The cloud is coming home

With the things going on in Corona times, many are switching to cloud-based workflows. But what about big files and the integration into existing tools?

Dieses Interview erschien ursprünglich in der Ausgabe 04 : 2020.

We checked in with Andy Wilson, Global Director Media at Dropbox, and asked him how they are handling the rise in cloud storage and syncing acceptance.

DP: How do you deal with the sheer amount of data flooding onto your servers?

Andy Wilson: Dropbox works at a scale that very few companies do when it comes to managing content. We host exabytes of data, with millions of audio and video files added daily by over 600 million users. To support this, we have a global network of data centers that enable our customers to access content from the region they live in.

DP: With the “Work from home“-situation, what has been a development that surprised you?

Andy Wilson: We have seen a big increase in the number of businesses and users that are trying Dropbox as part of their workflows. Since mid-March, we have seen daily Dropbox Business Team trials increase by 40%, with higher levels of engagement and collaborative activity. Daily trial starts to our Plus individual plan also increased by over 25% in the same time-frame. It’s been a busy time supporting media customers to migrate to the Dropbox platform. A good example of the speed of change was Usborne Books, an international children’s publishing house, who migrated their operation onto Dropbox in a matter of days, as they moved their teams of writers, editors and illustrators to work from home.

DP: Files for video production and VFX are usually on the larger side. How does Dropbox check the files have been transferred correctly?

Andy Wilson: We’ve spent a great amount of time building our Smart Sync engine to add intelligence into the application, optimising how files are delivered and how changes are updated and synchronised. Our sync experience is based on a number of technologies that help to make it easier for production professionals to get their work done (especially from home). Firstly: our delta synch analyses the files that you are uploading. If an earlier version of that content already exists in Dropbox, it will only upload the changes. This is possible as every file that is uploaded into Dropbox is divided up into 4 Mbyte chunks before it is transferred. So, if you only make a change to a single frame of video, Dropbox will only synchronise the chunks of data that are changed. This enables Dropbox to keep a version history of different versions of the file too. Our Smart Sync client also allows for you to select whether content is stored locally on your machine, or only held in the cloud. This means that you can optimise the space on your edit station while still being able to see all the files you have access to.

DP: With the new connections for larger projects, what would you recommend are the necessary data transfer speeds from the provider to avoid switching to proxy workflows?

Andy Wilson: That is a tricky one. It really depends on how fast your connection is and the type of work you are undertaking. If you are working on 20 Tbyte of video data and only have a 1 Mbit/s connection, then you will need to think really hard about how you structure your projects and what data you really need access to at any time. If home connectivity is not good, then you’ll need to look at a proxy workflow, especially in 8K projects. However, if you are working on a good connection, Dropbox will really help to optimise as Smart Sync manages the uploading and downloading of changes to the data as they are happening, so you can manage the edit effectively, with content synchronising across the day as it’s changed.

DP: Any tricks to speed that up, if one would optimise the workflow for large files vs. lots of small files?

Andy Wilson: To optimise your post-production use of Dropbox, there are a number of tools you can use. The first is Dropbox Previews. This is our platform for streaming a preview of an audio, video or image file (in fact over 175 different types of files). As soon as you upload audio and video content to Dropbox, we convert it into a streaming preview that you can watch on web, tablet and mobile to preview the content. This enables editors to preview the material before deciding on whether they want to commit to downloading the file. This helps to save bandwidth, as you only download the content that you need. We also introduced time-based comments to our previews early last year, that enables you to comment on the precise time of a clip, to keep your feedback in the context of the video or audio content. This means teams working together don’t need to send long emails with timings in them, they can just add their feedback directly next to the content. In terms of file sizes, there are no file size limits in Dropbox when you upload using the Smart Sync client. We’ve also introduced the ability to prioritise which files are synchronised next for our paid users, so teams can prioritise the important files that they need to upload first.

DP: Dropbox has become a firm favourite of many studios with distributed teams. Do you maybe have a tip on how to integrate the service into existing pipelines?

Andy Wilson: Dropbox was always designed to be an open ecosystem that allows you to connect the tools that you use into the Dropbox platform, or build on top of our open APIs. We have a developer program that enables anyone to create an app that builds on top of Dropbox services. Today we have more than 500,000 developers that have built on the Dropbox platform (more information is available at We have developers building complex workflows that can be kicked off from file actions in Dropbox, as well as deep partnerships which include Slack, Zoom, Microsoft, Google, Atlassian and Adobe.

DP: Many collaborative tools – specifically in the moving pictures world – allow special things with certain file-types. Do you have any plans for that, for example video annotations, or a web-based editor for video and audio, something like Paper is now?

Andy Wilson: We’ve worked hard to invest in our capabilities to allow media customers to do more with their content. From our previews – allowing you to stream audio and video into your browser – to time-based comments which enable comments and feedback to be tagged to the time in the content. We also offer the ability to annotate on top of huge numbers of file previews, including PDFs, Photoshop documents and Autocad files. Dropbox Paper is a creative co-authoring tool that enables teams to work together remotely. It allows the embedding of Dropbox content and previews into a single surface for planning productions, edits, in fact any kind of project work.

DP: You are now connecting to Kyno and more. What are the next tools to integrate?

Andy Wilson: We are always looking to work with media partners that enable the simplification of creative workflows by bringing Dropbox into their tools. We’re really exited about our recent announcement with Wipster, Sprout Social, CI-HUB, File Catalyst, Kyno and, which allow content producers, editors and creatives to speed up their production processes by embedding Dropbox into the tools and cloud services that they use. Expect to see a continued focus from us in this space.

DP: And when we look to the far future – 2030 or something – what would an integrated Dropbox Workflow look like?

Andy Wilson: My personal view is that production in 2030 will look very different from what we are seeing today. There will be huge changes to on-location productions, enabled by 5G and by 2030 we’ll see developments in 6G technologies, to further accelerate the changes to remote production. Wireless technologies will be built into all capture devices – video cameras, audio recorders and stills cameras, automatically transferring content to virtual picture desks and virtualised edit suites much faster. Most companies will have invested heavily in API-driven cloud workflows, some of which are already in use today. The design of systems will significantly evolve to enable highly complex content conversion and automation to happen remotely, in faster than real-time environments. Underpinning this will be flexible collaboration surfaces that allow companies to bring their teams, tools and content together – enabling them to work from anywhere with ease.

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