GUEST BLOG: Colorado Film School

By on February 26, 2014
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A warm welcome to guest blogger Jordan Meyersieck, Technology, Systems, and Space Integration Specialist at the Colorado Film School. Jordan began his career in Hollywood, assisting and editing ad campaigns for films such as The Dark Knight Rises, No Country for Old Men, The Hangover,  the Paranormal Activity quadrilogy, Inglourious Basterds, and many more. Jordan is excited to be a part of the Colorado Film School, providing students with opportunities to work right away with state-of-the-art equipment on production sets, and post-production platforms.

At the Colorado Film School (CFS) in Denver, the Ensemble Video platform has changed the way everything happens — from daily student work and instructor lectures, to hitting the system with all we’ve got at the end of each semester in order to get hundreds of HD videos submitted and transcoded in less than 24 hours, for our semi-annual Student Show.

The Installation

We began by setting up our own hosted Ensemble Video platform, including two physical transcoding servers with Harmonic ProMedia® Carbon transcoder installed, along with a virtual server for our Wowza Streaming Engine and web hosting. With this setup, we tried to get as much power as we could, while at the same time being smart with our budget. The Ensemble Video technical support team was very helpful in accommodating multiple phone calls to discuss our needs. Eventually, we came to a decision and went forward with our installation.

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The Challenge

We integrated our Ensemble Video platform slowly, using the system very minimally at first. When we went into our initial end-of-semester crunch with a minimally tested Ensemble setup, we encountered numerous hiccups. Many of those issues were because of the untested nature of the setup, and humongous amounts of data being passed by our students with our HD workflow.

camera guyA few quick notes about our normal workflow and how we wanted to be able to utilize the Ensemble Video platform: An average CFS student film is anywhere between four and 30 minutes long. All films or class projects are exported from the student’s preferred non-linear editing platform (such as Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, or Adobe Premiere) as a master Quicktime file, which is normally an Apple Pro-Res 422 or higher codec. This produces an extremely high quality video, with a very large file size.

This is where the fun came in! We needed to figure out how to efficiently utilize Ensemble Video, when hundreds of students each upload multiple videos that are sometimes 30+GB in size- all at the same time.

Once again, Ensemble Video Tech Support came through huge by helping us through the situation, in real-time and after, working with us to create a better workflow and setup for using Ensemble. With a few tweaks here and there with our servers, we were ready to go into the next semester with our brand new Ensemble setup.

The Results

Now, almost a year into using our Ensemble Video, we are using it on a school-wide basis.

A few stats on our first year:

  • 293 students, faculty members, and staff are using the Ensemble Video platform
  • 1.3 Terabytes of media being stored and shared — includes shared video playlists of student work, which were accessed & judged for the Starz Denver Film Festival
  • Approximately 8,000 minutes (133 hours) of video encoding jobs processed

Shared Playlists and the Starz Denver Film Festival

Outside of Ensemble Video, our students’ work is able to be easily and securely accessed because of the ease of the Shared Playlists option the online video platform offers. As I mentioned above, numerous films were entered and accepted into the Starz Denver Film Festival. By providing access to the films via a shared playlist for the preliminary judging, our students were able to have the ease and opportunity offered right here in their own school. After the judging panel saw the quality of films entered, the festival granted CFS our own 2-night showcase in the festival. This was a huge deal!

Here’s an example of one of our Ensemble Video Playlists:

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Student Projects and the Ensemble Video Dropbox and Attachments Feature

At CFS, we are like a family. And with the installation of our Ensemble Video platform, we wanted to keep the system a privilege for our students and our faculty. It is an incredibly powerful tool that as a student of CFS, you can use the minute you enroll in classes. We aren’t just using Ensemble as a one-time submission tool either. Faculty are creating Video Dropboxes for student filming assignments, and script-writing assignments. And with the Ensemble Video platform’s Attachments feature, they’re able to grade student projects from any computer they choose, as long as it has an internet connection.

Open Auditions with Ensemble Video Watch Folders and iFrame Embed Codes

We have also utilized the Ensemble Drag and Drop Watch Folders, and iFrame embed abilities to upload and embed all of our actor Open Audition videos. CFS Open Auditions is an event that we also hold twice a year. We audition anywhere from 150-250 actors, ranging from young children to elderly adults…and even some animals. The process of filming, editing, and uploading these hundreds of files and placing them on individual actor profile pages used to take anywhere from four to six weeks. With the ease of Watch Folders and iFrame embedding, the process now takes only three days!

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The structure that houses the actor profiles is named Colorado Film School’s Headshot Database, and is part of a larger interactive system the school titles TheiaSys. TheiaSys is a site that includes social media aspects like blogs, messaging and forums as well as film production tools such as project planning, equipment rentals, and of course finding crew & talent for films. Students can upload their films to Ensemble and embed and link their films onto their profile page, therefore showcasing their abilities to fellow students and getting hired to do whatever role they are seeking. For example, a student who directed a film can upload that film to Ensemble & embed it in their profile page, demonstrating their directing ability and promoting themselves to fellow students.

The Verdict

All of this is part of our first year with our Ensemble Video platform. At CFS, we are always looking for ways to use and embrace new and emerging technology. Having a video content management and publishing system like Ensemble Video has greatly shaped the way we think, and develop workflows for our students, faculty, and staff. So for us, Ensemble fits right in!

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