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File-based audio: Remote working for the new and unpredictable future webinar replay

Transcript

Cindy:
Welcome, everybody, to the Emotion Systems webinar on file-based audio, remote working for the new and unpredictable future.

 

So over the last few weeks, work practices have changed, and our customers have been asking us to work with them in new ways. And we’re going to get into that. And I’m here with MC Patel.

 

MC Patel:
Hi everybody. Thank you for attending this webinar. It’s the first one for me. So, you might find a bit of humming and ahhing, but hopefully, I’ll impart some useful information.

 

Cindy:
So today MC, let me just tee up what we’re going to talk about, and then I’m going to throw it over to you, of course.

 

So, we’re going to look at three things today. We’re going to look at; how you can deal with short term scaling and MC has got a really great story about a facility we worked with and how they conquered their lack of live content.

 

And secondly, we’re going to look at on-prem SAS licensing. And how you can use that for processing archival material and other things as well.

 

And thirdly, we’re going to get into cloud because got to talk about cloud, right? And how it can help product launch quickly and how you might use it.

 

So MC, let’s get right into it and talk about short term scaling.

 

MC Patel:
So, basically the short term scaling, it sounds dramatic in a way. But essentially, what happened is when the lockdown started occurring in various parts of Europe, we were chatting to our customers saying, “Hey guys.” First of all, just to say, “Are you okay? How are you coping?” And so on. And we had a major playout centre in France. And they were playing up 16 channels. And they have an engine already.

 

And one of their issues was that clearly a lot, some of those channels were live. And they said we have no more live content at the moment. So, we are being asked to process files. And the engine that they had got from us was man enough to do the files they needed on a regular basis. But having literally got twice the amount of content or process through, they needed a solution.

 

And obviously, when the call came, they needed a solution like now. And so, we always have the ability to offer trial licenses; which didn’t help in this instance because, the server itself that they had, was the production server, which will set up an additional workstation, wouldn’t have helped them. Because they would have then had to work and man differently. So, they needed to scale up the existing engine.

 

They had the capacity to process three files at a time. They wanted to go to six files at a time. Now, normally, and this is all commercial and licensing stuff, and so on; we can actually do that quickly, but there was a commercial arrangement that needed to become through because they weren’t sure how long they need it for and they wouldn’t show anything. So, what we did basically, is we went ahead and just said, “Right, we’re going to double the processing speed. In the meantime, we will do a bit of arm wrestling on the commercials, and then you go and reach up your purchasing department and get the purchase order from that.”

 

Now the drivers for this were obviously the customer had an urgent need. We, as a business, pride ourselves on being small and agile at a technical level. Generally, normally you’d get a call like this and say, “I have a file that doesn’t work. Or I have a requirement that I can’t do with you.” And we would respond. And what we did in this instance was responding to the commercial side. We got them up and running literally the day we had the conversation. They started processing the file. A few days later, the purchase order came through. And they’re all happy.

 

Now, that really is the short term scalability now, because it’s a software product. The licensing is flexible. It’s not hardware dongle or anything. If I press the go button on in, all these things are possible. Clearly, the licenses are designed for perpetual use, but in this instance, we scaled up. And when they said, “Right, we’ve done our stuff, we’re back to normal again.” They would under license. So it’s a simple process, but really an example of saying, the flexibility exists certainly in our organization to be able to help customers.

 

And really Cindy, that was the scaling and the short term nature of it.

 

Cindy:
I like that story about the scaling. And I’m just looking through the folks on the call, and some of you are familiar with Emotion Systems. And I see some new names as well. So maybe just give us a little background about Emotion Systems MC, before we dig into the second topic.

 

MC Patel:
Yes. So it’s interesting. Why would we be able to help if your live content goes away? And that’s because we process file-based content. So anything that’s preplanned, pre-processed, that requires formatting or processing, for example, loudness compliance. Prior to you putting it to air or online, we do that processing. And what we do that is different, is two bits.

 

The first one is, we will process the audio in a media file. We will take the audio out; we’ll process it, put it back in again and give you a new file. So there is no, I’ve broken the file.

 

That’s my timer.

 

The other thing that we do is, we provide this in automated or automatable manner. So we can have watch folders. You just drop the files in the watch folder, assign a workflow through that and process it. Or we can have a Telestream vantage connector, or we can have a MAM, or we can have all of them at once as some customers have.

 

So basically, it’s file-based for your processing. What we offer effectively is, there’s an awful lot of manual tasks. That boring, repetitive tasks that take up editorial time. Take up people’s time. We offer to do that in an automated manner. So if you need to swap stereo one and two, Dolby encode something, decode something, up make something, down make something. These are all the tools that we offer. And we have a little UI that allows you to program a workflow, and then give it a name, and call it from a multitude of devices.

 

Cindy:
Nice. So I guess to summarize what you are saying about the short term scaling is sort of, as we all get back into the swing of work, the business model.

 

MC Patel:
Now, we have been thinking about this for some time, but this example showed that the customer needs are changing. A good way to look at it is that most of our larger customers have a five year or seven-year cycle of capex. So there’s a big project. We’re going to build a big building for file-based processing. And we expect to spend a lot of capital expenditure on that. We see that taking us through four or five years, three years, seven years, a long term planning.

 

And what this was is a classic example, it wasn’t longterm planning at all. It was, “Hey, I need to do this right now.” Now over the last few months, we also observed is, it’s not the longterm planning suited something like a playout centre where we’re saying, we’re going to take X number of channels to air. The requirement is relatively fixed. But now, we got new platforms coming on, Netflix, iTunes, each one of them has slightly different requirements. Especially for audio, loudness compliance across all these platforms is slightly different, irritatingly different.

 

And there is certainly the case of something like, if you look at the standards for the traditional broadcasters for America, Europe, there are some minor differences. Netflix has got a completely different standard. They went back in full customs a few years to create another standard. And then Amazon and Apple and all have slightly different variations.

 

And so, we need to provide tools that automate, but I digress, that the real issue is as these requirements change, you have a technical change needed, which is what I said. We are very agile. When the Netflix spec came out, we set that up within literally minutes. And we had Netflix validated. But now we’re saying that, what about the business need? It’s one thing to say; I need to comply with Netflix or somebody else. What about the business need? Now what the business needs says is, I now need to turn on a sixpence, as we say in England and change my business model.

 

So what we’re doing is, we’re fortunate enough our technology is licensable. So, we’re now changing our technology and adopting and an offering in a different way. For example, you could come along and say, I need… It has happened recently, a customer had many thousands of hours of content, that they needed to process quickly. It was a migration from one location to another location, from one type of electronic set up to another.

 

And so they needed to do this migration. And they said, “Look; in order for us to do this migration over 90 days, there is no way in hell we can afford to pay you the capex cost of it because we just need to process as fast as we can.” So basically, and everyone talks about it. This is your SAS model. We will tell you how many hours of content we want to process. Could you please give us a quote for how much per minute, per hour you will charge us.

 

And in this particular instance, it was a requirement that was going to be staged in the cloud with a partner company. So, we essentially allowed the partner company to launch as many instances of engine as required, in order to satisfy this need. So that really is an example of the dynamic. Now this particular thing, because it was, again, an archive migration. What it said is that, the new format that they wanted, and I’ll just talk about the audio stuff, because there were other requirements, but this is about audio. Is they wanted to do the audio for multilanguage in a particular manner. So they had a bunch of… The sources were an MXF file with no audio and a bunch of web files. And the target was a multichannel audio-video, transmission ready file.

 

So the workflows were created to do that. In this particular instance, they needed to dynamically create the workflow, because for different targets and different requirements. We modified our API and extended it to do that. As I said, we’re matching our technical agility now and providing business agility. Both of these instances I’ve done are spontaneous ad hoc projects.

 

But as a business, what we’re really saying is that we would now offer you an on-premise solution, where we can say, you can buy an on-prem license with a certain duration in time. So three months, six months, one year. And you can also add to it, a caveat or an additional requirement of saying, and within that, I want to process X number of hours in minutes.

 

Now why the two are important is this, that there’s maybe someone who comes along and says, “I want to do $600 a month. I know that come Christmas, I’ll want to go to 1200 hours or just the pre-Christmas season. And I want to do this solution. I want to be able to scale it up like that.” Or someone may come along and say, “Well, I don’t know when I’ll need to use this. It’s incidental. And so I want to do 20 files a month, but sometimes it might be 30 files.” So for the smaller client, having bought 100 hours of processing, which you could use up over 12 months, is a great way to do this. And the tools we’ve developed are very simple in concept, is a license that has got time variability.

 

Within that, because we have 16 modules. You could individually feature license. So I want the loudness for 12 months, but the goal being for two months, things like that. And then there’s a meter that runs inside the engine that tells you how much usage you have. And so, that would then can be kept at 100 hours, 200 hours and so on. So this is the on-prem SAS offering. I’ve given you the example of the archive as one.

 

We have another client who came up recently. And they have a very unusual requirement, but an interesting one. We have a pitch-shifting algorithm, which allows you to take 24 frames of short content and give you 25 frames. The video speeds it up to play out faster. The audio speed it up. The pitch changes. We speed up the audio, but maintain the pitch.

 

Now, in this particular instance, they wouldn’t share the actual exact application, but they wanted to be able to apply a variable percentage of big change. And so we just… The pitch shifter comes on and does that, but they wanted to do this for a six-month rental. Now, the idea there is, we want to do this as a project, and then we will scale. So, that’s a different form of style of agility that we’re demonstrating.

 

Cindy:
Nice. I like how you got into capex and OPEX there. And that makes total sense; if someone’s got a few files need to process this month, and they’ve got a big project that comes up next month, that this is a good way to address it.

 

MC Patel:
But the key thing is to be… It may not be the same person, but the variation that we’ve noticed in the customers is, we had a guy in Singapore who says, all I want to do is four files a month of Dolby E encoding. I don’t want to buy stuff.

 

Now that requirement versus the 70,000 hours or 100,000 hours in a few months, are poles apart. And the challenge we said to ourselves is, how do we use our ability to provide a solution that suits both ends of the scale?

 

Cindy:
And now does cloud fit into that somewhere? Because that’s the third thing we were going to talk about. You just got into on-prem SAS, and where does cloud fit into this mix?

 

MC Patel:
Sure. Basically, an on-prem solution is one way you provide the hardware resources, and we license it. In the cloud, you rent the resources, and then you hope to launch it. As a company, because most of our processing is… Well, all of our processing is audio. And we do a little bit of metadata. What’s important to remember is, we deal with the media files. So SD is 50 megabits, or video HD is 100 megabits of video, UHD is 400 megabits of video.

 

Now, if I were to offer a cloud service and say, “Send me the files.” The cost of egress is for large volume stuff; it’s prohibitive. It doesn’t make sense for us to offer that. So we did something where, everyone’s shouting about, “We are in the cloud. We are in the cloud.” We said, “Well, we have a cloud solution, but it’s a solution with partners.”

 

The partners can be our customers themselves, who stage content in the cloud. And they’re not talking about egress. They’re saying it’s already there, and we want to use it, but we want Emotion to be part of their ecosystem. And so what we do there is, we have two companies, HoneyComb who are now called Peach. And someone else will come to me. HoneyComb basically are using us in the cloud, because their business was short form delivery of files.

 

So they were basically, they get short form material. They validated their QCA. They loudness check. It is what they were using for us. And then they deliver it to the client. And so basically, what they’re saying is, before you deliver the file, we will make sure it’s compliant. And if it isn’t, we’ll do something. So, that was a classic use of the customer using that technology.

 

We’re working with another large broadcaster who are under NDA; I can’t name. Who have an on-premise solution, but they have multiple sites. A dozen over the world, and they have half a dozen places with our solution. And one of the things they’re trying to do is to say, we want to leave our on-premise solutions alone, but we want to state something in the cloud.

 

Now that workflow will be really, they will build a system in the cloud, of their own making with their own MAM, with their own transcoders and everything else. And we fit into that. That’s much closer to the on-premise solution because the difference is we will give them the ability to launch multiple instances. And the billing will be on a per consumption of media, processing of media.

 

And then the third solution, which is really the way we see quite a lot of growth is, being a part of a partner solution. So we were working with STVI, and we are providing the audio solutions for STVI. And in that instance, they act like the people who will manage the media, stage the media, send it to us, ask us to do different things. They will monitor the usage. And really, our relationship with STVI, because we’re a consultative business, we’ll talk to the end-user, understand their audio needs, give them a solution that will be fulfilled by STVI.

 

So the cloud, as I said, we support of clouds as created by the customers, and we support clouds through partners. And there is a trend in the industry, where an awful lot of new companies in broadcast, are coming along and saying, “We will offer you orchestration in the cloud. We will do X, Y, Z for you. You give us the media, and you give us the workflows, and we’ll manage them for you.” We will become an audio component for them.

 

Cindy:
Yeah. And so it seems like what you’re saying is, we can provide a mix of on-prem and cloud, and that will help people-

 

MC Patel:
And perpetual licenses. I think one of the things we get carried away with, is we think the whole world’s going to change and nothing will remain the same again. It never happens as fast. And I would say, thank God for that, but, people have been talking about cloud for donkey’s years, and it makes sense in some areas.

 

Now, one of the migrations of the cloud is, in control. The little bits of information, because as I said, we are media files, the heavy lugging, it’s coming of age now. It will happen. But yes, we offer a perpetual license model, a pay per use model on-prem or a pay per use model in the cloud, with partners or the customers themselves.

 

So, in essence, as I said, business agility. And hopefully what this means is certainly with us, the customers will be able to, behave in a manner that suits their immediate requirements.

 

Cindy:
Yeah. I like it. So you’re saying that we can work flexibly with everyone to meet their technical needs. And help them with any changes they have in their audio processing, whether it’s a Dolby encode or loudness or whatever processing.

 

MC Patel:
Yeah.

 

Cindy:
Yeah.

 

MC Patel:
That’s correct. Yeah.

 

Cindy:
Nice. Well, so today we looked at short term scaling and on-prem SAS and cloud and how all of those can work to together for you.

 

What questions do you have for MC. I see we’ve got some in the chat. Go ahead and put them in here. And I did want to mention; also, MC mentioned, you mentioned Netflix before. We do have a Netflix guide. So if you’d like to get that, just put a comment in the chat, and we’ll get that guide over to you right away as well.

 

So MC, is it okay if I bring a couple of questions to you?

 

MC Patel:
Sure, of course. Yeah.

 

Cindy:
All right. So let’s see. One of the questions we have is, well, you kind of get into this, but let me just ask this one anyway. If I have a project come up with a lot of hours of processing, what do you do? How can you help me?

 

MC Patel:
So, there are two elements. The easy bit is we say, how many hours do you want to process? Generally, they may say, “It’s X, but it could be X less a little bit, or more a little bit.” So we would come up, and then we say, “What do you want to do?” And we have, as I said, 16 different processing modules. And, we can come up with a number fairly quickly as to just buy on a per-minute basis. And it’s a little bit like your phone plans. If you want X 1000 minutes, it would be this much if you want this flexibility.

 

Probably the key thing that I would say though is the process whereby we say to the client, “Let us understand your audio needs. Let’s do some trials. You give us some files. You tell us what you want to do with them. We’ll process them for you. We’ll give them back to you to make sure that this is what you want.”

 

This is an important part because, in a big plan cycle, five-year planning cycle, there are solution architects on-premises to do this. They’re not there very often nowadays. So we help them. We’ve always been that company where audio… I think most of the people we deal with are video engineers. And they don’t like audio. They might use it and all that.

 

So, we help in constructing that. And in doing that, we will identify the requirements, give them a solution, and then we’ll price it on the basis of per hour process. Or if the thing is going to be recurring, we could do it as a subscription. So we can just agree, a monthly subscription, where you have a certain limit of hours you can process.

 

Cindy:
Got it.

 

MC Patel:
There is one bonus to this, which moves from the capex side, which may be of interest. And that is that, when you have a choice as you have in this 16 modules, generally what happens is, the customer comes along and says, “Yeah, I like three of these, because I’m going to use them a lot.” And the others, “I don’t know. I might use them a few hours a month or whatever.”

 

Well, because this SAS model is basically saying, you pay per minute. We don’t care what you use. So generally we let the entire toolbox become available. And that means that if the pitch requirement, for example, is an occasional need, the tool exists and you’re just paying per minute.

 

Now, it took a little bit of soul searching on our part as to, should we do this? Should we do this? But having spoken to our customers, we recognize that actually, this is a good thing because you have to switch your mind for, “I bought something, and I own it, too, I pay for what I use.” We had to learn that, mentally accept it.

 

And I think the customers will welcome it because they’re saying, “Well, if occasionally I need to do an upmix, I don’t have to go out and spend the money. That tool exists.” Now you may need to create the workflow, but the tool exists.

 

Cindy:
Okay, good. I like that. That was super helpful. And we have another question, a little bit of a different direction asking, do you provide some kind of integration with avid media composer, like audio plugins for loudness correction?

 

MC Patel:
Okay. So this is a big distinction. It’s a good question. The answer’s no. There are two key things that we wanted to do. We wanted to build a standalone application.

 

Two reasons for it. The first one is, when you build a plugin, if the supplier of the main kit that we’re plugging in for a change, we have to change with it. Sometimes we’re not the most important person in their mind. I will give an example. This happened as we were building our first product when Apple decided that FCP 7 or something was no more, there were a lot of people in the broadcast industry that didn’t like that.

 

And I know a couple of people who have built an entire business around it. So, there are others who do it and good luck to them. We don’t do that. Our value add really is, when you have the video and audio are married. And you have to do something with the audio. That’s the first thing.

 

The second one is, when you want to automate that process. So our idea is that, the plugin may be cheap, but the person who uses the plugin isn’t. And the suite isn’t. So we have chosen to leave that business to other people.

 

Cindy:
Is there more around, talking about loudness processing or did that kind of answer it?

 

I just wondered because the whole idea of loudness processing and not using the suite and doing it another way-

 

MC Patel:
Sure. There’s a lot to it. The first thing, the world in our industry grew up around peak based audio measuring and correction. So thou shall not exceed a certain level. The notion of loudness is really saying, what is the average value of the audio. Now, averages are hard for people to conceptualize in a creative manner. If you’ve used up your loud bits at the beginning of the program, what have I got left in the kitty?

 

A dubbing mixer knows that. They plan the audio, and they do that. But now you have to deliver to multiple loudness standards. Although they are slightly different averages and slightly different peak values. You don’t want to make that into a creative process. You can, and there are people who do, but it’s very expensive and very time-consuming. Especially if you have multiple deliverables.

 

I had someone who said, “Can you give me loudness that complies to European values to American values, Netflix and online.” And online was left vague. In fact, it was called social media. What we’re really talking about is four different settings in the product. Four different workflows or one workflow where you say, stereo one is for broadcast to Europe. Stereo two is for the US, stereo three is for Apple, et cetera. Each one of them is a tweak on their loudness adjustment. I’m simplifying this Cindy because I could talk about this for six hours, and we will have nobody left.

 

Cindy:
Well, I think we’ll do a separate session maybe on loudness because this is super interesting. So, not to steal the thunder from that, but, I just-

 

MC Patel:
Yeah, I’d be happy to. We can have a similar thing around loudness, and we can share the experiences of different customers.

 

Cindy:
Yeah.

 

MC Patel:
We are a bucket load of experience in that area.

 

Finally, the listening environment, again for loudness, you have a theatre where it’s quiet, and the hall is big. So they have a mixture of the theatrical stuff, which is generally how most of the movies are done.

 

Then you have your living room, with the occasional bit of chatter going on in the UK. We call it also the kettle’s boiling away, et cetera.

 

And then you have somebody sitting, well, they wouldn’t be sitting on a plane anymore. Well, not that I’m over it, but in a noisy environment, with their iPad or whatever. Each one of these requires a slightly different audio treatment to get the best experience. And a loudness tool could do that for you.

 

Cindy:
Nice. Okay. So let’s just recap. We talked about scaling up in a flexible manner and why we want to automate. And we talked about on-prem SAS, and we talked about cloud. And so MC, if someone’s interested in working with us further, where should they take it? What should they do next?

 

MC Patel:
Obviously, contact us. There are several things, really. We will follow up with an email to thank people, but we can do a trial for you, which you can download from our website, any one of our pages on the website, it’s got a big blue button called try or trial. So you can click on that, and you can download the product. You can call us or email us with specific requirements. We like to discuss them and help understand what you guys are trying to do and how the engine can work with you.

 

Cindy:
All right. That’s perfect. Thank you very much, everyone. And have a beautiful day. Thank you, MC.

 

MC Patel:
Thank you. And now I’d like to obviously thank everyone for taking the time. There’s different time zones and everything. So thank you very much for attending it. And I think I’ve been talking into doing another one, so I hope you can join us as well.

 

Cindy:
Yeah. Well, we’ll keep you posted. I think one on loudness will be perfect. So let’s do that. Yeah. All right. Thank you. Bye.

 

MC Patel:
Yeah. Thanks.

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