In our latest Talks from the Talk column David Peto, CEO of London-based Aframe, discusses how the company’s cloud-based asset management solution has moved from blue sky fantasy to become integral to production.
David Peto started his career as a video producer who created a hit with his last company, London-based Unit Post Production, which quickly became a top ranking facility. Peto founded Aframe in 2009 with a vision to create a cloud platform that is powerful enough to handle the huge volumes and myriad formats of video production, but is simple enough that anyone could use it. He’s taken Aframe from a one-room office to a global business with offices across the UK and US and a private cloud network in New York, LA and London.
When I started Aframe in 2009 after running a post house in London for five years, it seemed I had chosen the absolute worst time to start a business whose approach could be considered to fundamentally change the workflows that drive the film and television industries. Back then we were in the trough of the worst financial crisis for almost a century. Companies we knew, respected – even loved, were shutting their doors or drastically downsizing. As a result creative professionals were hunkered down, just making sure that they had a job – making sure they had another project locked, loaded and ready to go. Since we all know you’re only ever as good as your last project, this climate makes it unlikely you’ll risk doing anything different that could jeopardise your success.
As an entrepreneur faced with bucking global economic forces, you have to focus on two things:
1) Technological progress is as inevitable as the sun coming up each morning
2) Somewhere, someone knows that things could be better, and is eager for a new approach that makes it so – no matter how risk averse people can be when times are difficult.
That place that was ahead of the curve was New York City, not surprisingly. So consider this a belated Thank You card, New York – for the revolution you helped set forth – and for the road ahead that we now share.
Seismic shifts in technology like cloud storage and production hit us every decade or so – and we watch the naysayers emerge, and fade as smarter better ways of working take hold. Many of us remember the move from film to tape, when people said that we would never use magnetic tape for high end programming. But we did. Then there was a commotion around the move from linear to nonlinear. We listened as people said it would never be reliable, that disk space would always be too small, that data rates would be too high, and all that. Yet the industry did it, and in the process created some of the biggest companies our business has ever seen.
The next shift was from tape to file based, and we argued over sensor quality, compression and complexity, but again we got there. I remember when editing HD required hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment – yet even by 2007, once people had got over dismissing Final Cut Pro, we were all doing it on our laptops.
And now we face the next great leap – the leap to the cloud. Again we still hear the same arguments: we’ll never store rushes there, there’s not enough bandwidth, it’s not reliable, etc. Resistance to change like this is nothing new. I’m the same – there’s a reason that after 20 years of skiing, I resolutely refuse to try snowboarding. I’m proud that I can make it down a mountain at speed and not spend most of my time on my butt.
But some things, when professionals get over that fear or uncertainty, just feel right. Like the first time, when faced with an edit timeline, you moved a clip and dropped it in at the beginning and the rest magically moved along. Or faced with a camera that spat out memory cards that seemed so ephemeral, you realised you could shoot more and weren’t limited to an amount of film or tape. Or when you fire up your iPad or your Web browser at home, and your footage is just there – and you start to organise it, craft a story and share it and deliver it without all the hassles.
That moment is akin to that magic nonlinear timeline of the last seismic shift. Once you have it, you don’t want to give it up.
The switchover to cloud-powered approaches is undeniably underway. At NAB 2014 next week there will be at least 55 sessions devoted to how the cloud is changing some aspect of the industry. The cloud word will be everywhere, and for good reason.
Technological change like this, while relentless, is driven by delivering a benefit that ultimately saves time, money or both. The cloud has it in spades. That’s why companies that you might assume to be risk averse are making the move.
Which brings me back to New York. Back in 2009 when we founded Aframe and then in 2010 when we first launched our private cloud video production platform, we needed to find the people who were ahead of the crowd.
And where we found it, of course, was here in NYC.
No other city than New York is as brutally honest in its opinions, or as embracing when it sees the next best thing. New York’s vibrancy and optimism is something I feel hit me every time I get off the plane.
It was here in New York not long after we started that we found the first customer who was willing to completely commit to Aframe at the heart of its operations – not just to use it on an individual project, or to share or move media, but embedded in the entire business’ video workflows. The broadcast operations group knew at the time that we didn’t have everything that they needed. The creative and IT knew that we were going to hit snags and do a lot of learning along the way.
But that New York based group was relentless in its belief that embracing the cloud was the only way to go to enable their global business to grow. So that other Veria Living departments worldwide such as ad sales and marketing, could also access assets to create sizzle reels or establish licensing rights for showcasing content to prospective buyers – and the entire business could gain tremendous efficiency across the board in content creation, maintenance and storage workflows.
Veria Living remains our customer today, with hundreds of users across four continents. They join the BBC, MTV, esteemed production and postproduction specialists like Laboratory here in town, Arrow Media and Timeline TV in the UK, and thousands of professionals in production, broadcasting, news and sports who now work faster, smarter and more efficiently by relying on a cloud enabled workflow.
That’s why Sixteen19’s Ben Baker has already put the cloud to work in expediting digital dailies for a number of films including “Rob the Mob” which debuted a few weeks ago, as well as two more major debuts opening later this year filmed in New York last autumn with one of the city’s biggest directorial names.
That’s why the folks at FOX Networks in LA watched what New Yorkers were doing with the cloud from afar, and began conceptualizing an entirely new way to harness the cloud to automate the ingest and delivery of content from its global network partners and “stringers” – instead of over reliance on fleets of satellite trucks. What emerged was a cloud-enabled self-service news assignment desk workflow so novel that it won a 2014 Visionary End User award for FOX Networks – an award that sits proudly in Aframe’s offices today.
That’s why Aframe just opened an office in New York City and named longtime broadcast industry veteran and freelance video editor David Frasco, formerly of Avid, as our new VP of North American sales, based here.
Where better place to be than the city that has faced more adversity over the last decade and a bit yet still is driven as ever, and always looking for ways to be better.
So thank you, New York. In a few years, when the cloud is embedded is just about every workflow – when production time frames shrink even more – and when workflows without a cloud-based component look old and dated – the industry will owe a debt of gratitude to you for making it that happen.