Following the launch of its Cloud Store products earlier this year, we caught up with Craig Heffernan at Blackmagic Design to understand the philosophy behind its move to the cloud, the principles behind it, and what the future might hold.

Craig: As we all know, the pandemic forced most production companies to develop a more coordinated working style, but even before this, there was a drive for better collaboration between creative teams across the world. In fact, we’ve been doing virtual and dispersed production for a while, not to mention the likes of collaborative workgroups and remote grading.

However, technology and processes have been playing catch-up, and when you’re developing tools and approaches, it’s critical to understand what users need and their workflows. For example, two people should be able to work on the same timeline or project, whereas larger workgroups including individual Edit, Grade, Audio and VFX creatives need a more centralised approach to manage collaboration, asset sharing and will all benefit from real-time updates and integration at a project level. Similarly, production crews on set or location want to be connected to post-production colleagues and reduce delays in sharing media or building timelines, uploading and annotating media within shared libraries, sharing LUTs or pre-grades or roughing out edits.

Support of these workflow demands are shaped by conversations with users, and inform what makes for a good cloud strategy. When we distil it down, there are just a few fundamental principles that span our approach to the cloud as an overall philosophy and how we think about specific products and services.

Our philosophy and approach considers how quickly distributed workgroups can interact and share ideas; so not to be out of step or have conflicts when working together. It has to be cost-efficient and not become prohibitive for any project at any budget. Critically, it has to be user friendly and intuitive; with control built directly into Resolve 18 and no fussy UI’s or middleware. Too many network services require expertise in networking or cloud administration which we don’t believe are always necessary.

Our approach to cloud services can be summarised with two requirements: how do we better link Resolve users in real-time at a project level, and how can we efficiently use cloud services with local storage to share and sync media without incurring expensive costs during daily updates.

For projects our answer is how we host Resolve Libraries in our new Blackmagic Cloud service. This allows users to collaborate and share project changes immediately, expanding our existing collaboration tools. This also provides presentation and annotation tools to teams who can mark-up clips for us to import directly back into Resolve. Blackmagic Cloud becomes a central location to manage workgroups, projects and engagement with your clients; plus you can convert a private project that lives on your workstation up to your Blackmagic Cloud account directly from Resolve via a single click.

Media used within Resolve projects via these new workflows is handled with a parallel service. A new client utility for Resolve 18 integrates with your Dropbox account and allows you to nominate which folders you want to share alongside your Blackmagic Cloud projects, and leverages the distribution and synchronisation of DropBox’s services specifically for Resolve media. Our utility even lets you limit use of just certain folders or restrict users to read-only access. These sync tools mean any change or new media added to projects is quickly distributed and shared with Resolve users collaborating together. We’ve also built a new Proxy Generator that can target folders with larger RAW or high resolution files to render ProRes or H.265/H.264 proxies and prioritise sharing of these first via Dropbox, before syncing and sharing master files.

Then, if you want dedicated, super-fast storage for DaVinci Resolve, our Blackmagic Cloud Store hardware is available. These are designed for incredibly fast, network RAID storage for workgroups in the same office or facility. Blackmagic Cloud Store has four 10G ports and PCIe based M.2 for incredible data pass-through, and is designed to allow local sync for multiple users all with high-speed read/write capability.

Oversight should be equally simple. We have the power to show how much storage is being used and who is connected to (and using) Blackmagic Cloud Stores via a built-in HDMI port and graphical UI, helping technical staff to understand the usage and the overall health of the system quickly and efficiently.

This versatility applies equally to storage stability. Blackmagic Cloud Store Mini offers RAID 0 performance, whilst Blackmagic Cloud Store provides additional data loss protection with RAID 5 management. Both products offer external backup options to USB-C drives to move media to archive. Blackmagic Cloud Store Pod is a utility product acting as ‘network bridge’ to allow any USB-C drive to connect into the Blackmagic Cloud workflow via your workstation and its 10G ethernet.

All of these principles underpin our approach to cloud, which is entirely focused on empowering users in an affordable way that supports and accelerates their workflows, rather than impeding them. These principles are behind the recent release of our Cloud Store products, services, and the integration with our Resolve 18 software.

And although most of us have been glad to get back to normal this year, spending more time with friends, family and colleagues, the changes and technological change brought about by the pandemic and the shift to dispersed working have been irrevocable. If we’re to continue supporting all creative teams, be they in broadcast facilities or streaming in their bedrooms, then affordable, flexible, fast collaboration via Blackmagic Cloud products needs to be front and centre of everything we do.

Pippa Considine

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