Smoke & Mirrors, London

Smoke & Mirrors, London

Key contact: Adam Jakubowski, Technical Operations Manager

Smoke & Mirrors, with centres in London, New York, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, Chennai and soon to launch Amsterdam, is one of the largest and most innovative post-production companies operating in the short-form market. It specializes in producing commercials, promos, and trailers for the TV and movie markets, and in localizing these for world-wide distribution.

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Telestream talked with Adam Jakubowksi, Technical Operations Manager at Smoke’s London HQ, to learn how they are adapting to a rapidly changing market with the aid of Telestream’s Vantage platform.

“Our biggest technical challenge is managing the growing number of versions required for international distribution,” comments Adam Jakubowksi. “Our versioning process has to adapt content for local markets and delivery platforms. This requires both creative and technical changes to the content.” Currently, Smoke & Mirrors is supplying finished localised content to up to 100+ different markets via multiple delivery partners. To support this complex challenge, the company relies on several key software solutions working in harmony.

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  • Telestream Vantage Transcode Pro
  • Telestream Post Producer
  • 3rd party MAM and Workflow Orchestration Platform
  • 3rd party Auto QC
  • Micro-Services written by their own development team

Smoke & Mirrors operates Vantage systems in London and Chennai, with two nodes of Transcode Pro and Post Producer running on Telestream Lightspeed Servers for maximum processing efficiency. The Vantage solution was supplied and commissioned by Boxer Systems, Telestream’s leading enterprise reseller in the UK.

Vantage: seamless third-party integration eases workflow constraints

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The dream team: top creative talent combined with market leading technology
A single ad or promo often has to be delivered in dozens of versions for local market adaptation. These versions can differ both creatively and technically from the master, and have to accommodate local language, cultural, legal, and regulatory requirements. While creative talent is an important part of the value that Smoke & Mirrors offers its clients, process automation is essential for productivity and profitability in a demanding and competitive market.

Smoke & Mirrors started using Telestream Vantage Transcode Pro in 2016 as the successor to existing stand alone transcoders that had been in use for several years, but have now reached end-of-life. Vantage Transcoders offered significant process- and quality-improvements as well as the ability to scale to meet growing volumes of work, but they answered only a part of the automation challenge.

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Telestream Post Producer added template-driven production automation for a one-to-many iterative workflow, which results in increased content value with faster turnaround and lower costs. At Smoke & Mirrors, Post Producer adds automated assembly of final deliverable packages, with all of the required layouts and metadata.  This potentially complex task was initially simplified by use of the Vantage “work order” submission method, which allows all of the required instructions, metadata, clock information, etc. to be submitted in a spreadsheet. “This deceptively simple method allowed us to gain huge process efficiency improvements in a very short time,” explains Jakubowski.

Vantage: seamless third-party integration eases workflow constraints
Since its initial implementation with “automation by spreadsheet”, Smoke & Mirrors searched for even more efficient and reliable process automation of the Post Producer and Vantage workflows.  The first step was in-house development of micro-services which manage the data required to specify all of the technical requirements of each deliverable asset, and then programmatically composes the information to Post Producer in its native CML (Composition Markup Language) format. 

Post Producer and Vantage, working on Lightspeed Servers, allow Smoke & Mirrors to automate all of the technical aspects of creating localized content for the 100+ advertising markets they serve, and empowers their editing talent to focus their valuable time on the creative changes required.

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About Telestream

Telestream provides world-class live and on-demand digital video tools and workflow solutions that allow consumers and businesses to transform video on the desktop and across the enterprise. Many of the world’s most demanding media and entertainment companies as well as a growing number of users in a broad range of business environments, rely on Telestream products to streamline operations, reach broader audiences and generate more revenue from their media. Telestream products span the entire digital media lifecycle, including video capture and ingest; live and on-demand encoding and transcoding; captioning; playback and inspection, delivery, and live streaming; as well as automation and orchestration of the entire workflow. Telestream corporate headquarters are located in Nevada City, California. The company is privately held.

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