The Media Production and Technology Show (MPTS) is the UK’s largest event for the media and broadcast industries. LEAP’s Technology and Systems Director Aidan Taub, our Head of Moving Image, Tony Chamberlain and Implementations Director, Marcus Millgate went to London Olympia to check out the exhibition. We caught up with them to find out more.
What were you hoping to get out of your MPTS experience?
Aidan: MPTS is a good opportunity to meet up with existing vendors and suppliers, to check out some potentially interesting new ones and reconnect with old contacts.
Marcus: It was my first MPTS, so for me, the day was more about spending time with Aidan and Tony to see what sparked their interest around internal workflow and client-facing collaboration tools.
Tony: I’ve been going to MPTS for many years. In the past, it was the place to see big name companies demonstrating brand new editing systems. We were there this year to look into the various tech solutions that will help future-proof our workflows for expansion and improved efficiency. We were keeping an eye out for stand-out automation tools.
Aidan: We were all there thinking about the core technology that supports the incredible talent we have at LEAP.
What were the key themes?
Marcus: The focus at MPTS is mostly on movie and TV production. It was fascinating, but you had to look harder to find what was relevant to short form production.
Aidan: There was a lot of information about remote and virtual production, AI and cloud hosting. The underlying theme seemed to be that we can do so many things remotely, but we actually want to be in the same room together, connecting with people.
Tell us more about the cloud.
Aidan: We have our archive and backup hosted in the cloud, and it was good to reconnect with our suppliers, Wasabi. We also met up with Qumulo who supply our on-premises data storage. It was good to find out what’s in store for the future and how they make the transition to cloud storage so accessible.
It was also interesting to check out developments in cloud-based video storage. Issues with lag in the past meant you couldn’t edit video that was stored in the cloud. Now you can pre-cache to play video footage which saves on having on-site storage. It’s easy to turn on and expand to quickly scale up for a production. Suppliers who have made improvements in data security are being used by major studios now.
AI seems to be the buzz word of the year. What can you tell us about AI as it relates to production?
Tony: AI is going to be helping in aspects of production and post-production. It will be useful for saving time and making some parts of the workflows more efficient.
Marcus: I was interested in some of the automation features within subtitling tools that we could potentially integrate into our post-production process.
Aidan: It’s important to remember that AI is just powerful computers processing huge amounts of data very quickly. With generative AI, the quality of information you put in determines what you can get out of it.
AI and other technologies are just tools and need to be treated as such. AI isn’t going to take your job until you’re able to train it exactly as to how to do your job for you.
Tony: We’ve been in the process of building a knowledge hub for newcomers to the Film and Post team and it’s already huge. You start to realise how much knowledge you use each day. Even if we did cover all the information, you’d still need human involvement and interaction to use that knowledge.
Marcus: There are memes going around about creative jobs being safe from AI because you’d have to be able to tell it exactly what you wanted, but that misses the point.
It’s more important to build a relationship with a client and work with them closely to help develop ideas into content that will deliver relevance and creativity as well as staying on brand and within budget. I’m not sure AI is quite in that ballpark yet.
Tell us more about virtual production at MPTS.
Marcus: The virtual production set ups really caught our eye. Bendac Group constructed an eight-by-three LED wall to demonstrate their new product, Pro Studio. It’s a portable version of the kind of kit that’s been used in The Mandalorian.
Aidan: For short form use, imagine you wanted to film some interviews, but all you had was a boring background. You could set up a portable virtual background to look like you’re in front of a New York City skyline instead of having to film on location. Without wanting to do their sales spiel for them, it’s interesting to consider the applications of this kind of tech on different scales of production.
Last year, the media industry talked a lot about the intersection of virtual worlds and gaming with more traditional forms of video content. Have there been new developments?
Aidan: We looked at the work coming out of Epic Games. It was fascinating to see how the Unreal Engine, which came from the world of gaming, is being used in production to create graphics that interact with real life.
The presenters emphasised that there is a lot of hard work and many hours of crafting and refining involved in using virtual production technology. Just because the tools are there, doesn’t make it happen magically or automatically.
What’s especially interesting is that it’s open-source technology, so what’s being created can go back into the creative technology community for others to develop further.
Was there an overarching theme to what you saw at MPTS?
Tony: Everyone is working to the same goal of improving efficiencies.
Aidan: Budgets across the creative industries are being cut and yet production teams are being asked to make more deliverables within quicker turnaround times. There is also the need to do more with the content that you have.
I liked the example of the Nickelodeon x NFL mixed reality project. While the grown-ups were watching an American football game on a sports station, a simulcast on a kid’s channel used the unreal engine to add 3D Slime Monster graphics to appeal to a youth audience.
Your content has to work harder for you. It needs to add value for different audiences. Technology can help you to do that.
Was there anything you expected to see at MPTS that you didn’t find?
Aidan: I was surprised there wasn’t anyone there talking about tech security issues – cyber insurance, ransomware, data security. If these topics were being discussed, they didn’t stand out as being part of a major theme. Tech security is an area of concern for clients that we’ve been working very hard to address in recent years.
What did you see at MPTS that you’d like to implement at LEAP?
Aidan: There was a lot of inspiration and food for thought which will feed into our ongoing technology conversations. There wasn’t any single thing there that was going to completely change the way we are working. We are also influenced by what Adobe does and their workflow sets. Their developments will steer our tech conversations as well.
Were there any challenges discussed that tie in with concerns our clients might be facing?
Aidan: Staffing and retaining talent keeps coming up. It’s always key across all industries. The tools aren’t as relevant as the people, and that’s where we really shine.
With all this great tech coming out, it’s still really down to who’s using it. It’s the editors working with the technology tools and the producers who are keeping the clients happy.
The people behind and in front of the technology are making human connections and that is what really matters for supporting our clients’ needs.
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