production came to a halt in the face of the pandemic, they knew they needed a much more integrated solution to take their entire team off-site.
MediaSource became one of the earliest adopters of Nomad, and their editing team was quickly able to access the entirety of their EVO media library without worrying about cloud storage transfer speeds or rebuilding their workflow scheme. In fact, Leitch proudly shared his team’s EVO folder structure with us, showing how simple it is to relink edited footage when the entire folder structure was imported directly via Nomad.
“I’m so glad Studio Network Solutions rolled this out quickly and gave us a solution we needed right away,” said Leitch. “Our remote editing process is much simpler now because we are using the EVO-created proxies. EVO and Nomad just made things easier all around.”
Leitch is already evaluating what the future looks like for his team, not just for the rest of the time they are required to work from home, but also for when the team is able to work in the office again. When his team is ready to return to filming video on-location, Leitch expects they will be able to utilize Nomad to take editing projects on-the-go to hotel rooms, sets, and airports. Although Nomad was born out of a temporary necessity, MediaSource’s traveling production team will reap long-term benefits from their improved remote workflow.
Kelly Mullen is the Director of Production at Stream Companies, a major integrated ad agency. Her department, like many others in the industry, created a workflow for the office that revolved entirely around their EVO 16 bay shared storage server. Twelve editors worked with footage simultaneously using EVO and ShareBrowser, then exported the final footage from EVO into a company-wide server for distribution. There were very little opportunities to test a comprehensive remote workflow prior to the pandemic.
“Pre-Nomad, we were really sort of feeling our way through the process,” explained Mullen. Like many others, her team initially turned to cloud storage systems for their initial media transfer plans, only to find that slow internet speeds, massive file sizes, and unreliable connections brought work to a standstill. After receiving an email from Studio Network Solutions about Nomad, she was quick to give it a try.
By the second week of remote work, Mullen’s team was using Nomad to collaborate from home. SNS’s support team helped her activate EVO’s built-in automatic proxy generation, saving her remote team countless hours of downloading and uploading massive source media files to the cloud. “That’s something I love about SNS’s support team: you point us in the direction we need to go, then you do a great job following up to make sure we were able to execute. That’s something I really appreciate.”
Now, Mullen’s team has fully adopted Nomad for their remote workflow. When considering the future, Mullen credits Nomad with making it easier to add freelancers onto projects. Instead of preparing a portable media package, her team can simply use Nomad to direct a freelance editor to their EVO directory and allow them to retrieve the appropriate proxies for their project. She also sees Nomad as a potential catalyst to allow more creatives to work from remote locations as a long-term talent acquisition and employee retention solution. “I think this will open the door for a lot of creatives,” said Mullen, “especially those with very long commutes, who might be able to do the same quality work from home.”
Heavy equipment manufacturer
Chris Anderson, part of the media team at a Fortune 500 heavy equipment manufacturer, deployed Nomad to facilitate his team’s multi-national remote editing workflow. “We have a producer in China that creates localized content for the Chinese market,” Anderson explained. “Nomad is a great tool for him to use to quickly access proxies of video that was shot in the US for use in local projects. This saves a great deal of time [given] the bandwidth constraints between the US and China.”
Using their EVO shared storage server and the Nomad utility, Anderson’s team was able to improve their remote editing workflow for domestic and international editors, directors, and producers.
Their team uses an asynchronous push/pull workflow, transporting media back and forth between their office EVO and each individual’s remote workstation. Once an editor is finished with a task using the proxy and source files from Nomad, the files are sent back to EVO and relinked. Nomad retrieves proxy files in the proper EVO folder structure so the relinking process is easy and seamless.
From the office, their homes, or anywhere in the world, their entire team is able to collaborate in a very similar manner to their regular, on-site process. Rather than relying on piles of drives, they can now connect each workstation to EVO from anywhere in the world by simply using Nomad and their corporate VPN. This gives them access to all their footage without the long transfer times and bandwidth bottlenecks.
Jeremy Garchow, Producer and Editor at Chicago’s Maday Productions, recently made the switch to EVO shared storage. Garchow and his creative team were frustrated with the limitations of their previous shared storage system, and decided to make the upgrade to EVO in December 2019, just a few months before the pandemic was declared.
Maday first used Nomad in cutting a long-form documentary project, giving their remote editors access to hours of footage hosted on EVO. After working well for the documentary project, Garchow’s entire team began using Nomad for all creative media production.
“Nomad allows us to work. It allows us to keep moving forward,” said Garchow. Rather than manually encoding proxies to transfer via cloud storage, EVO automatically creates proxies that can be used for offline editing as media is imported. “The automatic proxies save us tons of time that would have been spent waiting on footage to encode and transfer,” he added.
As a production team that creates everything from commercials to documentaries to corporate video, Maday Productions relies on EVO shared storage to keep all their media files secure, organized, and accessible by the whole team. Now that work is being done from home, their in-office workflow has been seamlessly transitioned to a work-from-anywhere model with Nomad.
“Nomad allows us to work. It allows us to keep moving forward.” – Jeremy Garchow, Maday Productions
A Solution for the Future
The conditions that necessitated Nomad’s creation won’t be around forever, but there are many reasons to believe that the media production industry will never be quite the same. More and more companies that suspected they could someday accommodate an edit-from-anywhere workflow have now had time to perfect their strategy. Technologies like Nomad that have been created for media professionals during this time will continue to adapt to meet the needs of the next generation of remote media workflows.
At MediaSource, Robert Leitch’s team will continue to have at least one remote editor once everything returns to normal. Nomad has proven that remote workflows are not only possible, but practical and efficient for professionals with deadlines and production quality standards to meet. “This is honestly a first step toward not just a hybrid workflow, but a new kind of workflow altogether,” said Leitch.
Similarly, Kelly Mullen at Stream Companies thinks this can help propel the industry into an era where working from home is much more common. Most editors have never experienced a true remote workflow due to concerns of transfer speeds and interrupted connections. “Work-from-home has been a luxury that producers and editors can’t often afford,” explained Mullen, “but Nomad could really change this idea that creative collaboration has to come from being in one physical location.”
Chris Anderson mentioned that production is starting to open up again in China, creating an interesting opportunity to examine what the industry might be like when workers return to set. His producer in China will begin shooting in a limited capacity in June, and it seems likely that other production opportunities will open up soon thereafter. Even after the stay-at-home orders are lifted, Nomad will continue to be the most convenient way for them to share footage with team members in the office or around the world.
As for Jeremy Garchow from Maday Productions, he has already theorized a way to use Nomad for reviewing dailies from a remote location. When on set shooting footage for a client, his team can import footage to EVO, allowing a producer to connect remotely and review media from any location. This is done without the lengthy upload process of a cloud storage service. He, like the others we interviewed, is excited about Nomad’s potential to improve their workflow beyond the current emergency work-from-home scenario.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, it became apparent that media professionals needed a solution to take their on-site workflow home with them, a solution that kept them working with minimal interruption to their already upside-down world. Nomad does just that. Whether there is a global pandemic, a long commute to avoid, or a cross-country shoot to get to, Nomad creates a myriad of opportunities for remote editing both now and in the future. By sharing their stories, these media production teams have given us and everyone else valuable insight into their real-life workflows with Nomad and how it will impact the future of our industry.
Studio Network Studio, ByTruman Wheeler May 15th, 2020