Aframe, massAV, and the Game of “Musical Chairs”

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When it comes to software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings for enterprise and entertainment video production, approval, and delivery, it pays to understand a decent amount about seats and chairs. Without that understanding, it’s possible to end up paying a bit more than the typical billing model.

A few weeks ago, I spent some time walking through the set-up of an Aframe account with Bruce Jones, a senior solutions architect for Aframe based in the Southwest U.S. Jones, who had previously worked for several companies that provided media production tools, said Aframe’s production tools were ideal for those who wanted to not only prepare content for streaming, but also for collaboration between production teams, ad agencies, and external clients.

That led to a discussion around just how projects—and their associated libraries of content, as well as notes, comments, approvals, and other metadata associated with the content—get handed from agency to client. Bruce described the concept for using Aframe as a rental of a group of seats.

As Jones described it, Aframe clients can assign seats to whoever needs the seat for a given task, meaning that a sort of “musical chairs” occurs when the number of seats is closed to being full. In some ways, it’s not unlike the way that Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions can be moved between machines, although Aframe’s approach is a bit simpler.

When I asked about a practical example of the seats concept being used for streaming or media production, an Aframe press representative also introduced me Nicholas Priest, an associate creative director at massAV. The company, based in Boston, does both audio-visual staging and live event production, including some live streaming.

For content that’s not streamed live, massAV uses hotel uses Aframe as a way to put quick content snippets out for review, approval, and even basic consumption. While consumption may not take up seats, client feedback—in the form of comments and notations about particular frames or segments—do use up seat licenses for massAV.

“We do use Aframe in our office and we give clients seats,” says Priest, referring to the process of providing temporary user access to clients that need to provide feedback.

The process works, according to Aframe, because all comments by the client—or its agency, or anyone else given a temporary “seat at the table”—can be made online, right into the proxy copy itself. That means there’s no need to write down the corresponding time code, and it also means a higher level of accuracy when it comes to editing the content.

Priest added a bit more context to a particularly large project, one in which the Aframe SaaS offering allowed massAV to upload a sizable amount of content—about 400GB, or around two full days of shooting—to create a package of recruitment and HR videos for a growing medical company.

When Priest and an Aframe representative first mentioned the idea of a project that had 400GB of data which needed to be uploaded, I did a quick bit of math and realized that the average post-production process could take days or even weeks to upload this amount of content. So I was curious as to why it was all uploaded.

“We didn’t upload 400GB in one sitting,” says Priest. “Could we have? Sure. But we needed to comb through and log all the footage first so as files were completed we would put them up in packages.”

In essence, what massAV did was to use its in-house data pipe, which reaches its office building as fiber but is converted over to copper at the demarcation point, to upload the content in batches. This batched approach, spread out over a few days, allowed the massAV team to cull through footage, rather than courier all of it to the client, and then upload selected content.

“We batched the footage in smaller segments so there was less room for failure, of which we had none,” says Priest. “In this particular case we were uploading the raw selects for client review so there was no need (or want) to involve a courier. It was probably about 4 days in all.

“This wasn’t for delivery, this was for review,” says Priest, “hence Aframe.”

When I asked about the bandwidth pipe, Priest said the IT team had passed on that their bandwidth was roughly 140 Mbps/s download and 70 Mbps/s upload, which equates to approximately about 8 Mbps of theoretical upload.

“If I recall correctly, we were uploading pretty much the whole day in the background while I continued working on other projects for the four days,” said Priest. “When we use Aframe to check our upload speed we clock in at 2 Mbps. Sometimes it takes longer depending on the bandwidth but a 2-3 hour upload is still faster than a courier or overnight shipping of a hard drive.”

The second way that massAV uses the Aframe seat model is when it needs to provide remote upload capabilities, from either a client site or an event venue.

“We’ve also uploaded raw footage on site at client offices and remotely before,” said Priest. “At times we’ve used Aframe remotely at hotels when we are sharing videos that need to be downloaded and played at an event we are producing.”

“Aframe is a cloud-based application,” says Priest, “so the one variable is your internet speed. But Aframe does everything in their power to ensure the fastest and most complete transfers.”

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