The Story of NEP's Virtualized Editing Platform

The Story of NEP's Virtualized Editing Platform

How we made an agile edit platform that can scale to become what you need, when you need it, wherever you are….

In these unprecedented times, NEP is dedicated to providing innovative solutions that help our clients achieve their goals however we can. In 2019, we took significant steps forward building what has become a truly virtual editing platform that can scale to any production, any time.  On this virtual platform, using hardware and infrastructure housed in our datacenters, our clients can access the full capabilities of the most powerful editing tools available in the industry. And they can access these capabilities at the exact scale they need them at any given moment and from anywhere as long as they have a computer, a keyboard, a mouse, and an internet connection. An editor can make a final tweak from their kitchen table on a Sunday afternoon before a deadline. Team members in two different cities can easily collaborate on one project as if they were in adjoining offices. An editor working on a remote at a golf tournament can get to work quickly on location at the course without days of configuration and set-up. All of this is available without the need to invest in massive infrastructure, and available within a short deployment time.

The Growth of a Virtual Platform

Having a team of editors working on our staff at NEP, we have an intimate understanding of the workflows, challenges and needs within the post-production and editing environments. Starting in 2005, we saw the potential to improve workflows and reduce overhead for our clients and began working to create a great solution. Here’s how it happened:

2005: Our team in the Netherlands realized that, by centralizing resources, we could really save our clients significant money. We built a central datacenter at our facility, housing massive storage arrays, allowing us to rent clients the exact storage space they needed, as opposed to clients having to invest in multiple, discrete storage arrays of their own.  

A limitation however, in order to ensure the best possible experience, edit suites needed to be housed in the same campus and thus limited our reach.

One of NEP’s datacenters around the world, located in Hilversum in The Netherlands.

2005-2010: Over time our edit capabilities increased significantly. To satisfy demand we began to deploy a dark fiber network to our clients’ offices and broadcast facilities, enabling us to deliver edit facilities off campus, up to 30 miles away from the datacenter, creating a truly ‘remote editing’ experience.

2010: With network speeds and public availability of bandwidth increasing, it became possible for monitors and control to be linked via KVM to the datacenter on private networks, with just the video signals needing to be sent via fiber.  This greatly expands the distance we are able to provide the ‘remote editing’ experience.

2017: This landmark year is when virtual machines became widely available and powerful enough to handle graphics and editing functions.  This meant that we could now deploy system-agnostic machines while our proprietary software allows us to customize the editing experience to meet each client’s exact needs.  It also allowed us to fully utilize our media management services creating a powerful, unified experiencing for storing, accessing, managing, and editing content.

2018: In another big step forward, two editors on a client’s team decided that they wanted to work from home over a secure connection instead of heading into the office.  They did it, and they loved it.  This confirmed that we can provide a truly virtual editing solution connecting team members wherever they want to be or need to be with a flawless experience.  And, it could be done all over the network, again increasing the geographic area we can cover.

2019: We begin deploying the solution in Europe and the UK, and eye expansion to the United States, which follows in 2020.

A typical remote edit desk set-up using our virtual edit solution.

A Virtual Master at Solving Problems

Designed as an agile, scalable, system agnostic, virtual platform, our virtualized editing system can become whatever our clients need it to be, at whatever scale they need it to be, whenever and wherever they need it to be.  It sounds good, sure, but how is it actually solving problems in the real world?

Rapid Deployment: Time is always at a premium.  And it takes time to develop, deploy and configure any new system.  With the hardware housed centrally in our datacenter set and waiting to go, we can deploy our virtual edit system rapidly to our clients in a whole host of scenarios. This rapid deployment continues on for our clients that have teams on location for remote productions.  With the ability to save configurations for specific events, teams can arrive on site with just the needed control interfaces and get set up quickly, when before they would arrive days in advance with lots of equipment that would have to be set up anew for each show.  Minimizing the time and margin for error during this deployment process is a key benefit of our virtual edit system, which saves time and money by leveraging resources in our regional and global datacenters.

Elasticity & Scalability: The needs of any given production may change week to week - or even day to day as requirements shift and change.  A new production may start out small and grow over a year.  Sports productions may need to scale up on weekends. Or, perhaps a broadcaster’s overall production may double in size twice a year for larger events. These common changes can make planning for equipment and infrastructure needs difficult.  With this platform, we can offer our clients exactly what they need at any given moment in any location.  Need one edit today, tomorrow need 30 for a larger show, and next Tuesday back to three? Our platform is designed to accommodate these shifts, and only charge you for what you need.

Media Management: One of the reasons creating this platform was a no-brainer for us was that we had already developed and deployed top-notch software, our award-winning media asset management system, Mediabank.  Mediabank can work in tandem with our virtual edit environment to offer media management that operates better, and at a much larger scale, than what is native to any edit systems off the shelf.  And this media management system allows us to be able to customize the experience completely to the needs of our clients.

Security: In our rapidly changing environment, security has become a critical aspect in developing workflows and production environments.  As we developed this virtual environment enterprise level security was top-of-mind and was considered at every stage of the process.  The entire system features multi-factor authentication and can even be linked to a client’s active directory, providing absolute and real-time control over who can access the platform and when, with the ability to add and remove users instantly.  Using Mediabank, we provide an exceptionally secure system for managing content.  Mediabank checks all files for viruses or corruption and QC’s files to ensure that they are fit for the work being done.  Then, original files can be shared or published using Mediabank’s M-Boxes – which allow for simple drag-and-drop to what can be a simple export or a very complex and integrated workflow for delivery of content to rights holders.  Additionally, while users can work on content in the edit suite, they can’t upload or download content without having a pre-approved profile, all offering greater protection for sensitive or valuable content.

CapEx and Infrastructure Costs: We have seen our clients grapple to balance their variable production goals with the right level of infrastructure investment – from the perspective of CapEx, maintenance, storage and the physical space required to house it all. Creating this virtual environment allows us to bear the CapEx and Infrastructure investment at a large scale and give our clients access to exactly what they need, exactly when they need it with the ability to scale up or down on a dime.  They don’t have to purchase it. They don’t have to house it.  They don’t have to maintain it.  They don’t have to worry about scaling up for those once-a-year larger-scale shows.  They don’t have to bear the burden of CapEx starting the first season of a new production.  They just get what they need, when they need it, wherever they are.

A snapshot of the architecture of NEP’s Virtualized Editing platform.

Expanding our reach to follow our clients where they need to be

What started out as a system that was only able to reach 30 miles away from our hub in Hilversum has rapidly expanded to cover all of Europe, the United Kingdom, and now the United States.  We see this platform continuing to grow and expand into the future allowing us to service our clients whenever and wherever they need it.

Want to see our Virtualized Editing solution in action?

Check out this video that explores how the Voice of Holland uses the platform:

Part of an agile platform that offers a range of services, when and how you need them.