Prime Focus Technologies offers a range of technical, creative and media processing services on the cloud to manage multi-platform content operations. At NAB NY 2017, we talked cloud-based production and its challenges with T Shobhana, VP and head of Global Marketing and Communications for Prime Focus.
NTVN: Tell us about Prime Focus Technologies.
TS: We provide cloud solutions to media and entertainment companies. What’s really differentiating about the solution we offer is that it’s all encompassing, right from the content creation phase, all the way to content exhibition and archiving. It’s an end-to-end solution.
NTVN: What’s your target market for Prime Focus? Are you going for the large networks, or are you going for local TV stations or are you going down to individual podcasters?
TS: Interesting that you asked me this question because it’s really the broadcast stations, all the major networks, all the studios, are the target audience. To give you an example, 21st Century Fox, Lionsgate, Hearst, all of these are our customers right now. It’s not just MAM, what we call it is an ERP suite. We looked at Oracle and SAP, saw it worked well for enterprise and manufacturing, We wanted to learn from them and develop software for media and entertainment companies as well. We saw that [companies] need to adopt automation in their workflow.. Not to say that we want to remove the human effort, because people is obviously the focus. But how do you enable and empower people through automation to do more. Because it’s not about replacing people, it’s helping them to do so much more than what they’re doing today.
NTVN: That’s been kind of an overall tone [at the show]. We went over to IBM’s booth and their AI technology is so good it’s scary. Can AI just cut a package for you by itself? How far away from that are we? 5 or 10 years? They answered maybe two. So there is a bit of a dehumanization of this going on.
TS: We believe it’s all about people. I mean even if you look at our logo you see that. Everything and anything we do really focuses on people, to be able to enable them and empower them through automation. One of our key promises is to be able to lower the cost of operations for companies, like the broadcasters and studios. If you take very many other companies out there, most of them can provide MAM, but this is much more than that. You’ve got one software for the enterprise that also manages your content but also your workflow operations. Recently at NAB [in April], we launched something called Work Order Management, which is embedded into MAM. If you want to design and publish to multiple platforms, linear or non-linear, you’ve got the same MAM to be able to do that, and not many MAMs out there are able to do that. You don’t necessarily have to deploy 11-15 media asset management systems across the globe – some which are really not talking to each other, so you don’t have siloed systems in your organization, you just have one, so it offers one moment of truth at the end of the day.
NTVN: What percentage of your clientele works on a totally remote basis? You have a lot of studios where I’m sure you have a lot of freelance work. Is there a workflow where a freelancer can check in to your MAM, pull an asset, and work that way?
TS: Ours is a cloud-based solution. What’s interesting is that some companies will not want to be all published as yet and hence we’ve got a hybrid cloud based solution. We launched our hybrid cloud solution about nine years ago and nobody even thought of deploying cloud, maybe in other sectors, but not necessarily in media and entertainment. The operations really run on cloud. So today we’ve many customers with multiple hybrid cloud deployments, and some have embraced all cloud solutions as well, and we work with Microsoft Azure and Amazon, so location doesn’t really matter.
NTVN: How about security? There are companies here [at the show] that will bolt on their device, connect it to your MAM and make your whole system secure. Do you have security features as part of your system?
TS: Absolutely. We’ve come up with increased measures of security, be it security either on the application level or on the actual content itself.
NTVN: I was talking to one of the security companies and learned an interesting thing. About a quarter of his customers were not necessarily broadcasters. They’re banks. So they were doing their training videos and they were doing anything that had proprietary information that requires security that’s just as important to broadcasters.
TS: Security is key for sure.
NTVN: So can you take us briefly through the system? I’m a Prime Focus client. I’m and editor, and I sit down in my suite. How do I get my assets to start working with them?
TS: Like every other ERP, it’s modular, right? So that gives them the flexibility to use the module they feel comfortable with. So if you talk about the content creation phase, if you’ve heard of DAX, that’s a company we acquired in April of 2014. They are the creators of “digital dailies.” If you’ve heard of them, now what we’ve done is we’ve taken DAX and we’ve integrated that into CLEAR. It’s now become a unified product called DAX Production Cloud – that’s the module. What is actually does is it not just gives the production houses and studios the ability to review and approve content, but you can also manage hi-res workflows. You can look at content on a daily basis, review it, approve it, send feedback to whoever needs to get the feedback.
NTVN: Does the ingest process work through DAX?
TS: Yes – DAX Production Cloud.
NTVN: Do you see – we’ve been talking about the cloud and a hesitance toward it, the word “cloud” has a stigma to it professionally. Do you see people starting to come around by explaining what this actually does, and how it actually will help your business. Are you able to push through those barriers and say look it’s cloud…
TS: There are no barriers anymore if you ask me. There used to be about three or four years ago, now they’re more open to cloud. In fact, if you don’t have a cloud solution, you’re asked “Aren’t you guys on cloud?” So I don’t think there’s a problem in terms of adopting and embracing cloud, they’re pretty open to it. In fact, platform companies like AWS, Azure, as all of these guys are making it so much better and security is extremely critical. I think these guys are doing a fantastic job as well. Companies like us give our customers the confidence to move to cloud.
NTVN: And are you cloud agnostic like you’re saying where are you to Amazon, Microsoft?
TS: Absolutely. You should know that our CLEAR cloud actually manages 1.5 million hours of content for customers. You’d think that if our customers were not happy with the cloud that that would not be the number.
NTVN: We’d be going the other way.
TS: Exactly. It really shows the confidence our customers have in content-based cloud.
NTVN: One key takeaway that I wanted from our conversation for you to know. Organizations have to really look at moving away from siloed systems. Today, if you take a look at a media and entertainment company, they have millions of software they need to work with, not just in their department but throughout the whole enterprise. And id the enterprise happens to be global, God save them with the number of systems they’re managing. They should also know the number of people that get trained on it. It’s very people-driven as well, with different technologies being used. Don’t even get me started about the costs, because they’re extremely high. One software,used throughout the enterprise is extremely key.