Are we there yet? Part 3

Posted on January 9, 2024
Gap Analysis for the 2030 Vision

In this final part of our blog series on the current gaps between where are now and realizing the 2030 Vision, we’ll address the last two sections of the original whitepaper and look specifically at gaps around, Security and Identity, and Software-Defined Workflows. As with previous blogs in this series (see Parts 1 and 2) we’ll include both the gap as we see it, an example as it applies in a real workflow, and the broader implications of the gap.

So let’s get started with…

MovieLabs 2030 Vision Principle 6
  1. Inconsistent and inefficient management of identity and access policies across the industry and between organizations.

    Example: A producer wants to invite two studio executives, a director and an editor, into a production cloud service but the team has 3 different identity management systems. There’s no common way to identify the correct people to provide access to critical files or to provision that access.

    This is an issue addressed in the original 2030 Vision, which called for a common industry-wide Production User ID (or PUID) to identify individuals who will be working on a production. While there are ways today to stitch together different identify management and access control solutions between different organizations, they are point to point, require considerable software or configuration expertise, and are not “plug and play.”

MovieLabs 2030 Vision Principle 7
  1. Difficulty in securing shared multi-cloud workflows and infrastructure.

    Example: A production includes assets spread across a dozen different cloud infrastructures, each of which is under control of a different organization, and yet all need a consistent and studio-approved level of security.

    MovieLabs believes the current ”perimeter” security model is not sufficient to cope with the complex multi-organizational, multi-infrastructure systems that will be commonplace in the 2030 Vision. Instead, we believe the industry needs to pivot to a more modern ”zero-trust” approach to security, where the stance changes from ”try to prevent intruders” to every access to an asset or service is authenticated and checked for authorization. To that end, we’ve developed the Common Security Architecture for Production which is based on a Zero Trust Foundation, take a look at this blog to learn more.

MovieLabs 2030 Vision Principle 8
  1. Reliance on file paths/locations instead of identifiers.

    Example: A vendor requires a number of assets to do their work (e.g., a list of VFX plates to pull or a list of clips) that today tend to be copied as a file tree structure or zipped together to be shared along with a manifest of the files.

    In a world where multiple applications, users and organizations can be simultaneously pulling on assets, it becomes challenging for applications to rely on file names, locations, and hierarchies. MovieLabs instead is recommending unique identifiers for all assets that can be resolved via a service to specify where a specific file is actually stored. This intermediate step provides an abstraction layer and allows all applications to be able to find and access all assets. For more information, see Through the Looking Glass.

MovieLabs 2030 Vision Principle 9
  1. Reliance on email for notifications and manual processing of workflow tasks.

    Example: A vendor is required to do a task on a video asset and is sent an email, a PDF attachment containing a work order, a link to a proxy video file for the work to be done, and a separate link to a cloud location where the RAW files are. It takes several hours/days for the vendor to extract the required work, download, QC, and store the media assets, and then assign the task on an internal platform to someone who can do the work. The entire process is reversed to send the completed work back to the production/studio.

    By having non-common systems to send workflow requests, asset references and assign work to individual people, we have created an inherently inefficient industry. In the scenario above, a more efficient system would be for the end user to receive an automated notification from a production management system that includes a definition of the task to be done and links to the cloud location of the proxies and RAW files, with all access permissions already assigned so they can start their work. Of course, our industry is uniquely distributed between organizations that handle very nuanced tasks in the completion of a professional media project. This complicates the flow of work and work orders, but there are new software systems that can enable seamless, secure, and automated generation of tasks. We can strip weeks out of major production schedules simply by being more efficient in handoffs between departments, vendors and systems.

  2. Monolithic systems and the lack of API-first solutions inhibit our progress towards interoperable modern application stacks.

    Example: A studio would like to migrate their asset management and creative applications to a cloud workflow that includes workflow automation, but the legacy nature of their software means that many tasks need to be done through a GUI and that it needs to be hosted on servers and virtual machines that mimic the 24/7 nature of their on-premises hardware.

    Modern applications are designed as a series of micro-services which are assembled and called dynamically depending on the process, which enables considerable scaling and also lighter weight applications that can deploy on a range of compute instances (e.g., on workstations, virtual machines or even behind browsers). While the pandemic proved we can have creative tasks running remotely or from the cloud a lot of those processes were ”brute forced” with remote access or cloud VMs running legacy software and are not the intended end goal of a ”cloud native” software stack for media and entertainment. We recognize this is an enormous gap to fix and will take beyond the 2030 timeframe to move all of the most vital applications/services to modern software platforms. However we need the next-generation of software systems to enable open APIs and deploy in modern containers to accelerate the interoperable and dynamic future that is possible within the 2030 Vision.

MovieLabs 2030 Vision Principle 10
  1. Many workflows include unnecessarily time consuming and manual steps.

    Example: A director can’t remotely view a final color session in real time from her location, so she needs to wait for a full render of the sequence, for it to be uploaded to a file share, for an email with the link to be sent, and then for her to download it and find a monitor that matches the one that was used for the grade.

    We could write so many examples here. There’s just way too little automation and way too much time wasted in resolving confusions, writing metadata, reading it back, clarifying intent, sending emails, making calls etc. Many of the technologies exist to fix these issues, but we need to redevelop many of our control plane functions to adopt to a more efficient system which requires investment in time, staff, and development. But those that do the work will come out leaner, faster and more competitive at the end of the process. We recommend that all participants in the ecosystem take honest internal efficiency audits to look for opportunities to improve and prioritize the most urgent issues to fix.

Phew!  So, there we have it. For anyone that believes the 2030 Vision is “doable” today, there are 24 reasons why MovieLabs disagrees. Don’t consider this post a negative, we still have time to resolve these issues, and it’s worth being honest about the great progress completed but also what’s still to do.

Of course, there’s no point making a list of things to do without a meaningful commitment to cross them off. MovieLabs and the studios can’t do this alone, so we’re laying down the gauntlet to the industry – help us, to help us all. MovieLabs will be working to close those gaps that we can affect, and we’ll be publishing our progress on this blog and on LinkedIn. We’re asking you to do the same – share what your organization is doing with us by contacting and use #2030Vision in your posts.

There are three specific calls to action from this blog for everyone in the technical community:

  1. The implementation gaps listed in all parts of this blog are the easiest to close – the industry has a solution we just need the commitment and investment to implement and adopt what we already have. These are ones we can rally around now, and MovieLabs has already created useful technologies like the Common Security Architecture for Production, the Ontology for Media Creation, and the Visual Language.
  2. For those technical gaps where the industry needs to design new solutions, sometimes individual companies can pick these ideas up and run with them, develop their own products, and have some confidence that if when they build them customers will come. Some technical gaps can only be closed by industry players coming together, with appropriate collaboration models, to create solutions that enable change, competition, and innovation. There are existing forums to do that work including SMPTE and the Academy Software Foundation, and MovieLabs hosts working groups as well.
  3. And though not many issues are in the Change Management category right now, we still need to work together to share and educate how these technologies can be combined to make the creative world more efficient.

We’re more than 3 years into our Odyssey towards 2030. Join us as we battle through the monsters of apathy, slay the cyclops of single mindedness, and emerge victorious in the calm and efficient seas of ProductionLandia. We look forward to the journey where heroes will be made.

-Mark “Odysseus” Turner

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