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Remote and Cloud Editing Solutions for Content Creators

May 18, 2020


Remote editing is a much-needed feature for an industry that is increasingly global. Collaborations between production houses, editors and clients in different cities, and even countries, are common. All needing access to the footage to add their input. While remote working solutions are common for a range of document types, it presents some difficulties for video editing.

Challenges for remote video editing

The extremely large file sizes of video capture mean that fast internet speeds are necessary to allow editing free of lagging and drops in connection. High definition (HD) and 4K (UHD) footage require data rates between 50 and 800Mb/s, while a standard internet connection can offer an average of as little as 16Mb/s.

Great distances between the server holding the footage and the editing machine can cause latency, or transfer delay, as well as dropped connections. While a small latency (15-20ms) is workable, anything more impacts the editing experience.

A common solution for remote editing is to use a low-resolution version of the file to edit, known as a proxy. The edit can then be applied to the full resolution file once complete. These proxy files are faster to transfer, allowing for a smoother editing experience. However, this does limit editing functions, such as checking video quality.

There are a few different options for companies looking to set up a remote editing system. These range from remote desktops connecting to locally stored files, through to full cloud-based editing options.

Remote display control

The simplest method of remote editing is to use the remote desktop approach. This method connects the remote editor with a local machine, much as an IT manager would when fixing a problem remotely.

The benefit of this method is that the local editing machine can be connected directly to the high res files. This reduces latency and allows you to work directly with the originals. Remote operators can access the editing software through a web browser.

The downside of the remote display approach is that the feed to the remote machine is compressed, so you are not getting a full rendition of the footage. A fast internet connection is required to minimize this compression. Expansion is also costly, as a unique machine is needed for each remote connection.

Remote editing with VPN

The most common type of remote set-up has the remote user running the editing software on their machine but accessing the footage held in the base location through a virtual private network (VPN) over the internet. These files can either be the full high-res originals or a lower-resolution proxy version, also held on a server at the base location.

The advantage of this approach is that the remote user can use all the features on their editing software, as it exists on their own machine and access the content is if they were in the same room. It is a set-up that can easily be scaled, as no additional equipment is needed at the main location when adding users.

This method is limited by the performance of the VPN, both in bandwidth and latency. Also, if proxy files are used, the lower resolution will not give a full display of the video quality.

Cloud editing with proxy streaming

Rather than accessing the footage from a server in the base location, the remote user accesses a proxy version that sits on a server in the cloud. This footage is streamed to the remote user rather than delivered in packets.

Having the content on a cloud server means that the editing experience is the same whether the editor is remote or at the base location. And the use of proxy files means that it is possible to edit even with slower internet connections.

Adding a streaming server is an additional requirement to simply hosting the proxy files but does make the system more manageable. Once again, using a proxy file does mean the quality is not the full high res version for quality checks, however. Successful streaming is reliant on a decent internet bandwidth (speed).

Live encoding

Much like the proxy streaming solution, this method still delivers content to the remote editor using a streaming server. The difference is that with live encoding is the quality of the file delivered to the remote editor depends on the internet bandwidth available. The greater the bandwidth (faster connection) the better quality can be delivered.

The benefit of live encoding is that it will deliver the best possible quality that the internet connection can handle. However, this is a more costly set up to run than a standard proxy.

A media asset management (MAM) system can also be added to the mix, to provide better management of all content, including versions and user access. It is also possible to create a hybrid set up that includes both a cloud-based system and a local network, using a MAM system to give access to both cloud and local resources.

Comparing performance

From these methods, there are some clear benefits that stand out. Unless you have a particularly fast internet connection at both ends, using a proxy file type is the best approach. This should be of the maximum possible quality, so for where the connection speeds may vary, a system that offers live encoding is ideal. New compression formats, such as H.265 and AV1 and Google’s VP9, help create higher quality files within the bandwidth restrictions.

Using a cloud-based solution has huge benefits for those looking to scale up the operation to multiple remote users. Latency can also be kept to a minimum by using a major platform with a wide coverage of servers, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services.

In terms of security, there is an increased risk in using any form of remote connection. However, high-quality servers and content management systems offer decent security and encryption options. For usability, it also helps to use an editing software designed for remote and sharing, such as Adobe Premiere Pro.

Learn more about remote and cloud editing in the March 2020 edition of the SMPTE Motion Imaging Journal.


Erminia Fiorino

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