As part of our series meeting people from all around dock10, we caught up with Paul Clennell, our CTO, to talk about his experiences of working in the media tech industry and get his insight into some of the challenges and opportunities we are facing.
I grew up wanting to be a musician and was classically trained for many years. In my teens, one of the orchestras I was performing with produced an LP (showing my age). Being involved in the process of recording and mixing the final result proved fascinating and set me on a new path of audio and music technology. My university studies focused on this and software engineering – leading to my first job in the industry as an embedded software engineer for an audio signal processing company called Klark Teknik. A couple of subsequent jobs and promotion to project manager together with the realisation that adding pictures (TV) opened up a whole new world of bigger opportunities and larger projects lead me, eventually, to my role at dock10!
So many changes that I'm not sure where to start! During my studies, non-linear (the ability to make instantaneous changes at anytime, anywhere in a sequence) was a big thing for audio, but pretty inconceivable/cost-prohibitive in the video world. As processing power and storage increased exponentially (along with some ingenuity from the likes of Bill Warner), those principles, skills and high-level workflows transferred very readily into television – triggering a number of transformation projects that fundamentally changed how the major broadcasters and their suppliers worked. The industry and its consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for greater resolution – be it more pixels, colours or audio samples which have generated countless standards that continue to evolve at pace to deliver an ever more immersive consumer experience. We are always exploring new ways of doing things – more recently pushing the boundaries of remote technology (and borrowing from other sectors) to overcome the obstacles presented by the global pandemic.
I guess it's one of the things I love most about this industry: its appetite for change which ensures there's always something really exciting to get stuck in to.
We know our industry isn't anywhere near as inclusive as it should be. The entertainment and media industry has a particular responsibility because it is extremely influential from an early age. Young people develop their views and take their cues from what they see and read. Sadly, certain groups do not see themselves reflected in the content that's available and consequently do not see a path for themselves into a career creating that content. For various reasons, career opportunities are not evenly distributed and apprenticeships are very limited. There's still a huge amount we can all do, from raising awareness of barriers to inclusivity in the workplace and actively tackling these to improve the environment for everyone to supporting fantastic organisations such as Rise – a group for gender diversity – with their broad range of initiatives.
Technology is so varied and media technology is very relatable to a huge area of our lives. We need to ensure that in schools the subject is taught with context so it doesn't become “boring” – not just how to use technology, but why – that's the really interesting bit. Our team are keen STEM Ambassadors and we all enjoy talking to students about careers in technology.
We're very focused on the next generation of virtual production, using the latest real-time games-engine technology from Epic and Unreal Engine with Zero Density, together with the Mo-Sys star tracking system, and encouraging entertainment formats to adopt these exciting technologies more widely over the next few years. There is a continued pressure to reduce budgets, but channels still demand new and exciting content - and this is where virtual studio elements can make a creative difference. The big advantage with using virtual studios is the ability to refresh a set or change elements that would otherwise be extremely difficult or costly with a physical build. Virtual production technology enables our customers to make brand updates or special editions with ease and explore creative ideas and try different elements without committing to a major build cost. This is an advantage that just wasn't possible before!
The advent of widespread remote working has been a lifesaver for our industry during the global pandemic and many (including me) continue to enjoy the added flexibility that remote working supports. Avoiding a regular commute and optimising a work/life balance is great, but I'm worried for the future. Our industry thrives on collaboration and technology is a huge enabler of this – particularly for established relationships. My concern is about the challenges the new intake faces. When I started working, it was a given that I was surrounded by colleagues I could observe, pester and bond with. We need to be talking more about how we afford this opportunity to our newest colleagues to ensure they're not missing out.