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UFA goes digital: Cloud workflow simplifies production

Digitalization is putting the film industry under intense pressure: filmmakers are increasingly under pressure to innovate – directly from the audience. With a smartphone in their pocket, users now expect to be able to consume high-quality content anytime and anywhere. That drives demand: The market wants high-quality content that is delivered faster and in increasingly shorter cycles. The German market leader UFA has long recognized this – and is fighting back with digitalization.

Distributing data via the cloud instead of by road

The Potsdam-based firm with the long tradition is today one of Europe’s most successful film production companies. However, it goes without saying that the company doesn’t just produce at its headquarters, but throughout the entire country. Sometimes it shoots at an outside location, sometimes at a studio in Cologne, Hamburg or Munich. However, all the film shoots have one thing in common: the raw material stored on hard disks has to be sent as quickly as possible to the Potsdam headquarters for post-production, where the editors turn it into finished film clips. As is the industry norm, couriers transport terabytes of high-resolution film material by road from the film locations to post-production.

Portrait of Ernst Feiler, Director Technology at UFA Ernst Feiler, Director Technology at UFA, plans to transfer further process steps into the Open Telekom Cloud.

UFA digitalizes the value chain with the cloud

"It’s a process that we want to digitalize in the future," says Ernst Feiler. UFA’s Technology Director has been using digital means for 10 years to significantly speed up his employer's value chain. The next step is to distribute film material with the cloud. To do so, Feiler contacted Telekom and together they jointly developed a solution designed to make work easier for everyone involved in the process chain.

Feiler: "The most important thing for us here was efficiency: we wanted a cloud-based solution that didn’t just simplify and automate the distribution of the raw material. It also had to fit seamlessly into our work processes, so that there’d be no need for the team to adjust or take on extra work steps."

Fast lane on the data highway instead of traffic jams on the roads

The result is the so-called full-cloud workflow: film crews plug the storage media from their cameras into a network-attached storage system (NAS). Previously, the NAS was then handed over to a courier, who drove off in the direction of Potsdam. In the future, the NAS systems will stay where they are. At locations with suitable connectivity, the film material is then sent via the data highway instead of by road: As soon as it has been fed into the NAS, the system automatically sends the raw data to the Open Telekom Cloud. It’s then available to everyone involved in the process chain – regardless of where they are. All they need is an Internet connection.

"We adopted widely used standards – both for the storage protocols for communication with the cloud and for UFA’s storage systems and the software," says Ralf Hülsmann, Head of Partner Ecosystem at T-Systems. "This lowers costs and reduces complexity compared to individual software and hardware."

Next step: The digitalization of the entire production chain

In the future, editors will no longer have to wait for couriers. Instead they’ll be able to work directly with data from the cloud, regardless of their location. They use so-called proxy data here – a compressed version of the raw data. They load it onto their computer, process it and send the result back to the cloud, where the clips are transferred to the high-resolution raw data. UFA is currently in the proof-of-concept phase of the project. Once this has been completed, many of the road transports will be replaced by the full-cloud workflow.

“In my view, Telekom was the logical partner for the project because it has the appropriate expertise at every level – from the cloud to the networks to the personal contacts," says UFA Technology Director Feiler. "After we have successfully implemented the cloud workflow, the next step will be to gradually move other parts of the process chain to the cloud.”


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