The FilmOps Precedent

The Starbucks cup.

If you’re paying attention to the Internet in any form or fashion, you know what Starbucks cup I’m referring to. It’s that Starbucks cup that snuck into a Game Of Thrones episode (S8, E4). There’s no need to rehash what really happened. That was just a silly mistake.

What’s interesting to me is how the industry responded. HBO actually removed the Starbucks cup within a day or two - and replaced the file on its streaming service with a corrected version of the episode. It didn’t take long for HBO to acknowledge the mistake and then repair it… “doing it live,” so to speak.

…and I think this sets an interesting precedent. I’ll call it DevOps for Film - or more specifically, FilmOps.

In DevOps, we often correct mistakes of things that were rolled into code by correcting it “live” and pushing the code through source control to repair the mistake. This is pretty common and it allows for rapid release cycles. This means you, as the user, can enjoy a rapid response to problems that were reported during your usage of the app. DevOps is so common these days that if you’re not using a method based in DevOps to deploy your application or cloud infrastructure, then you’re just failing. It’s just the way you should be doing business.

It’s quite interesting to see that the entertainment industry has now applied this in practice as well. We’ve seen examples of re-releases… such as Star Wars episodes IV-VI, in which George Lucas made some “enhancements” to the old trilogy and re-released them into theaters. We’ve seen James Cameron replace the sky in the Titanic movie before it was released to DVD.

But I can’t think of a time where we’ve seen a rapid response to this happening in film. Streaming services enable us to do exactly what HBO did - repair the film and replace the file in real-time. Netflix may have been doing this - I do know they made some adjustments to Bird Box after much fan outcry over the usage of footage from a real-life shooting incident. But that happened after months of wrangling and discussion in the echo chambers about whether or not they should.

This is the first demonstration of a rapid response to repair a mistake in film… at least, the first demonstration I can think of. Now, consider the fact that streaming services will offer filmmakers this capability all the time. As more and more theaters come online and actually download digital copies of films that are released as files rather than celluloid, this capability will be extended to theaters for movies in release. This is DevOps as applied to filmmaking.


Ok, it’s silly, but I do think it’s interesting that HBO set a precedent. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more film corrections - known or unknown - and replacements on streaming services. It might even be interesting to have a series of films that are actually just the same episode, but adjusted and rereleased as a response to fan feedback in realtime. That might also be an interesting thought experiment.

Oh, wait, maybe I’m just talking about vlogs ;) heh.

We live in interesting times.