Case study

Evolving into the cloud

The Finish Line maintains flexible distributed workflows for craft editing, QC, mastering, and delivery with facility-wide LucidLink

The company

The Finish Line is a full-service post-production company in the UK. It designs and manages in-house post-production solutions for productions wanting to ensure their budget goes on screen. Providing on-site or remote access editorial, finishing, and mastering services combined with The Finish Line’s talented team always makes sure work is completed to the highest standard regardless of time constraints or location.

Philosophy of change

Since its inception over a decade ago, The Finish Line has been a distributed post-production facility. But throughout that time, its use of technology and the cloud has evolved continually.  

“When I started The Finish Line in 2011, it was just me operating alone, but I wanted to have a distributed workflow from day one,” explains founder and finishing artist Zeb Chadfield. “Partly this was because the industry was emerging from the 2008 recession, and budgets were stripped back. However, it also stemmed from my strong belief that clients care about the quality of high-end picture finishing. By sourcing the best talent from across the globe, we meet and exceed the requirements in delivering exceptional post-production services. 

“I firmly believe that the industry has a duty of care to the people it employs and that actually in doing so everyone is rewarded by achieving the best product on screen.

“Faster systems and better tools were the first places I looked when starting The Finish Line,” but in the end, it’s the people who create the final product. Having the right tools can get them there quicker and make their lives easier along the way.”

In practice, distributed workflows at The Finish Line have meant flexible and remote working, whether the editor is at home or onsite at the production company for the duration of a project. The facility’s only physical hub in London houses a machine room and (pre-pandemic) equipment for QC, mastering, and delivery.

In 2013, the facility moved from LTO tape to AWS Glacier for its archive. This ended up being the first of many steps into the cloud as the facility itself grew to a 20-strong team.

The most recent evolution has been with LucidLink enabling editors to work from their own machines while accessing cloud storage and sharing projects.  

Expansion in a crisis with LucidLink

“LucidLink had been on my radar for a while, and I started testing it during the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. I would throw any low-pressure projects at LucidLink to see if there were any particular snags. With any new toolset, you need to safely audit it to see if there’s anything you need to learn because you don’t want to find that out in the middle of an important job. We learned that it was always really stable.”

Chadfield’s damascene conversion occurred when LucidLink came to the rescue in an emergency.

“We had a big documentary feature for a client who had trouble doing their conform internally,” he explains. “We are very regularly up against a fixed transmission date, but this was particularly tight. The program had to be delivered in nine days, and just one act out of ten had been conformed at the client’s side. It was taking them three days to conform to one act. Simple math says there was just not enough time even if we worked round the clock.”

Chadfield took the problem to his team. In the middle of Covid, everyone was working from home. Could this be solved, he wondered, by using LucidLink to connect everyone to shared storage?

The client gave The Finish Line access to all the show’s media at the facility’s HQ. Nine finishing artists were then able to access an act each to conform at home, working from the full resolution media and the same pool of storage via LucidLink.

“They were brilliant and conformed everything over the weekend, so we were ready by Monday to start the final post,” Chadfield says. “We delivered on time, and the client hit transmission. “Had we not had LucidLink, then that job would have been impossible. It was a lifesaver.”

Had we not had LucidLink, then that job would have been impossible. It was a lifesaver.
Zeb ChadfieldFounder and Finishing Artist, The Finish Line
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The confidence that the success of that project gave Chadfield led him to expand the use of LucidLink across the facility.

 “We started implementing LucidLink workflows for offline editors working on their own system, for offline editors working on our systems, and also for offline editors working across multiple systems in a hybrid arrangement. 

“We have some larger productions with editors working remotely through our virtual systems as well as having a server at their main production office. In addition, some editors will be working remotely from home on local physical systems. LucidLink enables us to share projects wherever the talent is so whatever machine they are on they can access the same account without any complications.”

Using shared physical storage in different locations would be a logistical headache fraught with time-consuming media management. 

“We’d struggle with project replication and bin replication and keeping an up-to-date timeline. With LucidLink, we can forgo all of that. It doesn’t matter where people log in from; they are always able to start work at the right point on their current project.”

Pure redundancy

LucidLink is now being used across every project at The Finish Line – and for project backup too.

“The stability is fantastic. Obviously, we still have backup plans in case of all eventualities, but we’ve been running LucidLink for 18 months now, and we’ve not had to revert to any backup. In fact, LucidLink is now more reliable than other options. It has become our main redundancy option. Even if someone is working from local storage, we are always running a LucidLink storage unit in the background, replicating everything.

He continues, “For example, if we had a major outage in our local storage, we would have the redundancy there to flip over to the LucidLink system and get people up and running. Or, if we were running post-production on a producer’s site and someone gets Covid, and everyone needs to go home, well, it is now very easy for us to flick a switch and carry on because everything is being constantly mirrored in LucidLink storage.”

Timesaving deliverables workflow 

A vital part of the facility’s workflow in final post is the use of cineXtools media-file and deliverables management application. CineXtools from CineDeck avoids teams repeatedly exporting files to accommodate changes to video, audio, or closed captions by streamlining distribution workflow.

“All of our finishing assistants who perform all the QC, mastering, and delivery have a license for cineXtools. We have now integrated cineXtools with LucidLink so that our finishing assistants can create deliverables no matter where they are. If they are using their home systems or working in the office, or shuttling between the two, they’ll use cineX to drop in inserts and updates without having to pull down new files in both directions. 

“They can do full QC on a reference monitor in the office or at home, all via LucidLink, and then if anything changes, they can drop inserts into those files without having to upload a new file. All of the time-consuming back and forth is a thing of the past since they just work from one single pool of LucidLink storage.”

Leading by example

In film, TV, and postproduction in particular, long work hours are treated as normal. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

“Early in my career, I worked at post facilities where we were squeezing two to three-day jobs into a single day,” says Chadfield. “Working long hours is a management and planning problem, not a badge of honor. When I decided to set up my own company, I made it a personal goal to ensure that nobody who works for me ever has to go through what I did. 

“Ensuring you’re working with the best tools can save time and headaches but, make no mistake if this is a means to an end, that end is less time working, not more time to cram work in.”

“My focus, therefore, is on the best talent and best kit to work with; ultimately, those things work the best. Our only goal at The Finish Line is to deliver incredible-looking pictures. To do this, we fill our company with the best talent in the business and do everything we can to look after and support them.”

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