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Why and How to successfully deploy AI for Media Professionals – in conversation with Cybernews

Charlotte Coppejans
August 29, 2022

Maarten Verwaest, Limecraft: “One of the key challenges for a media company is to consistently deliver several versions of the same piece of content

The concept of creative industries was defined as early as the 1990s, but the public perception of this field has definitely changed over time.

Today, the development of creative industries and their importance has accelerated at an unseen pace. A great example is video production – digitization not only sped up the editing process but also allowed creators to express themselves in ways that were not available before.

To gain exclusive insights into the industry and to hear what innovations we can anticipate in the near future, Cybernews spoke with Maarten Verwaest, CEO of Limecraft – the Workspace for Video Teams.

 

How did the idea of Limecraft come to life? What has the journey been like since your launch in 2010?

Our company is active in the media business, and we service some of the largest brands all over the world. Prior to incorporating Limecraft, the founding team knew each other, as we were colleagues in the R&D team of VRT (the Belgian public service broadcaster).

While we were 100% confident that we knew the market from the inside out, we encountered several challenges between the incorporation of the company and the break-even milestone some 30 months ago. However, we always remained confident, we carefully listened to our customers and adapted the product to better fit their requirements. Eventually, we reached a point where we were recognised as the indisputable leader in terms of usability and functionality, and if you look at the current stats (consistently growing 10% per month in the last 18 months) this strategy clearly pays back.

Our lessons learned: bootstrapping is not always easy, but it keeps you razor-sharp and susceptible to essential things. Also, the most important milestone for a tech company is to get break-even. After all, it’s proof that your product and your business model are fit for purpose, isn’t it?

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your video production platform? What are its key features?

The amount of video footage available to professional users increasingly takes on unmanageable proportions. Moreover, due to the rise of streaming VoD platforms, producers are challenged to deliver several versions of the same piece of content for the same or at a lower cost. That’s a catch22.

Limecraft offers secure online workspaces for global video teams. A safe repository for all their content, regardless of the format (fiction, docu, news). It hides all technical complexity like integration points and file format conversions. Built-in AI services like speech-to-text, natural language processing, and computer vision automate the grunt work. So as a professional, you can spend more time on the creative processes of storytelling and video editing.

Asking about key features: the following is important. Unlike text, video is not self-descriptive. AI provides an accurate and coherent description of the images (‘shot list’), making it really easy for journalists and researchers to spot the right fragments in minutes. This is of critical importance to documentary makers, who typically work on a very large collection of data, or for journalists that need to publish their content with the shortest possible turn-around time. This is exactly why the Associated Press teamed up with Limecraft.

 

What would you consider to be the most common issues that video teams run into these days?

As both the demand and the offering of available video are exploding, producers are struggling for originality. The methods for producing and distributing content are being improved as we speak due to recent advances in AI for the purpose of automation.  However, automation implies change and resistance to change. But we are beyond the point of no return. Producers either must adapt or die, and there will be casualties.

Besides this, there is an incredible war for talent going on. For that reason, and in combination with the struggle for originality, producers seek technology to improve the job of creative professionals rather than to make them redundant. This is why Limecraft has invested in AI in the way we did, not to automate work as such, but as a value-added service embedded in a user-friendly application for professionals.

 

How did the recent global events affect your field of work?

Limecraft will be one of those companies that stood up and walked through the storm. We have been shipping solutions for remote editing and collaboration for 10 years, but we had a hard time competing with traditional software businesses.

Recent global events have made it clear to the community of producers that online collaboration is not a nice-to-have or an add-on; it has become the backbone of the value chain. Since March 1, 2020, we saw traffic on our website tripling and we can hardly keep up with the demand to board new customers. So we are now aggressively hiring, with the intention of doubling the team in a year.

 

Besides quality collaboration systems, what other tools or practices do you think companies of all sizes should adopt nowadays to maintain smooth and secure remote operations?

The next challenge on the horizon is the technology swarm. Recently, we have seen several smaller companies come to live, solving point solutions or parts of the problem. As a producer, you are faced with huge security-related and operational problems. Besides the integration risk and effort, you might find yourself in a position where you are distributing several copies of your valuable content to all those individual service providers.

The mean time between failure of the patchwork is not good, as the failure of each individual component may cause degraded performance for the overall production process. Also, from a security perspective, this is not optimal. Finally, it is nonsense from an environmental sustainability point of view to create and transfer copies of video material, often several gigabytes per hour of footage, to all those point solutions.

Therefore, producers prefer a competent partner and an integrated workspace like Limecraft. Highly optimised to minimise the number of copies and to reduce the number of file transfers. It is an approach where maximum security, environmental sustainability, and economics go hand in hand.

 

Talking about average Internet users, what precautions do you think everyone should take to keep their communications secure?

To average Internet users, I would advise critically assessing BigTech statements. Google made us believe that storage, email, and their office suite was completely free of charge. Recently they announced that for business use, they now charge 10$ per month per user as per direct.

While I’m not discussing value for money per se, the arbitrary nature by which they can adapt their pricing is a perfect illustration of the effects of excessive concentration of market power. My advice to customers, in general, is always to look for the best solution, which is usually not the cheapest. It will pay back, somehow.

 

Recently, maintaining creativity has been a serious struggle for some organizations. How can companies foster creativity and innovation when the majority of employees are working remotely?

With the introduction of all new technologies, there is an element of fear; a fear that people might lose their jobs. Fear of change, fear that users won’t get used to the new ways. So, to win over users it is important to be open and honest with them about what you are trying to achieve: to liberate quality time.

Ideally, you invite the naysayers and doubters to the table: their input is super important. Over time, if you get it right, they will become your biggest and most evangelical supporters. But, crucially, it has to be people who are doing the work, so that they can appreciate the difference between how it was before and how it will be in the future.

It is all about understanding the tipping point between when a cloud platform with AI built-in wins the race versus where it is faster to do it all manually. So, what you want to end up with is a mental shift to how you describe AI in terms of today: improving people’s jobs rather than automating them.

 

What predictions do you have for the future of communication technology?

We need to figure out how or if AI can help us with creating and maintaining knowledge, and take on the accidental bias of any content. Service providers like Limecraft, unlike some well-known actors in BigTech, pride themselves on fair, accurate, impartial processing. 

Therefore, to further improve accuracy and to measure our impartiality, we need next-level AI components to help us understand if we got the tone right, or if we would be biased in favor of one side or the other, one gender or the other, or one ethnic group.

 

Would you like to share what’s next for Limecraft?

I’m pretty sure that, as a result of ongoing economic and societal events, the valuation of tech companies will be fundamentally different. Pre-covid, SaaS (software as a service) companies were primarily valued based on growth potential, and to execute they were consuming insane amounts of money, mainly sourced from equity funding.

Going forward, I believe that the valuation of companies will be based again on their ability to demonstrate a sustainable business model rather than to burn as much cash as possible. Time will tell.

 

Read the whole interview on the website of Cybernews