Sundance Tech News: Sony & Google Open Source Rendering Tool, Dropbox Adds Time-Based Comments

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Thought Sundance was just about film premieres? Think again. An increasing number of tech companies are using Sundance to pitch their latest tools to the motion picture industry.

Case in point: Cloud storage provider Dropbox is debuting new time-based commenting features for video files at the festival, and Google and Sony are open sourcing a tool designed to simplify rendering in the cloud.

Dropbox’s latest feature update aims to simplify the reviewing of audio and video assets in the cloud with the addition of time-based commenting. This will allow anyone working on a project to leave comments at a specific location within a video, making it easier to directly pinpoint to issues within a media file.

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Courtesy of Dropbox

Time-based comments in a video hosted on Dropbox.

“Instead of commenting ‘There’s a popping noise on the soundtrack about a minute in,’ reviewers can place a comment at the 0:51 mark that says, ‘Remove popping noise,'” the company explained in a blog post. The new feature will be available to any audio or video files uploaded by owners of a Dropbox Professional, Business Advanced, Enterprise or  Education account.

The target audience of a tool unveiled by Google and Sony Pictures Imageworks at Sundance is a bit more narrow: OpenCue helps studios to manage their rendering cues. It’s based on technology developed in-house at Sony, and aims to simplify using the cloud for complex rendering jobs.

Cue, as the project was internally called at Sony, has been used to render hundreds of movies across 150,000 cores, housed both in Sony’s own data center as well as in the Google Cloud. And while its successor Open Cue clearly has been developed with the cloud in mind, it can also be used solely for on-premise rendering.

The entire project is now available on Github, and has been released under the Apache license. Google and Sony are both also members of the Academy Software Foundation, but the project resides for now on Sony’s Github pages.

If you’re wondering how much any of these technologies really matter for film production, consider this: More than two-thirds of the films premiering at Sundance this year were made with the help of Dropbox, the company said Thursday. And Google Cloud has been partnering with studios for some time as well. A Google spokesperson declined to share the number of Hollywood customers using the company;s cloud services, but said that Google Cloud had already been used to render parts of “The Jungle Book,” using more than 14,000 cores and computing more than 360,000 hours.