AWS Media Blog
How virtual workstations are reshaping talent acquisition and production workflows
A look at how cloud technology and remote access solutions provided by AWS and Leostream set creative studios up for post-pandemic success
“The show must go on,” is a mantra for anyone working in sports, news, lifestyle, and entertainment. Bringing a production, TV series, or broadcast event to life relies heavily on technology that can deliver under all circumstances.
The COVID-19 curveball sped up cloud adoption in the media and entertainment industry, prompting organizations to tap into new workflows to support remote and hybrid work. Moving the functionality of large, on-site server rooms and render farms into Amazon Web Services (AWS) has quickly become a reality for many editing and post-production companies. This transition has unlocked several benefits, including untethering creatives from their in-studio desks.
Virtual workstations provided a way to continue business operations during a pandemic and now offer a competitive advantage for producing content and attracting talent.
“Moving workloads to the cloud and away from the traditional model of on-premises data centers allows studios to be nimble,” explains Karen Gondoly, CEO of Leostream. Leostream is a software provider and AWS Partner that assists media and entertainment companies with hosted desktop environments. “Our customers want the ability to deploy virtual workstations quickly and from anywhere. Not only can this improve business efficiency, but having remote accessibility provides a leg up for organizations that want to hire and retain the best talent.”
Both AWS and Leostream have seen an uptick in interest from media and entertainment companies interested in making the leap to the cloud during a time when remote work has become essential.
Going virtual is all about performance
As organizations transition to remote desktops, a significant challenge to is to support ample performance. More compute power is required for editing and rendering than for average office productivity tasks. But, with today’s technology there are several ways to meet end-user expectations. It is entirely possible to mimic the at-desk performance creatives are accustomed to with a virtual workstation. The user experience with a remote desktop in the cloud is largely dictated by the choice of display protocol and by available bandwidth.
“Meeting the performance requirements for end users is not up for negotiation. For people to actually want to log in and use the system, you need to nail it,” comments Gondoly. “This is possible with a high-performance remote display protocol, which is the graphical interface creatives actually interact with. For graphics-rich remote desktops, there are several display options to choose from such as NICE DCV, which is the remote display protocol for AWS EC2 instances, as well as PCoIP, NoMachine, Scyld, Mechdyne TGX, and more.”
The Leostream platform provides robust desktop-connection management. It is used to authenticate and connect users to their virtual machines while providing IT administrators with a single pane of glass to build and oversee flexible hosted desktop environments. Media and entertainment companies can use tools provided by Leostream to deliver compliant and performant virtual machines to creative teams anywhere in the world.
Choosing AWS as the underlying host to deploy virtual desktops is a logical choice for organizations that want to deliver a premium user experience. What differentiates AWS from other cloud providers is its global availability.
The AWS Cloud spans 84 Availability Zones within 26 geographic regions around the world, with announced plans for 24 more Availability Zones and 8 more AWS Regions in Australia, Canada, India, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, and United Arab Emirates (UAE). “No matter where users are logging in from, there’s a region that supports them for optimal performance,” said Matt Herson, Solution Architect Leader in Content Production at AWS. “This geographic coverage gives organizations the option to deploy in whatever location meets corporate requirements or government restrictions.”
How important is local availability? Very. Selecting the closest region in which a user resides minimizes lag time and latency. AWS Local Zones also give customers the ability to deploy latency-sensitive workloads closer to the end user.
Multi-regional support is a key advantage for geographically dispersed creative teams. For example, joint AWS and Leostream customer Epic Games operates several studio locations in the United States and internationally. With artists located across the globe, the company is able to use multiple options for replicating data from its primary AWS region to another region.
Making the most of remote access for hiring and hybrid work
Recruiting and retaining new talent is an added bonus for media and entertainment companies that have invested in remote access solutions.
Meeting the demands for flexible work
The promise of flexible accommodations around when, where, and how people work is key to attracting and recruiting talent. Remote access solutions allow technical creatives like special effects artists, video editors, gaming developers, 3D modeling designers, and architects to work untethered from in-office locations and schedules.
Broadening the talent pool
Cloud-based remote access allows organizations to hire from a larger and more dispersed talent pool. Without the requirement to congregate at an office, specialized talent can be sourced from anywhere in the world.
For companies that experience boom and bust periods, the ability to quickly spin up virtual machines can help streamline the employee on-boarding process. For example, for pop-up production sites, local talent can be hired and equipped with the proper desktop resources as needed.
Prioritizing security and cost control
Providing 24/7 access to virtual resources can boost productivity, but security and costs are a consideration that need to be addressed.
Across media and entertainment, content security is a priority in handling propriety files. A crucial function of the Leostream platform is equipping organizations with the appropriate measures to authenticate users into the virtual environment. Leostream also provides the necessary tracking and reporting features to monitor user activity and to pass industry-related audits.
There are many ways to keep resource costs in check. The software tools and applications creatives use can be expensive, but expense can be mitigated through user sharing. Remote desktop pools accomplish this. Rather than assigning desktops on a per user basis, users can connect to an available desktop with the appropriate files and applications from a group.
When hosting resources in the cloud, optimizing consumption helps minimize expense. AWS offers several instance sizes depending on CPU requirements. Some workflows may need a more heavy-duty virtual machine than others, but the key is not to overpay for an unnecessarily large instance. Further, management tools within the Leostream platform can be used to monitor resource use and fine-tune consumption. Examples include powering down desktops when users go idle or downsizing to a smaller instance once power requirements drop below a certain CPU threshold.
It’s an exciting time for the media and entertainment industry. Major technical shifts occurred during the pandemic that make it possible for technical creatives to access the level of performance needed to work in a more flexible manner. As organizations begin to embrace cloud-hosted tools and technology, they are finding more efficient ways to work and opportunities to remain competitive.
The Leostream Connection Broker is the heart of any successful hosted desktop and application environment. It is the key component for assigning resources to end users and controlling compute capacity in AWS. Leostream allows you to control hybrid desktop environments that bridge the gap between on-site infrastructure and the cloud, all through a single portal. Learn More