Editor’s Note: Welcome to NewBay’s inaugural edition of Need to Know, where we explain complex topics and how they apply to each industry we serve, on our websites and in our magazines. Keep coming back for future topics, to include 5G, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and more.
For those involved in video production, postproduction and delivery, the use of blockchain technology initially has a dual appeal: Projects are able to safely use the internet for transferring content while a "trustless" network traces every transfer (or transaction). With workflows that require elements from a number of creators, sources, companies and locations, video productions are constantly challenged to efficiently and securely move material back and forth.
Using blockchain technology, for example, a DIT (digital intermediate technician) could send "blocks" of encrypted dailies from a production to the project's editor, who can then unlock the material with his or her "key." Because no dedicated networks are required, and all blockchain transactions are transparent and trustless (managed across a peer-to-peer network using an automated method), it's an ideal solution for monitoring and verifying any step of the workflow.
Blockchain technology, explains Paul Forrest, an investment executive at MBN Solutions, creates "an immutable record of transactions on any asset…once recorded on a blockchain, this asset can be tracked throughout its lifetime, even as ownership is exchanged, sold, transferred or assigned."
"I expect that within three years, blockchain storage and processing for filmmaking and television production will be widely adopted," predicts Pete Ludeé, technology consultant and CTO of Mission Rock Digital. "Rather than relying on expensive in-house render farms or data storage, producers can access hundreds of petabytes of otherwise unused disc space, and millions of high-power GPUs in a secure, seamless and affordable manner.
"Blockchain is scary to many industry leaders. The idea of trusting cryptography to keep our valuable content safe may seem risky, but we’ve been using the same technology to keep our money safe for years. Relying on software rather than a room full of lawyers to execute contracts may seem worrisome, until you realize that computers are already making programming decisions, flying airplanes and soon will be driving your car for you. We’ll need to get used to it." — Peter Ludé, CTO, Mission Rock Digital
"Production companies and post houses will be able to use blockchain to quickly and inexpensively access computational resources or storage," Ludé continues. "For example, if a production requires immediately adding terabytes of storage for a new project, blockchain services such as Storj, Sia or Filecoin can offer cloud services at significantly less cost than Amazon or Google. For graphics and effects, producers can leverage GPU capacity in the cloud through RenderToken or the Golem project. Other blockchain projects make it possible for music rights and stock footage to be secured directly from the artists, for news fact-checking to be quickly crowdsourced by established experts and for advertising to be targeted and tracked with precision."
It's easy to envision, for example, a blockchain production platform for a series like Game of Thrones: The show is shot in four different countries; the production company is based in Ireland; the visual effects are completed by different companies with varying specialties and processes; and it's a show its fans will do anything to preview. Episodes of its seventh season leaked from a technology partner involved in the show's distribution; scripts for its eighth season leaked as well. (Anticipating or expecting leaks, the Game of Thrones producers go as far as shooting alternate scenes.) A Game of Thrones blockchain would track each component of production, postproduction and delivery.
Game of Thrones is also consistently the most pirated show in the world, and that's where a broader use of a blockchain protocol could be deployed, for managing rights and payments. Forrest points out, "Content metadata can be encoded with a cryptographic transaction on the blockchain. Access to upload or modify content can be made only with transactions on the blockchain, creating a history of records that can deter unauthorized transfers."
Steve Wong, a cloud, platforms and IT outsourcing technologist for DXC Technology, terms this strategy a "disintermediated style of Hollywood business," and emphasizes that the "fundamental technology of blockchain has real potential to transform the media and entertainment sector.
"Blockchain can help to protect digital rights, track consumption, deliver metrics, manage royalty schemes, allow micropayments and establish a direct connection between [content creators] and consumers," Wong says.
Director Jeremy Culver's upcoming independent film, No Postage Necessary, will be screened on a blockchain platform and available for purchase using cryptocurrency.
"We hope it will signal a shift in the way content is shared and consumed," Culver says. "There are many advantages to blockchain distribution, including immutable proof of Intellectual Property rights, transparent royalty payments, and, since all data on the blockchain is resistant to duplication, we can now envision a world where films are no longer pirated."
Manuel Staggars, who directed the documentary The Blockchain and Us, remains cautious about how "transformative" the technology will be for productions. "It is still early to say how blockchain technology benefits filmmakers," he says. "Just as in other industries, it could make verifiable transactions more efficient and transparent, including film finance, insurance, rights management or distribution.
"This will be useful, but a blockchain ecosystem where filmmakers lean back and see funding and distribution deals pour in is an illusion," he concludes. "Filmmaking is about creativity, and networks and reputation matter a lot. Most of this is impossible to automate and tokenize."
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Need to Know Blockchain: Other Industries:
- Blockchain and Media [Multichannel News]
- Blockchain and Television [TV Technology]
- Blockchain and Radio [Radio World]
- Blockchain and AV [AVNetwork.com]
- Blockchain as a Platform [Sound & Video Contractor]
- Blockchain and Residential Integration [Residential Systems]
- Blockchain and Pro Audio [Pro Sound News]
- Blockchain and Retail [TWICE]
- Blockchain and Education [Tech & Learning]