BEDA: The Cloud wants your business

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This morning my previous employer, Sony Professional Services, announced a new service for creative professionals called “Media Cloud Services” or Ci (pronouced “see”, apparently). Ci is basically an online service that companies pay to access, which allows them to upload and manage their digital content, such as images and videos,in the cloud using a few apps. These aren’t just a few holiday photos and some cat videos; these are big budget, high quality assets. The likes of Spiderman 3 or the next series of Sherlock. As an initial taster, Sony has created five “apps” that companies with this cloud subscription can use.

  • MediaBox is like a Google Picasa for professional content, allowing you to see all your files in one web interface, with their details, organised into suitable categories and folders based on the company’s needs.
  • VideoLog allows users to add event markers to particular frames of a video, think SoundCloud comments. This could be used to show where ad-breaks will go, or to highlight audio/video errors that need to be corrected before the asset can be released.
  • AudioSync allows audio to be synced between files.
  • FrameMatch will compare two videos for similarities. Think about finding the difference between two versions of the same word document.
  • ReviewApprove is like the review features of Microsoft Word, but for videos. And can be done anywhere, by anyone in the team, simultaneously. This one could be amazing for businesses.

I personally don’t have any need for such a service, and I don’t suspect that anyone reading this blog does either, but this service has the potential to be very powerful for broadcast companies and production-houses who make TV shows, animations, documentaries, dramas and films for a living. Especially the small to medium sized company who are only just realizing that they need tools to better manage their workflow, but don’t have a robust solution in place quite yet. Which is probably far more of these companies than you think – to know that 10 years ago all these companies would have been using tapes to do everything makes you realize that having a digital production and post-production workflow: recording, editing, distribution and archive; is only now becoming a task these companies have to manage everyday instead of focusing on creating good content.

So why am I talking about this? Well this potentially has a lot to do with my research. While the service right now doesn’t have too many features, it looks like a very promising framework to build in more tools for searching and sorting through large video datasets, which is a large part of what my PhD is about. Imagine an extension to the MediaBox tool that would sort videos based on their location, the actors/characters in the scene, whether it was sunny or cloudy, if there was a car in the shot or not, if the camera was on a tripod, phrases the presenter spoke, if it’s a wide shot or a close up, etc. It’s all possible. And, I think, useful for the producer to find content or just discard useless shots.

On a broader note, it’s interesting to see how much consumer technology is now influencing the professional sector. All this talk of “cloud services” and “apps”, reminds me of the iPhone, Dropbox, and so on. It’s no surprise that Blackberry are struggling to stay relevant these days given how many people are using their personal smartphones/tablets/laptops in the workplace instead of using company-issued devices with clunky, proprietary interfaces and no “wow” factor (something Apple has led the way on).  Even with Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft’s Operating System, which is the heartbeat of most businesses around the world, is steering towards “cloud logins”, “apps”, and simple, clean, touch-screen interfaces.

The cloud is quickly taking over the consumer sector, and it’s only a matter of time before businesses will be forced to catch up…

Until tomorrow, Charles x