The television and film industry has seen major technological advancement over the past ten years, resulting in a radical shift in how television and feature films are made. As any of these advancements have been introduced, we as humans need to learn to adapt and are forced to reevaluate which human-powered positions are necessary within our work force. The transition of removing transcoding, media management, file deliveries, and other mathematical steps from humans has already begun. Like many industries we are faced with a challenge to alter how we do business and interact with technology to ensure we’re taking advantage of the new streamlined processes available today.
To date, a lot of the automated processes that have been implemented have been heavily focused on mathematical steps within workflow. Creative-focused jobs have thus far seen less impact as it is harder to duplicate the human-made creative decision making process. Jobs that are focused on file conversion, media management, and file delivery on the other hand have been quicker to introduce new automation and efficiency. Because these are technical and more mathematically-driven tasks, with little client interaction, these are the first jobs that we will see shift to be primarily driven by automated processes over the coming years. Take for instance the large array of cloud-based software like OwnZones that has recently entered the market to convert a finished episode, or feature film into several additional formats with customized specifications. Simply upload your file and it will take advantage of more CPU/GPU (than you could possibly have in your own facility) to deliver the finished files. This particular process is very mathematical and not creative and therefore demonstrates the beginning of industry transition requiring less human support staff within your facility for such services.
Another example of a mathematically-driven service, soon to be automated, is visual effects and promo pulls. Until now, this process has generally been that a human has to send a request for media to another human via email. The EDL (a text-based list of shots) is loaded into software, files are gathered and confirmed to match the list from the request. Color correction and sound may be added back in, and the media will be rendered into a specific specification. While humans have handled all elements of this process, none of this work was necessarily creative.
We as humans need to learn to adapt and are forced to reevaluate which human-powered positions are necessary within our work force
Therefore automating these steps is not only feasible, but will soon be the industry standard.
Aside from removing tasks from human workloads, does this automation otherwise impact the way we work? In short, yes. Many of these automated systems, require that the client making the initial request be more engaged and accurate in the requests that theysubmit. What was once cleaned up by a human due to clients error (or lack of detail), may simply now be rejected and the desired tasks will not be complete. Therefore, even though an automated process should provide a much faster turnaround, we will have to adjust to not having quite the white glove personal experience that communicating with humans performing these tasks, currently provides.
It is easy to think that this human-based customer service element is what maintains the human involvement in a position, and protect it (and your job) from automation. Unfortunately, the level of human involvement is viewed in terms of monetary value; the importance of the human services vs., the money that could be saved through automation. It is not uncommon that a sacrifice in quality implementing new automated workflow, may be implemented due to monetary gain. As an example, Directors of Photography have traditionally had a Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) working with them on set. This position, among many other responsibilities, provided live color correction, allowing the DP and any crew to see how the show was going to creatively look. However, new technology has allowed cameras to have in-camera looks, or LUT boxes allowing color correction to be placed into a box strapped to the camera – removing the need for a DIT. The human in this situation provided a more comprehensive and accurate color correction along with many other support services, but the DIT was soon phased out on many jobs due tomonetary savings. DPs had to adjust to new ways of working to ensure their vision still made it onto the screen. Camera crews had to adjust to not having the extra layer of support they were used to, and the dailies lab had to adjust to not having the level of color direction they once had.
Many speculate that the dailies lab could soon begin a similar transition where by productions cut out the dailies process as cameras become much more powerful: providing burn ins, watermarks, and custom framing all built into your dual recorded proxy. Or cameras recording directly to a cloud, making this media available to anyone that needs it across post-production immediately. The dailies lab, like the DIT role, has a combination of creativity and mathematical. Working day-in and day-out in this department, having very demanding clients, makes it easy to think this role could never change. However similarly to the DIT position, if it costs production less money and they can ‘get by’ without the position, it may not be as secure as we think.
After attending a post-production-focused technology conference, many people seem to be worried that our industry will soon become something like this:
When in actuality, many creative roles are still going to be intact and just as important as ever. However, we are going to start having more tools and technology available to make our lives easier. Simple routine tasks like transcoding, media management, and file deliveries that take you away from your creative role, will be removed and many people will be able to get back to why they entered the film industry in the first place; to make movies.