Isis: Enabling a Pro Collaborative Workflow
By Steve Hullfish | June 28, 2012
The ability to work well in a shared, creative community is a key requisite for any professional editing solution used in producing today's feature films and prime time TV shows. As the hands-down leader in the development of integrated media environments for the post production industry, Avid understands this better than most.
Unfortunately, too many systems work well only in isolation...as an editing island. Yes, they are able to accomplish most tasks of the creative process-ingest, creative edit, color correction, motion graphics, audio, and layoff. But in today's high-end production environment workloads must be spread out between various craftsman and technical assistants. Assistant editors need to ingest media, organize it, and attach important metadata while creative editing needs to be shared by multiple editors. Content must be viewed and approved by numerous others, and revisions made by someone other than the originating editor. Additional craftspeople such as audio mixers, sound editors, motion graphics, closed captioners, music directors and special effects, also have important contributions to make.
If modern TV production had to work through all of these steps in serial fashion, we'd still be waiting for the first "Bonanza" pilot.
At the heart of the Avid integrated media environment is the collaborative capability provided by Avid ISIS shared storage systems. With ISIS, all stored media can be accessed by any contributor, either in the main post-production facility or linked through the Internet to outside locations. But the collaborative capabilities of Avid extend even further - to an array of creative solutions - from Media Composer and Symphony to Pro Tools and Interplay. Color correction of an edit in Symphony, for example, can be started even before the edit itself is complete. As shots are changed and added, Symphony can adapt to the revised edits, even automatically adding color correction to new edits from the same master clip. Another example is the way many audio filters built into Media Composer are also built into Pro Tools, allowing an editor to start an effect but making it available to be tweaked later by a more qualified specialist.
While editors are continually asked to do more, primetime TV and feature films still rely on specialists with deeper knowledge and experience in areas such as off-line editing, on-line editing, audio mixing, color correction, compositing and motion graphics. As greater numbers of craftspeople become involved, though, it is increasingly important for everyone to work from the latest version of the edit, and with the latest revisions of special effects, audio mixes and color correction.
The sheer number of these handoffs require advanced media access and management. With its long experience in dealing with the world's entertainment industry players, Avid is fully aware that any worthwhile shared storage solution needs to smooth the collaborative flow between individual contributors without having to maintain strict adherence to external standard operating procedures.
One of the less visible issues in maintaining effective collaboration is scheduling. Avid Unity, the precursor to ISIS, provided one of the best centralized storage solutions available. One of its most obvious benefits was its ability to provide every room with access to every bit of media, making scheduling a multi-room post production house infinitely easier.
Continuing this lineage, ISIS lets an editor start a project in Room A, but easily shift it to a different room with a different editor. Unlike shared storage technologies, local storage solutions only allow editing to be continued in the room in which it was started, which means that some rooms are left lying idle at times while other rooms get double booked.
Shared storage also requires less space than local storage. With ISIS, each project can be assigned a virtual hard drive, called a workspace. Because this workspace is flexible in size, each project only uses the amount of space it needs. With local storage, one room might run out of space on the drives, while another room may have terabytes of extra, unused storage. But ISIS is able to easily add workspaces and dynamically change them as storage needs change, letting each room or editor log on to and use those workspaces as needed.
One of the key advantages of workspaces is that they are very easy to administer. Depending on the size of the facility and the technical proficiency of the staff, the administrator can be a senior editor, post supervisor, or even a scheduler. On episodic shows, individual episodes or shows can have their own workspace, but it's also easy to share material from other episodes by mounting those workspaces. It's also possible to create "evergreen" workspaces to hold material that needs to be kept active and accessible over an entire season, or multiple seasons. Good examples are music libraries and graphics packages in which media is instantly accessible, especially when content can be tagged with specific metadata.
As production continues to become more de-centralized, Avid Interplay enters the picture, working in conjunction with ISIS to provides a higher level of management capability, including full access to media and metadata from remote locations, remote screening of footage, review by producers and other creatives, as well as sharing of business data such as billing and rights management, with media movement, transcoding and proxy generation all taking place in the background.
Non-Avid tools are supported, including Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere, while many file types, including stills, text, and audio, are handled seamlessly. Plus, contributors at every level have access via an easy to use browser-based tool.
As a reference point, the Discovery Channel operates more than 100 networks and channels around the world, almost all of them store their content on Avid ISIS. In their main facility, they're running 33 HD suites three shifts a day with a 99.6% uptime. Of course, Avid knows how valuable this media is, so protection extends well beyond a simple RAID backup. Each system is fail-proofed and redundant, underscoring the commitment Avid makes in providing the most highest-quality, fully-integrated media production environment in the world today.
FTC Disclosure: The creation of this article was partially subsidized by Avid.
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