Business continuity during the pandemic evolves into a global, future-proofed workflow, speeding edit times and slashing inefficiency
VICE Media Group is a diversified and global multi-platform media company. With offices across 25 countries, VICE has a focus on five key businesses: VICE.com, an award-winning international network of digital content; VICE STUDIOS, a feature film and television production studio; VICE TV, an Emmy-winning international television network; a Peabody award-winning NEWS division with the most Emmy-awarded nightly news broadcast; and VIRTUE, a global, full-service creative agency. VICE’s news and entertainment segment reaches a global digital audience of 374 million unique viewers each month, not including television.
VICE Media’s move to Cloud
Long before the pandemic, VICE Media was looking to build a cloud-first strategy to streamline production efficiencies.
The capital expenditure related to buying and maintaining dedicated hardware equipment had become a pressing issue. Aside from the need to pay for support, hardware such as servers and storage consumed power, aircon, and rack space on premises.
“We knew that a cloud-first strategy would allow us to overcome many of these issues, but we also needed to do this at scale,” said Tim Bertioli, SVP, Global Media Operations, VICE Media Group. “Many companies were slow to adopt the cloud because of the perceived complexity and cost. This was the stumbling point in our analysis of the cloud versus on-prem before Covid.”
Accelerated need for distributed workflow
The pandemic caused significant disruption to many companies, and VICE Media Group was no exception. Across 30 offices, staff had to begin working from home almost overnight. Initially, they sent editors and producers home with portable hard drives full of content, but that was not a sustainable solution. Some teams had existing storage repositories, but these were spread across cloud and on-premise infrastructure in different locations. The VICE team set out to find a solution enabling editors to access the content they needed from home as seamlessly as possible.
“It’s easy to talk about the pandemic being a driver for change, but when we were looking at LucidLink, the decision to use and deploy it was not a knee-jerk reaction,” says Dominic Brouard, Director, Media Engineering, VICE Media Group. “We wanted to deploy a solution that would enable remote from home productivity in the short term, but we also wanted to try and build something that would stand us in good stead post-Covid. That meant we wanted a tool that would work sustainably from the speed of production. It also had to meet the terms of the cost model, the infrastructure it sits on, and be enterprise-ready and security-focused.”
VICE Media centralized some workflows, such as archives, before 2020 and already had in mind the next step to lift its entire post-production workflows to data centers.
Bertioli says, “At the start of the pandemic, everyone accepted that there were compromises. We wanted to make it less of a compromise so that work from home was basically no different from their experience in an office.”
With a need to move quickly to ensure business continuity, a 30-day proof of concept was set up with LucidLink, employing ‘cloud NAS’ technology to enable content to be stored in the cloud and dynamically streamed and cached to local devices.
The VICE News team was the first team to test, adopt and push LucidLink into a production environment. It quickly became apparent that they had found the solution to underpin the organization’s global cloud-first policy.
“It worked really well for the news team in creating day-to-air content,” says Brouard. “There was a lot of collaboration across regions from the field teams gathering material to finishing teams taking broadcast content to air that night. They championed its use and were happy to see it used widely.”
Confidence following the proof of concept was so high that VICE News moved its entire production workflow to LucidLink. Rollout proceeded at pace, team by team and territory by territory, across all lines of VICE Media’s business and from short-form production and post to longer-form content production.
“When we did an analysis of on-prem versus cloud models, it was clear that it didn’t make sense to use LucidLink in isolation,” says Brouard. “Here was an opportunity to have LucidLink as a key component of our future cloud infrastructure.”
Rather than having multiple users and their systems tied up waiting for files to upload and download, LucidLink shifts the paradigm. It was recognition of this core idea in practice that convinced VICE Media to expand a rollout.
“In our traditional postproduction model, producers and editors were downloading copies of files in order to work with them locally,” Brouard explains. “During Covid, it was clear pretty quickly that having to move large amounts of data over standard internet connections to a user’s remote workspace was a barrier to production. It’s not just the time taken to upload and download that might mean restricting creative decisions.
“We wanted LucidLink because it didn’t have this barrier. For instance, it could allow our production teams to record longer, vérité-style footage if they wanted. Postproduction could potentially work at higher data rates to punch into shots or seize creative opportunities that we’d previously missed out on.”
Why LucidLink worked for VICE Media Group
Ease of deployment was another key factor in LucidLink’s success at VICE. That was doubly important for a company that operates postproduction as a service across the business rather than running a different post team for each division.
“Whenever we implement upgrades or new solutions at VICE, we try to find technologies that can be rolled out quickly across all lines of business and all geographies. Because of the ease of use and ease of management of LucidLink, we’ve been able to deploy this on a global scale rapidly with what is a very small IT team.”
Brouard adds, “LucidLink is very simple for end users to self-install. It makes sense to anyone who is used to plugging in a network drive and pulling media into a software application. It’s as easy as deploying a standard product in a software suite and as such has made it incredibly straightforward to deploy quickly and at scale.”
“From a security standpoint, our teams cared about having the ability to be granular about assigning access, and the ability to integrate this with our own management framework is very straightforward and robust.”
“In terms of functionality, we like that LucidLink emulates a block storage environment since that is the type that works best with NLE software. Serving up blocks of video files to your NLE means you get superior performance because you’re not downloading huge amounts of data to get the job done.”
Results of LucidLink in action
LucidLink has made a huge impact on VICE Media’s global production. Implementation has eliminated the company’s previous difficulties in downloading files or sending drives, which were time-consuming processes that were becoming unsustainable.
With LucidLink editors, wherever they are located, can access assets on cloud storage, perform the required work and reshare a link to a producer for immediate review. Editors around the world can now work on the same media, story, or program, employing a ‘follow the sun’ model. For example, when an editor in the UK finishes for the day, editorial team members in South America can continue to work on the same project.
“Our speed to edit has increased immeasurably with LucidLink,” says Brouard. “Quite simply, had we not had LucidLink, then in the short-term, we would have been much less efficient working from home, and in the longer term, our cloud-first strategy would probably have required a more complex and expensive post-production system in the cloud.”
LucidLink is a tool recommended by VICE Media Group to its production partners and third-party vendors.
“We use Adobe which is a pretty standard industry tool, and we feel LucidLink is the same,” says Bertioli. The more vendors who use LucidLink, the easier it will be for broader cloud integration projects.
“LucidLink has made it possible for us to confidently scale-out use of the cloud for post-production without breaking the bank. It has enabled us to adopt cloud-first post-production, very quickly and cost-effectively. LucidLink is becoming the industry standard for moving post-production into the cloud.”
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